July 31, 2010

Jesse Dayton: I'm Coming Home

I came across this video by one of the members on Facebook page, it really hits home the striking difference we tell others we are OK in the field right before battle. When in fact we are under the most duress we have ever faced, until we bring it home with us.

I remember a similar conversation with my wife, I told her I was OK and she would not hear from me for several weeks. To not be alarmed, I was OK. I told her she would receive a letter to open it and read it, I did not tell her this may be the last she would ever receive. We were instructed to do this, we knew this was our last good bye and it felt like it. The tension was in the air, she knew I was going into combat under the hail of gunfire, bombs and hellfire. I said good bye, she did not cry, yet I knew she would collapse after the phone line went dead...

Thank you Positive for being there for me, may God bless you,


July 27, 2010

Family, Friends and the Army

I woke up in a funky mood this morning. Stayed up too late again and so I begin my coffee drip through IV while writing this. Lot of thoughts rolling around this mind of mine last night and for the life of me, just could not clear it to go to sleep! I guess I was trying to think of a new post I could add here as nothing as been worthy enough around the house or with my husband to write something interesting about. So I decided a topic I haven't discussed is family, friends and the Army.

I get a lot of comments that family and friends just don't understand. I completely understand that and can empathize. I don't have much family left on my side at all, so I am not really having to worry about them as much as I should I guess. My side of the family went through the Vietnam War and my uncles all passed away due to Agent Orange related cancers. I don't remember them ever exhibiting signs of PTSD but do remember them as alcoholics for as long as I could remember them. One was heavily into prescription drugs and my dad used to complain about how that was the coward way out. It probably was, but after knowing what I know now, it could be possible that my uncles had some serious issues. I don't have any relatives on my mother's side and after she passed away, that was it.

My grandmother on my dad's side never made it past the 6th grade of school and married young. Had quite a few children which her world revolved around and from the hills of TN, she really didn't experience much as far as gaining worldly knowledge. Her world revolves now around who is sick, how she is the sickest of them all because she has the same thing you had, and what you had for supper. I love her, but I find her to be so sheltered within that Tennessee mountain life that such things as PTSD just means they are "crazier than an outhouse rat". That is after you can get her to past the four letter word, PTSD, which you must repeat incessantly.

July 22, 2010

My Story Will Shatter the Jarhead Myth of the 'Bloodless War' of Desert Storm

An A-10A Thunderbolt II aircraft flies over a ...
Image via Wikipedia
It has been almost 20 years and I have finally healed enough and wish to share my war experience. My story will shatter the Jarhead myth of the 'Bloodless War' of Desert Storm.

I am a Combat PTSD Veteran of the First Gulf War, I saw hectares of blood stained sands strung as the death clock clicked, chimed and claimed 45,000 lives. I lay witness, on point for the 3rd brigade of the 1stAD and beheld the 20,000 lives my unit snuffed in three bloody campaigns that lasted 100 hours. I drove for 172 hours straight without sleeping, yes that's 7 days, on drugs they force me to take.

I wish to dispel the myth of my war and make a movie about it. It was the biggest over land tank battle in the history of war and our enemy had no chance of winning, yet they met our glare as our bullets and bombs fell their own. I took no pleasure in directing hellfire knowing full well people would die.

July 19, 2010

The Tradition of Military Tattoos

Tattoos are Incredibly Powerful Symbols

During my time spent working as a Corrections Officer I saw many inmates with homemade prison-style tattoos; human flesh used as prime real estate on which they eagerly advertise their affiliation with a gang, names of fallen friends, teardrops on the face, full sleeves, backs, chest and necks all adorned with crude bluish colored designs. On the right side of the law however, the decision to permanently mark ones body with ink is not carried out so lightly.

And then there are military tattoos; the Navy being the most synonymous with this age old tradition harking back to salty sea dogs emblazoned with Popeye style anchors on their forearms, or Hawaiian maidens manipulated by undulating abdominal muscles animating the Pacific Island beauty into a hula dance. But that was back in the day and tastes have become far more sophisticated since then.

In 2007, my husband began to bandy around the idea of getting another tattoo, one to memorialize his time in Iraq. The tattoo would pay tribute to the sacrifice made when he re-enlisted 10 years after leaving the Army National Guard volunteering to deploy down range with his Brigade Combat Team. He also wanted it to signify the pride he felt in having served, and despite wishing he wasn't injured if he had to do it all over again he would unwaveringly return to the Sand Box.

Being the artistic one in the family I felt in my own way I would also be honoring my husband by contributing to the tattoo's final design. I enjoyed sharing my draft concepts with him; like an excited teenager I would present one idea after the other... "What do you think of this one?" "Here's another variation on the same theme." And he would always give me constructive feedback on how it could be tweaked until finally he felt it captured all the important elements of his deployment; the 1st Cav patch that he wore on his right arm, the Stars and Stripes for the people he was serving, the dates of his deployment, and the M16 personalized with the same number on the stock and Aimpoint scope exactly replicating the rifle he carried in Iraq.

After weeks of back and forth, fine tuning every detail, in November 2007 (coincidentally the same month he received his Purple Heart three years earlier) he took the design to the tattoo artist here in our town who I'm sure you'll agree did a fine job replicating the final draft on my husbands upper right arm.

He now carries with him an eternal affiliation to his cause, his country, and a time in his life that permanently redefined who he is today.

July 15, 2010

Combat Veterans and Romance: Patsy Cline, Chardonnay and Dusty Lingerie

It must be due to hormones, lack of sleep and lack of sex that has made me a little sensitive these last couple of days.....not that I am remotely grumpy, or hateful to anyone in my family....just little things irritate the piss out of me. I have been somewhat saddened by my husband's latest comments in regards to ending his fight of PTSD. Well, to be honest, it scares the hell out of me. I have been drifting around the last couple of days in sort of a funk and not really sure the direction I need to be going. Taking my own advice, I have tried to concentrate on the past and what made me fall in love with my husband to begin with. I try to remember all the positive things albeit they are slowly drifting away from my memory as PTSD eats away at them.

So a few glasses of wine and fifteen Patsy Cline songs later...these are the things that have bothered me the most the last couple of days.

July 14, 2010

A Soldier's Expectations of Coming Home: The Trap of Flawless Execution

M6 Linebacker along the highway near Balad, Ir...
Image via Wikipedia
Hell, I made it through combat, going home will be a cakewalk (most soldiers and families).
In combat we have this fantasy of coming home and how if we can just get home then everything will be perfect, beware of expectations in ourselves and others for they can become the trap of flawless execution (TFE). To get past this razor edged pattern of thinking we must recognize it for what it is; our warrior values and operating system require us to become convinced of our invincibility. In combat the TFE would kill most enemies, but when we fall into this pattern of thinking back home we become dysfunctional and disorganized both in spirit and mind. When we come home we must purge our souls of the terror and horror of war, and when we have not been educated in the process we can run the risk of hurting ourselves or others.

We become so fixated in expectations that they change our perception of one another; the expectations become the focus of interest instead of a holistic meeting of one another where we are. A wise woman from Fort Knox Kentucky just recently told me, "Communication and education are key." A little bit of my Kentucky wit,
We must enter a rigid state of mind to enter into bliss, but to remain so this too we must let go (Scott Lee).

July 12, 2010

Rules for Combat PTSD Change within the VA Today

Obama Chronicles writes,
In the weekly address, President Obama outlined how his administration is making it easier for veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to receive the benefits they need. These new changes in the Department of Veterans Affairs take effect today.

We Combat PTSD Veterans, had to ‘prove’ we were in combat, even though I was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge (CIB). I applied 7 times over 15 years before I was diagnosed and starting receiving care and treatment.

July 11, 2010

VA Questions

So I have been trying to "help" my husband with his re-appeal of his 40% disability he received from the VA. We are appealing for 100% based on several things, and the Disabled American Veterans are helping us with my husband's case. I hate to say it, but man oh man, what a major pain in the ass! I know that nothing in life is free, especially with the VA and the systematic way they keep turning down our Veterans with PTSD. I know we were pretty lucky he was awarded the 40% the first "go at it" rather than a big fat "Sorry, no can do soldier".

I have no idea what I am doing on this stuff. We re-appealed and the DAV we haven't heard much from since it all started. Now we are members of this organization, and still unsure how all this process works but we are leaving it in their hands. However, there are so many questions I have that no one seems to know the answers to! Trying to navigate the mysterious VA website is like trying to fish in a black hole in outer space. Although college educated, I feel like a major idiot when it comes to understanding any of this stuff! What I wouldn't give for a "How to Get Your VA Disability Benefits" Book for Dummies! The more info you come across, the more no one seems to know about it or have any experience with it. I ask questions, and people all of a sudden get the bad case of "Just give me a call next week" which is rather frustrating because that is their job they get paid for. I leave messages with many no return phone calls in the process and I feel my questions are pretty damn important. Ok Ok Ok, I know.......everyone's questions are pretty important and not pouting or throwing a hissy because no one answers my questions. It's just that if I can't figure it out, how the hell am I supposed to help my husband? If I can't find it, how does everyone else do it?

July 9, 2010

Combat Veterans and Trigger Cues

Pairwise perpendicular angles 1
Image viaWikipedia
In a combat zone we look for regular angles in an irregular environment; the child holding a cell phone is, according to the law of probability, a death threat. At home these kind of distorted thinking patterns can become debilitating as everything has regular angles, therefore a 'threat or trigger cue' (TTC).

In a combat environment death and destruction rein supreme, where the laws of nature rage and rules, values an norms of the warrior prevail. In combat the leveled weapon in a haystack of chaos is registered and fired upon as one reaction; to do otherwise is to seek death.

The combat schemata (target=shoot) had registered a threat and acted upon it without hesitation saving the lives of her soldiers; but in doing so she has bound her life to those deaths. This highly imprinted schemata becomes entrenched and thus becomes our first line of defense for even vaguely perceived threats, the stuffing of society.

July 6, 2010

Scott Lee on America's Web Radio Tomorrow Morning with Michael Orban

Click the banner above to hear the interview!


Log on to listen live

Guest Gulf War Combat Veteran and Veterans Issues Examiner Scott Lee

Hosted by Army Combat Veteran Michael S. Orban
Wednesday June 30 at 11:00am eastern
Same day replay at 11:00pm eastern
(adjust for your time zone)

for more information see my website


Combat Mistress' Mailbox Question and Answer Time

After the many emails over the weekend, I was somewhat surprised at the questions you ladies asked! I want to remind you I don't have all the answers nor do I pretend to know them. I am not a PTSD expert/doctor and can only answer based on what I have experienced with my combat veteran. I will attempt to answer these the best way I can and hope that it helps you or steers you in the right direction. Many thanks to each of you who gave me permission to use your question so others may see it......Here we go!

How do you deal with your vet? Is it ok for me to not want to stay with my husband? He has gotten so bad that I can't deal with him anymore. He was diagnosed with PTSD but he won't get help, it's been four years! I don't know what to do anymore and there are days where I really just hate him.
First off, I understand how you feel. I really really do. Is it o.k. for you to hate the man you love? YES! There are going to be days where each of us in a relationship are not going to get along. What you are feeling is completely normal and I can tell you there are days where I really just want to take a cast iron skillet to my husband's head! You can love some one to the depths of your very soul and still not like them some days. This doesn't necessarily mean Veteran's with PTSD/TBI and their spouses, it can be anyone including family members. Does this make you less of a person? NO! I get very angry most days, I am hurt, I feel betrayed, and some days I want to smack him upside the head and tell him to just get over it! He is home now, leave all this crap in the past! However, we must remember that PTSD/TBI is not something that just goes away and not something our Veterans caused to get this.

Educate yourself on the subjects, look into options for both you and your husband and learn together. Spouses of Combat PTSD Vets don't deal, we COPE. Most of us are on medications ourselves, others find things to get involved in, and others just take it from day to day bracing for the worst and hoping for the best. I found that by reading and researching PTSD and TBI is how I cope along with blogging about it.

July 5, 2010

Realities of Coming Home From Combat

This post is reproduced with my husband's permission from his blog One Veteran's Battle.

Every soldier whose been in combat cannot help but to be changed for life. It may be surprising to know, the veteran believes everything will be OK, that they will comforted if he can just get home. When they finally arrive, there's an element of euphoria, followed by disorientation. Veterans slip into what can only be described as an 'illusion of normalcy.' They pretend that nothing has changed.

As time passes, it could be 1 month, or 2 years, but most commonly it's approximately 3 to 6 months, the veteran can no longer suppress what he's become as a result of combat. His true self begins to emerge. This can be expressed in many forms, anger, depression, isolationism, even suicide. The veteran will become sensitive to being around others and startle easily, and may show little interest in doing the things he once enjoyed. His interests may be alcohol, drugs, porn, or absolutely nothing at all. But these things are not really the man. They are expressions of pain seeking an outlet. It wasn't long ago he was in combat in a shit hole world. Everything you can think of was discarded onto the streets, waste paper, plastic bottles, rubble, feces, urine, and even decomposing animals (both domesticated dogs, etc. and human) now he's in a 'civilized' world with no way to express himself in a normal, culturally accepted way. Therefore, veterans turn to violence, isolate themselves, or commit suicide. How can anyone that hasn't been 'In the shit' possibly know what fucked up shit veterans have dealt with? Pisses me off when I hear anyone call a veteran a freeloader. They have god damn clue what their talking about. I wish they were walking the streets of Baghdad in 2004. If they were to survive they'd shut the fuck-up.

Once the veteran crosses that boundary to the new 'true self,' both the veteran and his spouse must come to terms with the changes in their relationship together or it's doomed to fail. I represent a failed attempt to make the adjustment. I failed, or she refused to accept the changes in me, we ended up in divorce. I had no intention on giving up on the relationship; it was my intention to try and work it out. It was her decision to abandon our relationship. But I realize now, it was the best result possible. I'm just sorry she did it in such a mean spirited way (another post).

I'm a bad example because my marriage was in trouble when I left for Iraq, nonetheless, I think I observations of value. The bottom line is, if you had a good relationship prior to deployment, despite the seemingly insurmountable difficulties resulting from combat experience, much can be overcome with love. I'm not saying it's easy, because it's not. It's hard for the veteran because he's confused, most likely working out prescriptions through VA, suicidal at times, depressed, and anxious. He feels these things within the context of his love for you, his spouse. His spouse sees a changed man, someone she didn't marry. Some women understand the reason, others don't. The ones that do understand and stand with their man, that's true love and compassion. They will work it out in the end. Those relationships troubled before Iraq, as mine was, or those that cannot find common ground and understanding, will likely fail.

Saving a relationship after being separated by something so insidious as combat would be hard on any family. Coming home can provide initial relief from the realities of war, but soon the nightmares return, and we act out, unsure what to do with these emotions forged in war and expect them to fit-into a world that has no understanding of what they've become.

MSN's Health and Fitness: Pot Might Ease PTSD

Synthetic marijuana reduced post-traumatic stress disorder in rats
-- Robert Preidt

Synthetic marijuana reduced post-traumatic stress disorder in rats.FRIDAY, Nov. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Marijuana may help people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a new study.PTSD affects 10 to 30 percent of people who experience a traumatic event, such as a car accident or terror attack.

These people continue to suffer stress symptoms for months and even years after the incident.Israeli researchers conducted a series of experiments in which rats were subjected to stressful experiences, such as receiving electric shocks.

The study found that the rats' stress levels could be reduced by giving them a synthetic form of marijuana that has properties similar to that of the natural plant.Further investigation revealed that the synthetic marijuana prevents increased release of a stress hormone the body releases in response to traumatic situations.

"The results of our research should encourage psychiatric investigation into the use of cannabinoids in post-traumatic stress patients," wrote study author Dr. Irit Akirav of the department of psychology at the University of Haifa.

The study was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

More information:

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about

SOURCE: University of Haifa, news release, Nov. 4, 2009
@2010 HealthDay. All Rights Reserved.

July 4, 2010

Fireworks and the Mental Scars of War

My husband had disappeared for part of the evening yesterday and I knew he was taking his sweet time coming home because our youngest son is cutting his molars. This has given me high pitched screaming and general fussiness over everything for the past week. Normally a happy child, you can always tell me when my son doesn't feel good because nothing pacifies him. I thought we had gotten past all the teething stages, but alas, the molars are breaking through and hell has entered upon us once more.

At first, I was slightly irritated because I felt I got the shaft again and always having to deal with the "bad" stuff with the kids alone. My husband only wants to be around them when they aren't sick, or loud....However, I did realize that I would rather have to deal with one child fussing, than one child and a husband with PTSD who is constantly going off on the slightest of things.

July 3, 2010

My Childhood Made Me a Thug, War Made Me a Monster

While I am not going to revert to all of my old ways, I am in a great amount of pain from the fallout of recent events. Really, it is probably more due to my guilt that I have been burying for 20 years. I talk about my childhood as being the worst. What I was trying to do was deflect and embellish so that I could say, "Hey my childhood was worse than war." Well I'm here to tell the world that NO, war is worse than any childhood.

A bad childhood can only help one become a better killer in combat, but it was combat that made me dangerous to my loved ones, not my childhood. My childhood made me a thug, war made me a monster.

Today I am not that monster, I am more the me you knew before war than I have ever been in my life. The reason I say we come home everyday from battle; the me before war, every once in a while will wake up...like it was 20 years ago, and ask myself is it over yet? I swear to God it is like I woke up from a coma and the year is still 1989 and time has stood still. It is so scary...I'm fucking balling again.

Those moments used to turn into all out war for the monster, but today I know the fog of war will pass as I wait patiently for it to vaporize.

July 2, 2010

Combat Veteran's Stuttering Returns Post Iraq

My husband has a pronounced stutter (a previously conquered childhood hardship) which returned with a vengeance post Iraq, but over the last few months I've noticed it getting worse. He sometimes has difficulty pronouncing certain words; for example yesterday it was the word "successful", which he finally resorted to breaking into three syllables in order to get it out. It's moments like that I seriously have to battle the urge to finish sentences for him, but he needs to be able to communicate without me jumping in every five minutes to "help" him convey his point of view. And honestly, I don't want to give him any more of a complex than he already has.

I know he's aware of the worsening affliction, his body language and broken eye contact highlights the insecurity which accompanies his frustration.

I wanted him to hear for himself how prevalent it's becoming, and although he brought it to my attention by telling me he was going to blog about it, I'm not sure he realizes the true extent. So I secretly recorded him (sorry to be so sneaky my love) as he read to me from his post PTSD Defines Me in which he addresses the issue.

I've edited the audio for length and added some video footage to give you something to look at while you're listening. It starts out with him saying "um" several times which is usually the way he gets going when he's about to speak.

I used this with his permission after fessing up to my FBI style wire tapping!

July 1, 2010

Secondary PTSD and the Combat Vets Wife

I once read an anonymous saying that stated "Everyone's crazy...just some more than others". I used to laugh at that statement especially in college where my Psychology professor told us that everyone had symptoms of OCD hardwired in them. Thinking back, I can say I do have a slight problem with counting things or keeping things in a particular place. I have watched others with odd quirks of their own, and even my own mother who obsessively counted objects on a curio cabinet. There is only room for one crazy person in this household and so far my husband is reigning number one. I do have to admit though, I have changed so much in the last three years I barely recognize myself anymore. Am I on the path of becoming second runner up in the race of being nuts?

When you are seeking information regarding PTSD you usually come across the term of "Secondary Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome" or "Compassion Fatigue". I have read on Family of a Vet, (a site in which I haunt quite frequently) about this subject and the author/owner of the site has a special way of describing things on an every day person's level. Another words, it's simple, to the point, and in no way must you have a Harvard degree or be a psychologist to understand any of it. If you are a caregiver or spouse for your veteran with combat PTSD, definitely check out her site along with her description of Secondary Post Traumatic Syndrome. Now I didn't go out to seek out my mental problems nor did I think in anyway I am going nuts...but I admit that I have had some problems here as of late.

My last week's doctor visit showed my blood pressure was really high...enough to be put on medicine for it. Tension/migraine headaches can sometimes be debilitating to the point where now I have a special med that is a kick ass Tylenol mixed with Zanax for nerves. Let's add in the anxiety pill that I take as needed, and the medication for depression which is really for my Rheumatoid Arthritis (I promise I am not 80!) and helps combat the battle of the blues in the process. So the two or three bottles of meds have now increased to 11 and I was forced to get a pink old lady pill box daily reminder for myself all before my 35th birthday which is quickly approaching! It's quite depressing really because I still feel young, still feel somewhat sane, and embarrassed I should have to admit to anyone I am taking so many pills. My doctor made a comment that I could be suffering from Secondary PTSD so I have been looking at it a little closer now that she has brought it up.