On the Regarding War blog, soldiers, veterans, and journalists will share their stories from Afghanistan, Iraq and other war zones. It will feature personal stories and opinions from those who have first-hand knowledge of past and current conflicts. Those at home directly affected by a family member serving in the military will also contribute. The blog is meant to be a place where ideas are exchanged and experiences are related in an effort to gain a better understanding of the realities and effects of war. Share your thoughts, raise a question, and join the conversation by leaving comments on the posts.
A girlfriend left me a voicemail on Veterans Day. She works for a social service agency and was at the gym with one of her clients. She overheard two women talking while on the treadmills. The ladies were peeved because the banks were closed, and they wanted to get some cash before they hit the mall. They were annoyed that their husbands had the day off, and would be home to bother them after their shopping spree. What was the holiday, anyway? My dear friend proceeded to inform them.
"Oh, don't worry, it's just a holiday to celebrate my 75-percent disabled husband that you don't give a shit about."
After my friend finished work, she went home to one of her other jobs — caring for a disabled veteran. Her husband served one tour in Iraq. He's currently in a wheelchair, suffers PTSD and a likely TBI (they're still waiting for the official diagnosis). She does this every day. She does it without support or assistance, she does it without respite and with no end in sight. In their household, every day is Veterans Day, but there are no holidays.
There are no flag ceremonies, medals or citations for her or the hundreds of thousands of other veterans' wives who are the primary unpaid caregiver and advocate for their veteran. A report released on November 10, the day before Veterans Day, showed that "Caregivers for severely disabled veterans report a stress-filled and largely isolated life that usually sees their own health and finances suffer... in most cases, the caregiver is the veteran's wife."
Veterans' caregivers reported very high stress levels, more than double those of caregivers of non-veteran adults. But there aren't any support groups for caregivers of veterans. There are no advocates, no wellness programs or menu of services to address and/or ameliorate the profound physical, mental, financial and marital strain suffered as a direct result of caring for a wounded warrior. The very real casualties associated with their service are not only unremarked, but also considered unremarkable. It is expected.
I have had more than one male veteran who was employed by the Veteran's Administration tell me that, "It's the wife's job to take care of the veteran."
To which I reply, "Since you're the one actually getting paid to do it, I thought that was your job."
Every single day, my friend goes to work, feeds the pets, runs the errands, pays the bills, does the laundry, cooks and cleans. She is the case manager, advocate, sometime nurse and full-time caregiver for her veteran. And every single day, I wonder, "Who is taking care of her?"
Author, professor, and advocate for veterans and their families