Wounded Warrior wives are some of the most resilient, tough skinned individuals I’ve had the privilege to learn from recently besides the service member’s themselves of course. It’s honestly very surreal because as wives one day we can be sitting at home watching Good morning America with some coffee and in what feels like a moments’ time we’ve been given the title of caregiver. The tempo changes very rapidly from proud independent deployed spouse of a Marine to Wounded Warrior wife, caregiver, non-medical assistant, charge nurse, pharmacy tech, responsible adult for his and your well-being, ect. We never expect their lives to end up anything other than normal. We just imagine that one day we’ll grow up and older with our men. Envisioning ourselves completely whole and healthy; maybe a little worse for wear but physically well on acres of land in the country sitting in a rocking chair enjoying the Texas heat and humidity. Traveling, enjoying grown children, grandchildren, retired but still helping others is our ultimate destination! Possibly a little greyer, a little older, maybe a little less energetic but none the less together and able to do whatever you want with the rest of your lives. Everyone hears and can see that people get hurt in Afghanistan. Seeing the news reports, numbers of the injured and images on tv just don’t feel real. It seems as if it’s all a world away from our bubble and the faces of the WIA’s and KIA’s are significantly sad but don’t always ring home.
There was a time I walked around like all the other wives with the mentality that “it will not happen to us, and it won’t be my guy.” Somehow psyching myself out because all of his training and preparation since the time he’d been in the Marine Corps would suffice and get him through unharmed. Unfortunately, denial gets you absolutely no where though. The denial was a self protecting shield we put up to block the negative in the face of uncertainty. Not wanting to think about the worst of the worst for me was necessary to an extent to keep my sanity and is part of the deployment emotional cycle we all go through. Thankfully we were wise enough to still get everything in order; we had extensive Wills prepared, Powers of Attorney written out, and updated his Marine OnLine records for next of kin notification.
When the time came for him to leave for Afghanistan we said what we normally say, “Come home no matter how…” and I made him promise me that. Promises are typically something I never make Anthony do because it’s unrealistic and unfair to the both of us. They are very rare and priceless but I remember how we said that he could keep that promise because either way he’d get to come back home. Anthony and I had talked about the extremes of war many times before so I knew the risks and like any good Grunt he wanted this deployment so badly. There were many tears on my part talking about this and then thinking of what could go wrong, how I would deal with it, ect. We agreed that if he somehow sees my dad (who recently passed away) then something went wrong. I know now that those conversations prepared me and helped me rationalize the deployment and how serious it was, the HQMC phone call, the red tape and procedures afterwards, just getting him and myself just through those first couple of weeks.
Something I’d never wish on someone is the Headquarters Marine Corps phone call. When the call comes in though; they ask formally for your name, you say this is her how can I help you, the Marine says this is ___ with Headquarters Marine Corps; you’re heart just stops. For an instant you’re beside yourself with worry, anxiety and fear of the unknown. Every part of your mind is fuzzy; you don’t know what to do first and all you know is you’re not so sure of your future with your husband anymore. They tell you basically nothing because they’re reading from a report. It bothered me that someone who didn’t know my husband, didn’t know the facts or was even out there called to tell me something that was so rudely vague I was absolutely sure the people who do that job gets cursed out quite a bit. They tell you that he is injured, where, when and what type of seriously injured he is. THAT IS IT! So basically you know he was involved in something that didn’t turn out like it was supposed to. You know that he was injured in some way, shape or form and some dude just called you to tell you what he read off a paper and any questions you have he says, “I’ll find out and get back to you.” UMMMMM OKAYYYYY!!!! Thanks for raising my blood pressure to the boiling point and then ultimately telling me the bare minimum.
Things change day to day with this CACO procedure. At a local town hall meeting were just informed that now it won’t be just a phone call. The next of kin will now be informed through a CACO officer at your home on his MOL record. HOLY CRAP! Really?! We’ve had the assumption that the only reason they do that is for KIA’s and now it’s changing. Hmmm…I don’t know how to feel about that. What do you think? I think that would have been even more insulting to come to my house with only a sentence of information and not know anything. Yep now I know he’ll get cursed out. Having someone face to face though could have helped in moving along the process of whether or not the next of kin should go to Germany or Bethesda. We’ll see how this process goes. I wish I would have just told our HQMC rep to get that order done and over with for me to go to Germany the first conversation we had. I was told at one point, “well we don’t know how long he’ll he there.” When in all actuality it would have turned out fine because it took him several days to get to Germany and it would have taken me just as long too. Other service members get pushed to the front of the ‘medevac line’ if they’re more severe than your Marine who just gets bumped down to another flight within a few hours or even days. You’ll really have no way of knowing this information though because obviously the flight manifests aren’t public knowledge so my saving grace was just keeping in touch with those Marines out there who knew more than the guys in charge back here. I should have just gone anyways and will forever kick myself for not doing so. If I would have gone it would have prevented missing medical records needed for future usage, clear information to me from the doctors there since he was knocked out and on multiple pain meds, and just peace of mind for myself in being by his side through it all.
In the end bullets and IED’s don’t have names on them. They are very real and don’t have a destination other than to injure and devastate whomever they impact. The Wounded Warrior wives are truly warriors themselves. Wise beyond their young years and can conquer anything after being through so much already. It is an extremely hard process that comes with the CACO call but because of this Semper Fi love we ladies have for these men, our USMC family, civilian family & friends we get through it and somehow do it with grace and a little red wine on the side.