Veteran’s Day, Communication & Suicide

I wrote an article for Veteran’s Day for Military Press.  I hope you enjoy it.

 

Communicate with your Veteran before it’s too late!

Have you ever thought about what it’s like in combat? For a second let’s imagine what it might have been like for your spouse in the sandbox, constantly in a heightened state of fear for his life. As things are just getting back to normal around here, Veteran’s Day next week may bring up some of those same mixed feelings.

Typical Duck Dynasty loving Americans don’t realize what we go through, let alone what our spouses choose to go through. I think many fail to realize that everyone who’s gone to combat comes home with some sort of extra baggage. Mentally, emotionally and sometimes physically — if they even come home at all. It’s not all civilians’ faults though because it’s either not a part of their lives or it’s just out of sight and out of mind. I understand we’re a very small percentage of Americans but the more Americans know, care and understand, the less all of our Veterans and service members will feel isolated and misunderstood.

What always gets me is the statistic that 22 Veterans a day commit suicide. That adds up to more deaths from suicide than were killed in action in the current war. That’s a suicide every 65 minutes. Even more astonishing, according to CNN, is that the numbers are underreported due to Veterans not registering with the VA and states not turning in accurate numbers because of lack of information. The numbers are mainly for older Veterans. Apparently 30% of the OIF & OEF service members have considered taking their own lives and 45% said they know a service member who has attempted suicide.

Steel Magnolias, I encourage you all to teach your children about Veterans Day and educate them on how things used to be and why we should cherish and respect not only our elders but especially the Veterans. Volunteer and speak up so that we do not let the cycle of unknowing civilians continue. Always try to keep positive communication going with your spouse not only for your marriage and yourself but also the well-being of your family. So many of our marriages end up in the drain because of things that are out of our control but there are many wives who don’t get to make this point or celebrate holidays with their husbands anymore and only get to visit them at national cemeteries.

Don’t let them stuff down their feelings and suck it up living in horrid silence alone. Please don’t wait until it’s too late to try and communicate. If you need a push start don’t be afraid to contact FOCUS, a local therapist, find a couples retreat or even simply go run errands together, hold hands and keep that constant feeling of support and openness there.

Don’t forget yourself in all of this. Have a glass of wine with a fellow spouse occasionally. As Steel Magnolias we have the strength to be the spouse, cheerleader, researcher, mother and health advocate these men need but the only way to prevent all of this is to simply talk.

How to ship care packages

It can be nerve racking to ship anything overseas especially if there are precious items of comfort and love inside that can be pretty pricey to stock then ship.

Did you know? The Postal Service offers a discount on its largest Priority Mail Flat Rate box at $14.85. The price includes a $2 per box discount for military mail being sent to APO/FPO/DPO (Air/Army Post Office, Fleet Post Office, Diplomatic Post Office) destinations worldwide.

Did you know?  The Postal Service created a FREE “Military Care Kit” based on the items most frequently requested by military families.

The kit contains:

  • Two Priority Mail APO/FPO Flat Rate Boxes.
  • Two Priority Mail Medium Flat Rate Boxes.
  • Priority Mail tape.
  • Priority Mail address labels.
  • Appropriate customs forms.To order the kit, call 800-610-8734. Guidelines for packing, addressing, and shipping items to U.S. troops can be found at usps.com/ship/apo-fpo-guidelines.htm. To order flat-rate boxes featuring the “America Supports You” logo, go to store.usps.com.

    To address the package, follow the instructions below:

    1. Write out the service members full name in the address

    2. Include the unit and APO/FPO/DPO address with the 9-digit ZIP Code (if one is assigned). For example:

    CPT JOHN DOE
    UNIT 2050 BOX 4190
    APO AP 96278-2050

    SGT ROBERT SMITH
    PSC 802 BOX 74
    APO AE 09499-0074

    SEAMAN JOSEPH SMITH
    USCGC HAMILTON
    FPO AP 96667-3931

    MSG JANE DOE
    CMR 1250
    APO AA 09045-1000

    3. Make sure to include a return address.

“References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot”

I had the extreme pleasure of reviewing a local theatre’s Spanish translation of Jose Rivera’s work last month.  I still can not get over how parallel and spot on the entire play was to many military couples past and present.  I wrote this for Military Press where I write my editorial so I thought I’d also put it on here for many more to enjoy!  Thankfully a fellow Wounded Warrior Wife came along for the experience.  When things like this pop up in your neighborhood whether they’re PTS conferences, seminars, meet & greets, panels & lectures please feel free to pop in to chat or volunteer to help run the show.

MOXIE Theatre Review: “References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot”

Breathtaking, sensual and surreal love story hits San Diego

By: Crystal Arriaga, Military Press

SAN DIEGO – “There will always be things you do not know about each other.” The quote is true for many couples but especially military couples who are bombarded with deployment & training schedules, seen & unseen injuries, moves, money and kids.

Director Dana I. Harrel creates a raw and stimulating translation of Spanish Playwright Jose Rivera’s work.  With choreographer Derrick McGee, stage manager Ryan Heath and costume designer Alina Bokovikova; all of Jose Rivera’s rich language and passionate detail to the script are transformed into a mind numbing, deliciously exotic and panting experience.  As the play goes on it reveals a young woman who has been through so much being married to her military career minded husband.  She’s endured moves across the world, a combat deployment and now the unseen and often unspoken realities that war leaves on the mind and heart.  Like so many military spouses all of this leaves her wondering, in her own at times hazy fantasy way, if the man who captured her heart is the one who will come through the door this time or is he just another ghostly casualty of war.

The play is innovative & provocative in a Salvador Dali piece of art type way that will have people wanting to stay up late into the night discussing the many layers hidden underneath each another.  The story is so passionate & thought provoking; you feel as if you are Gabriela, the military spouse played by the graceful & emotionally torn Jacqueline Lopez married to the hard-hitting and intensely portrayed Benito, played by Jorge Rodriguez.  This is one play that is anything but conventional.  It delves into what most of us know about military & combat stressors on a marriage but don’t always talk about.  As shown in the performance not everyone can deal with the military wife lifestyle with so many obstacles being hurled at once and I’m overjoyed the stage and costume design was true to a very real and typical military housewife and not another cookie cutter commercial portrayal of a surface only-happy couple.

With so many outstanding small companies in San Diego I implore you to show your support of this captivating performance.

How to have A Healthy Marine Corps Marriage…

At least once new and seasoned spouses have all asked themselves the same question:  How do I maintain a normal & healthy marriage; if there is one?!  There are no simple or quick fixes and let’s face it; being a Marine Corps wife can compound the challenge. There’s no 9-5 civilian job to mull over.  At the very beginning we discuss funeral wishes, Wills & POA’s when most  couples are still in the honeymoon phase.  Absolutely no one has a perfect marriage but hopefully we can all learn from others’ experiences to obtain or maintain a healthy marriage.

1) Communication. Learning the art of having a solid positive communicative foundation in your relationship is a hurdle you have to learn to jump because issues only get more complex as the years go by.  Active listening means just that LISTENING.  Not nagging or thinking of a come back as soon as they open their mouths.  Fluffy surface stuff like “hi/bye, kiss me, I love you” get you nowhere as well.  I mean deep conversations into the how, why & plan of action for confrontational in-laws, finances, overspending, financial planning, how to raise your kids, ect.  Two people have become one and finding a neutral ground of compromise is a delicate balance.  Compromise doesn’t mean submission it means you can have an honest conversation without feeling slighted or run over.

2) Maintenance.  You get out of your marriage what you put into it.  You don’t overheat your car without getting it checked out; the same concept goes for a marriage. Aboard almost all bases there are counselors & classes like the 5 Love Languages and the 4 Lenses which introduce you to personality types and how to mesh them into your relationship so both parties feel validated, important and respected.  People go to the doctor for regular check-ups & maintenance is the same thing to prevent serious issues.

3) Reality. We live a unique life where it takes tremendous effort to communicate & maintain our marriage due to unaccompanied duty stations, deployments, trainings, ect.  Marine Corps marriage is a huge reality check. Priorities have to shifted because reality is you cant get upset when he isn’t around or remembers to celebrate that second Wednesday in June when you two kissed for the third time under a full moon and you were wearing red heels with your favorite jeans.

4) Salt & Pepper. Everyone knows salt and pepper are always added and additional spices as needed and so should be certain things in a marriage.  Always have undeniable love, respect, support, thoughtfulness, understanding and patience for each other and the spicy romance & extra goodies should automatically follow suit.

We’ve all heard the saying that anything worth fighting for won’t be easy and thats exactly what Marine Corps marriage is.  Marriage is meant to complement your attributes and personality so while you’ll constantly evolve into being a better person and an outstanding Marine Corps spouse because of your Marine remember to enjoy the ride along the way.  A spoonful of sugar will not make our lives easier as much as I’d love it to but leaning on each other for support and following the steps above may help a bit.

How to avoid offending another mil spouse…

Things to really think about while reading this article: Are you a supporter of the Marine Corps? Do you take offense when someone says something ignorant about the Marines? Do images of these guys with seen and unseen injuries limping off the battlefield and the photos of flag draped caskets bring a tear to your eye? Do you support your husband no matter what and would advocate for his job in the Marine Corps and your patriotism? Overall people are patriotic to the core. This is our homeland, our military, our land of the free because of the brave and all that right?
Well, let me introduce y’all to a good friend of mine which y’all may see below referred to as Pacheco’s wife aka AnnaLeigh. She is not so new to the circle of friends in my life but new to this blog. She is a young, beautiful brunette & thin like most of us long to be, but also has very quick wit and a short temper for ignorance like most wives who been through what she’s been through.
We became acquaintances under dire circumstances when I was still a family readiness assistant & personal assistant to the newest Family Readiness Officer. She’d called me as her point of contact to tell me it was rumored around good ol’ Facebook & the ‘watercooler’ that her husband was missing limbs and they only found his head in combat yet she hadn’t heard any news from him or Headquarters Marine Corps in Virginia. Cue the expletives! Idiotic, insensitive individuals is what I will say about this situation. This is what everyone meant in those trainings, seminars and meetings about the deployments in saying ‘loose lips’; these individuals should have kept their mouths shut about things they had no idea was true or not; when in fact her husband was absolutely fine. Drama! This is the main reason why most wives are apprehensive to be friends with other wives due to this ignorance and complete disregard for others privacy and feelings.
Her husband, Jason put Anthony on the Blackhawk out of Afghanistan when he was injured so we have always been thankful and appreciative for him in our lives. Coincidentally after she’d talked to her husband about the rumors, just 10 hours later while on patrol he did happen to step on an IED, incur a TBI and lose his right leg and part of his pinky finger. We became actual friends when our lives took an unexpected hard right turn almost at the same time. Between the sometimes simultaneous doctors’ appointments, red tape of injuries, trying to figure out a way to forge on in the Marine Corps and get our guys better; our lives seemed to mirror in more than one way.
So you can see she is just as awesome as her husband and has been through more than her fair share of obstacles! She dealt with unruly in-laws overstepping and overstaying their welcome while she’s trying to reunite with her husband after being in a combat zone and experiencing a horrific incident, this is enough to break anyone! Not to mention both of them were adjusting to the injury itself and those obstacles, the medications, surgeries, opinions, therapies, prosthetics and all that comes with being in the hospital more than being at home. She’s been his rock and he’s been so motivated to get back to where he belongs with his men that he was actually given that opportunity by the Commandant and Sgt Major of the Marine Corps and will leave soon to go back to Afghanistan.
The other day there was a unit function to honor the Marine Corps birthday. She was sitting alone while her husband and mine were running around somewhere and a random wife approaches her. The young lady polite enough and possibly with innocent intentions said, “Hello there, who are you here with?” AnnaLeigh said she was there with her husband, Jason. This wife must not have known who AnnaLeigh was because she then sarcastically and in typical high school girl fashion said, “Well…it must be nice…” Full of self restraint and grace AnnaLeigh responded, “Yeah, it is nice.” The inquisitive lady said, “Has he ever been to Afghanistan?” AnnaLeigh once again with the patience of a saint informed her, “Yes, he has. He went last year and lost his leg but he’s going back again soon.” The young woman was speechless and had to have found herself, embarrassed and outdone so she simply walked away.
Now how AnnaLeigh kept it together I will never know, I wasn’t present to witness this teaching lesson. But I do hope that young lady has more forethought from now on to actually learn a person’s story and not be so quick to be a smartass and stick her foot in her mouth before she disrespects those she doesn’t know from Adam. Especially a Wounded Warrior Wife who’s been through so much in just a year’s time. I hope that narrow-minded person learned a bit of respect for those who are left behind here whether they attend a mostly deployed unit’s event or otherwise. Just because these guys appear 100% on the outside does not mean there are not scars there at all & are invisible to the naked eye. Jason and Anthony both wore pants to that event but they are full of scratches, scars and pain no will ever know but the men they fought with and those closest to them. The Wounded Warriors and their wives shouldn’t have to explain or justify any of that and neither should anyone else who is left behind after a unit deploys. Everyone has a story whether they are asked to tell it or not.The stares, the probing questions, the ignorance is just a glimpse of what Wounded Warrior wives deal with often from strangers even other military spouses, who don’t understand or know our whole story.

We’re taught to love one another and be kind. Would you have judged a book by its cover in AnnaLeigh by having her husband at an event? Would you have been so quick to judge and respond with a snark comment without knowing her story? Do you think that young lady learned to look outside of herself and her situation and maybe won’t be so ignorant to the facts next time?