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The Challenges Of Reintegrating: The Perspective Of A Wounded Warrior Wife

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A guest article by Cherly Gansner, the wife of a severely injured veteran.
Cherly founded WifeofaWoundedSoldier.com and is group leader on WoundedWarriorWives.org.

wounded warrior wife, soldier, marineMy soldier and I had only been dating a mere six months when he deployed to Iraq the first time. We were very much in love and missed each other with every fiber in our being. The communication left something to be desired since he was in the initial invasion of the war. I spent my days working, going to college, and dreaming of the day he would return.

His mid-tour leave was almost eight months into his year-long deployment. I cleaned the house from top to bottom, stocked the fridge with all his favorite foods and counted down the days until we could spend two wonderful weeks together. Mid-tour was everything I hoped it would be; we were gloriously happy and spent every moment having fun. I had to send him back and it was nearly as hard as sending him initially.

Then when he redeployed I started preparing again for his return. I thought we wouldn’t be one of those couples that had problems with reintegration issues. An hour after I got him home he fell asleep shortly after dinner. I remember it was only 7:00 p.m. and I sat on our deck feeling a little let down. I thought we would stay up all hours talking about what he had experienced and just enjoying being in each other’s arms. I had set myself up for disappointment by thinking it would be some fairytale when really he was exhausted and just wanted a long shower, a home-cooked meal and some sleep.

We continued through our daily lives, got engaged and he received orders to deploy again a year and a half later. We married and he left four months into our new marriage. The communication was better the second time in Iraq and we were making it through another year-long deployment. Six weeks before coming home he was severely injured by an Improvised Explosive Device and med evac’d to Walter Reed.

His injuries were devastating to our marriage but the PTSD is what almost ruined us. I am not sure how our transition would have been without his injuries, but I imagine we might have experienced some rough patches nonetheless. I find it hard to believe that any service member would have an easy time transitioning after two deployments in a war zone.

As I reflect back now on all we have overcome I have realized there were some key components to keeping our marriage intact. The first would be that we went to counseling regularly- he went alone, I went alone, and we went together every week. I was thankful that my husband knew he needed some assistance in communicating with me post-injury and we made it a priority to get the help we needed by seeing a counselor. The second thing would be that I had to be extremely patient with him. I had to learn his triggers, adapt things we were doing to suit his needs, and lower my expectations while he learned what he needed. The third thing I did was to seek support for myself. I joined some online forums with Operation Homefront’s Wounded Warrior Wives Program and found a safe space to vent, share triumphs and gain wonderful friendships. Without the wives that have experienced what I have, I don’t know where I would be today.

When reintegrating, remember to be patient and give your warrior time to get back in the routine of things. Also seek support for yourself if you are feeling like you need to relate to others that understand. Counseling is a very useful tool, even if things are going well it is a great way to keep the communication open and prevent challenges from arising.

More About The Author:

Cheryl Gansner graduated from Austin Peay State University in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Social Work. She worked only a few months with at-risk teens when her husband was severely injured by an improvised explosive device in Iraq. She had to put her career on hold and travel to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC. At the end of their stay in DC, Cheryl worked part time with the Veteran’s Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation program. In August of 2010 Cheryl began working with Operation Homefront’s Wounded Warrior Wives Program as the Program Coordinator. www.woundedwarriorwives.org Wounded Warrior Wives is a safe place for female caregivers of wounded, ill or injured service members to share their stories. Wounded Warrior Wives also provides retreats at no cost to their caregivers.

Working with Wounded Warrior Wives she is able to share her experiences and help others who are going through the same hardships. It has been an honor for her to give back to a community that means so much to her.