I’m sitting here curled up on my couch with the sunshine filling the room feeling so blessed and excited for the things to come!
Cale is curled up on our nicely made bed snoozing. It was a good long weekend for him and he is worn out!
On our way up to our weekend getaway, we stopped in Yakima to get our new retiree id cards. I didn’t think it was going to be that big of a deal, but of course I was the wife that cried through it! As Cale was signing his name, it suddenly hit me how this is really happening. We were going to be leaving the Army. I had to wipe my tears away pretty quickly because I was next and those pictures already have a way of being unattractive, I didn’t need to help it any!
Once we were done with our id’s, we hit the road! I got us lost a little bit…after making it through the snowy pass, I listened to the GPS even though I knew the way it was telling us to go was fishy. Well, up a swirly mountain we went that had more snow than the pass did. It was beautiful because the road was lined with trees covered in snow, but after repeatedly telling myself we needed to turn around, we suddenly had no choice. The road was blocked off and even with Cale seeing the roadblock, he didn’t believe me that we couldn’t go that way! Haha! We finally made it back down through the snow and after a phone call were then headed in the right direction. I was so thankful for all-wheel drive on this trip! :o)
Once there it was immediate fun. We stayed with Cale’s brother Ty and his family and then when I left for the retreat they took care of Cale for me. I was so thankful because it’s not an easy task, but they were willing! It also gave Cale guy time with his brother which was long overdue! Part of the time while I was away they played soccer outside. Cale was the goalie and did great holding onto the fence and blocking the ball. He also played card games with our nephews, made cookies with my SIL and played video games with his brother.
While Cale was getting family time in, I was away at a Spa retreat! Boy was I spoiled! The place was beautiful and surrounded by a breathtaking view.
The speakers were great and the retreat itself was packed full with info. The first night over a fancy dinner we were introduced to the team of people that helped make the weekend happen for all the wives. The Wounded Warrior Wives retreat was put on specifically by two organizations: Operation Homefront and Hope for the Home Front. TriWest was the corporate sponsor and LTC Wing was there as well. I was excited to see him because if you remember, when we went to Ft Lewis in October Cale was able and invited to go to a formation and LTC Wing gave him a coin. It was so special and completely made Cale’s day! I met his wife this time and the two of them are special and the WTB at Ft. Lewis is lucky to have them!
One of the speakers was Marshele Waddell. Amazing lady! Oh man! When she spoke and shared her story, she was real, honest, funny, and encouraging. Her husband served as a Navy SEAL for 25 years before retiring. And during that time, they spent more than two decades of separations due to special operations training, real world conflicts, and eleven deployments. His time served resulted in him now dealing with PTSD and multiple moderate TBI’s. Marshele is founder and president of Hope for the Home Front and has written several books.
As she shared her story and spoke to a room full of wives, many of them exhausted, hurting, and desperate for some kind of healing, I had one of those moments that reminded me why writing a book is so important to me. To get our story out there in the hand of women in that same place; that need hope and encouragement. I was so inspired by her and not only was she completely wonderful just as herself, but she loves the Lord and that made me so super happy! :o)
The first time she spoke, she talked about Ft. Fantasy and all of her expectations of how it was all going to be after she first married her husband and joined him in military life. I could so relate! I can’t even tell you how I thought Army life was going to be and how Ft. Reality showed up pretty quickly! The memories made me laugh! I remember when we first arrived to Ft. Drum, BDU’s were still the uniform and needed to be ironed. Cale was fresh out of training so things needed to look perfect. I was the new wife of a soldier eager to figure out my role as Mrs. Darling, so for the first week I got out my iron every night and with a great big cheesy smile I ironed away knowing that somewhere gold stars were being handed out to the best wives and I was going to be one of them! It didn’t take long when the gold stars weren’t showing up and I wasn’t a fan of the iron. Ha! Thankfully the Army did good by changing the uniforms which don’t have to be ironed! I also came to realize that serving my husband was a heart issues not something to be on the Top 5 Best Wives list for. ;o)
A lot of the sessions as usual didn’t quite apply, but as always, I was able to take home a lot from it. One of the sessions had to do with us looking over a list and checking all the things that our husbands struggle and deal with. The topic was specifically looking at PTSD symptoms and then Traumatic Brain Injury symptoms. I went through the list and for Cale; all that I checked and how many were checked wasn’t a surprise. After we finished with that exercise, it was time for all of us to look over another list and mark off all the things that we struggle and deal with. This time it was for secondary traumatic stress and compassion fatigue. When I first saw that it was for us and about us, I didn’t think much of it but when I started to check boxes and see it all in writing, it got me unexpectedly!
By the end of it as I looked through all the boxes I checked, I became so thankful that I’m not dealing with those things on my own. Yes, it has been hard and I do need to work out some of the emotions, but Praise the Lord that he has already freed me from the bondage that otherwise they would cause in my life. His blood has already covered them and His grace is enough to help me through it all. I just got all worked up typing that paragraph… :o)
We also discussed living grief. When a person goes through something traumatic, in most cases there’s an ending that you can than grieve over and move on in a way, but with PTSD and TBI, it keeps going and the grieving never stops. I’ve had this thought many times, but hearing Dr. Kelly Orr (another speaker) talk about it, it seemed to make a lot more sense than what had been floating around in my thoughts.
From all what came out of those two sessions, I will be looking for a Christian counselor that has some background with traumatic events if not specifically brain injury. If you’re around this area and know of a good one, please let me know!
This weekend and learning even more about TBI led me to thinking about how long and dreadful deployments can be. I remember Cale’s first deployment seemed like it would never end and then a week before he was finally going to come home, he was extended. Are you kidding me?! Ahh! I remember the news was so hard to hear that night and all I wanted to do was hear Cale’s voice. A scripture in Isaiah was what I held onto through the rest of the time before Cale returned home. When he did get home, for us, life was bliss. We didn’t have to deal with the adjustment time, or figure out any big issues. He was home and life was good. The same went for his second deployment. I can’t imagine and my heart breaks for all the women that finally had their husbands back, but life wasn’t good. It wasn’t bliss.
When I had gone to the writers retreat and now this one, I’ve met so many women that didn’t get to have their husband they married come home. It was a different man. Changed. Some have become violent; some have flashbacks, nightmares, or confusion. Some of them don’t smile or laugh anymore and never want to go anywhere.
The war is out of our minds because we’re not affected unless we know someone who is deployed. Even then, unless it’s someone close to us, we just have the knowledge they're gone. There have been wars in the past, and yes, compared to them we are spoiled in the way of communication and comfort, but it’s still a war. It’s still taking lives; both here and there.
Speaking of the military…
As of March 6, 2012 SGT Darling is officially off active duty. I am so proud of my soldier; my warrior. He's the strongest fighter I know and I'm so incredibly blessed to be married to him! I have to say he's the best looking man in uniform as well! ;)
We finished up the trip back to his brothers and then came home yesterday. On the way home right after going through the pass which was snowy, a light came on in the CRV and then right after I heard a terrible noise. The car felt a little weird but I was confused if it was us. That lasted a split second before realizing that it was us and we had a flat tire. Thankfully, it was right by an exit and thankfully we weren’t still on the pass! I called for help and we were taken care of. It was a little adventure and gave us some laughs. Cale actually did great the entire time!
I have more to share, but I’ll get that done later. I want to leave you with something…
I have super exciting news about my book! It didn’t come until Sunday night and then once it did my heart was bursting!
That’s all you get to know though! ;) Heehee!
I'm so thankful for Wounded Warrior Project and Wounded Warrior Wives. Both organizations are focused on healing and encouraging for the brokenness caused by war or other traumatic events for those that have worn uniform or their spouse. They're amazing!