Friday, October 18, 2013

Life of an 11 Bravo Wife

Today we welcome Marcia, one of the newest GallantFew volunteers.  She is already making an impact by action, and now through words as well.  km

My name is Marcia and I am an Army wife.  Okay, technically I am a former Army wife but while my mind keeps telling me that, my heart keeps telling me you can take the family out of the Army but you cannot take the Army out of the family.  I am okay with that.  There isn't anything in my opinion more important to the morale and well-being of the soldier than the family so I have no problem with the Army life coursing through my veins.  It is who I always have and always feel I am.

Gary spent 20 years in the Army and I was lucky enough to be with him for 19 of those years. The Army taught me how to pack up my entire house and move from one country to another with only a few weeks’ notice, how to fit two suitcases worth of gear into one duffle bag, the meaning of the BRAS chart, how to plot a grid on a map and how to send my husband off to combat with the understanding his unit expected 80% casualties, a point they explained to all the wives during a very educational meeting at the beginning of Desert Shield.  What the Army did not teach me was how to sit back and not prepare and send him off to combat and how to live life not being an Army wife.

We just celebrated our 37th anniversary on September 18th and though he has been retired almost as many years as he served on active duty I still find it difficult to consider myself anything but an Army wife.

While Gary's career included memories others can only dream of, travel to beautiful cities and lifelong friendships it also brought with it a lot of injuries.  From a the beginning stages of a back injury from an LCM during an exercise while stationed in Panama to a C7 fracture which occurred during our time at Ft. Knox the Army has taken a toll on his body.

I always joke that the things which happened to us were not speed bumps in the road but rather just another chapter in what would surely be a very long book about our life.  There were things we endured and struggled through due to his military career that most people would swear were made up and others would never want to go through.  If they were speed bumps we must have great shocks on our life because while it was hard we have made it through each and every one of them and are still surviving, still together and believe it or not still like each other!

I wish there was a manual for the new Army wives to help them navigate the valleys and curves of Army life but so far nobody has taken the time to sit down and write one.  I often wonder if some of the things we have been through would have been easier if I had known where to turn or where to go by reading an article or listening to someone's advice.  My hope is to talk about some of the things we went through and hopefully give other wives an idea where to turn if they find themselves in need of help too.

As this writing journey begins it brings back a lot of memories that I can now see were times that helped build character and strength.  I guess God knew one day I would have the time to help other military wives out with some of the struggles they are going through and figured on the job training was the best way to be able to help to the fullest.

Gary’s first surgery was for spondylolisthesis in the L-5 S-1 area. The injury began during an amphibious assault mission in Panama when he was hit in the lower back by an LCM.  That on top of thirteen more years of being a Grunt didn’t quite get it to the point of surgery.  That took slipping off a porch during a really bad storm January 26, 2000.  After fighting with his place of employment and workers comp for six months they finally did his surgery July 26, 2000.

When I say fight, I mean fight.  We were first told he had to stay at work until workers comp decided to tell him they had his paperwork and he needed to go home.  This was my first experience in learning how to look for and find information to help him that nobody else would give us.  After a few hours of research on line I found articles that stated no workers comp claim can be filed until the employee was off work for at least seven days.

Next came a supervisor who didn’t like him for the simple fact he was retired military.  Once he realized we knew the truth about the workers comp and Gary left work he was furious! At that point he filed a form with workers comp stating that the injury was not a work related injury.  We received a call from workers comp with that information and a “sorry but if it’s not a work related injury you cannot file a claim”.  Then a funny thing happened.  Two weeks later Gary was called in to the office and given a complaint from his supervisor.  In bold letters across the top it stated “reason for reprimand-failure to report a work related injury in a timely manner”.  He received that letter on a Thursday afternoon.  I called the workers comp office first thing Friday morning and did not get an answer.  Wasn’t surprised, they were understaffed and always busy.  I thought we would get a call before the end of the day on Friday.  No such luck.  

That weekend I learned that it is a true fact, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and I quickly learned how to squeak with the best of them.  I called the workers comp office 68 separate times that weekend, each time telling them about the letter.  Monday morning at 9:00 am I had a return call from the case worker.  I made one simple statement that it seems impossible for a claim to be turned down for “not work related” then the same supervisor write him up for not reporting a work related injury in a timely manner.  Her response was “you are right and we are going to move forward with filing the claim”.

The next thing I learned was if you are former military they look through all your records and try and turn you down for an injury that began in the military.  A little more research showed me that each state has revised codes.  Not sure what all states codes say but in Ohio an injury can still be work related with a pre-existing injury if that injury was accelerated or aggravated by the new injury.

A whole new respect for the internet began for me that day.  I learned a lot by looking up things that pertained to our situation, his injury, past cases and how they were decided.  Unfortunately for us in the end I was not able to find enough to keep us from losing everything we worked for.  We lost our house, had to sell our truck, all our savings was gone and the animals were given away to people in our area who had room for them.  I have to admit I cried more when I watched people drive away with my animals than I did my truck and I thought things could not get worse.

But they did.  After 9/11 I watched young service members deploy and some return injured and some not return at all.  Though we lost everything we were lucky enough to have a friend let us live in their rental property until we could get a place of our own.  We found a used vehicle to drive and while I didn’t have all my animals back we were able to get a family dog.  People brought us food when we need it and found clothes for the kids when we couldn’t afford them.

I learned during that time a valuable lesson-no matter how bad we had it someone, somewhere had it just a little worse than we did.  We didn’t still have our farm, but we had a house, we didn’t still have our beautiful red Diesel Truck but we had transportation.  And most importantly we had our family together.

I remember a friend asking me one day how I could stay so positive and keep laughing, and do I always look at the glass as half full instead of half empty?  I told her it wasn’t always easy.  There were days I wanted to scream and I would go in the basement and cry.  But when I was done nothing had changed.  The problems were still there, still had to be addressed only now I had to do that with a horrible headache.  Then I told her I never look at the glass as half full or half empty....I’m just always glad I own the damn glass.

Now it’s my time to pay it forward.  To help Veterans and their families find resources, information and if they need it, just a place to vent and let it all out.  I am strong enough for that.  I have survived 37 years of marriage, a war and two teenage daughters.  I am an 11Bravo wife and through strength that came from all we went through I can handle whatever someone wants to throw at me.

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