Tag Archive | faith

Deployment Support in the Civilian World


Many, if not most, military wives go through deployment living around others who totally “get it.” They live on post near other families in their unit, or they at least live in the vicinity of the installation where the military population is quite high. However, this is Mark’s second deployment and the second time that I’ve gone through deployment in a civilian setting. Since college graduation, I’ve been living at home with my parents and younger siblings so I could pay extra on my hefty student loans and not bring SO much debt into our marriage.

While being around family during a deployment is a great thing, it is also very different from living within a military community. They see what I go through, yet I understand and accept that they will never truly “get it.” So I have had to make an extra effort to gain military-related support during Mark’s tours of duty. For some this might be a daunting task, but because I love people it has been an adventure! For those who are a little more shy about meeting new people, reading blogs, books, and joining online communities is a good start. (A great resource is Everyone Serves: A Handbook for Family & Friends of Service Members.) Recently I found a Meetup group called the DFW Military Wives, Fiancees, and Girlfriends Network. They have events in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex for military families from all branches! Sometimes the get-togethers are as simple as having finger foods, cracking open a bottle of wine, and chatting for hours on end. But doing that is so comforting for a military wife’s heart! The other ladies can understand exactly what you are experiencing and can give advice on how to deal with difficult situations. I also began this blog during Mark’s first deployment and am now the Blog Assistant Coordinator for the Army Wife Network‘s Loving a Soldier blog as well.

Deployment is also an opportune time to improve myself and accomplish important goals. The first time around, my general goal was to find extra work and make more money to pay off a large chunk of student loans. In those five months (November 2011-April 2012), I paid off over $12,000 in debt (which included paying off my car)! During this deployment, I wanted to be more specific and varied with my goals. They include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Finish saving for our church ceremony and wedding reception (DONE!)
  • Reduce my student loan debt to $55,000 (which entails continuing to do extra work…after college graduation 4 years ago, I had $140,000 in debt)
  • Read 1-2 personal/career development books per month
  • Connect with at least 2 friends per month
  • Blog 2-3 times per week
  • Take 10 Krav Maga self-defense classes
  • And of course, actually set a date and PLAN our wedding so we can have it very soon after he returns!

Everyone Serves elaborates on how to cultivate a healthy level of self-care, on pages 56-63. Spending time with friends is something I needed to actually schedule this time. I have a tendency during deployment to work until I am burned out, so I learned the hard way that it is important to just chill out sometimes. I also gain strength from my faith and prayer. What happens to Mark during deployment is totally out of my control, and so my faith sustains me when times get rough. I also make sure to recognize that what I CAN control are my own actions and goals, and I focus on improving myself each day.



Last Friday (8/9/13), I toured the George W. Bush Presidential Library with my friends Ashley and Carolyn. It was great!

Follow Blue Star Families on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ and build a support network so you can keep your family and personal community strong throughout the duration of the entire deployment life cycle.

Please click HERE to view my disclosure statement, in compliance with FTC guidelines.

Military Mondays: Helping a Military Family in Need

Yesterday, Mark and Matt did an interview for Fox 6 News (Milwaukee affiliate), along with Kelly Hetzel, who literally saved their dad’s life at the YMCA. Please see link below to view the video!

Twin Army Captains Rushed Home from Afghanistan After Father Suffers Heart Attack


Prayers For My Father-in-Law

I was planning on writing a completely different post for today, but I am going to put that off until next week.

For those of you who are believers, please offer up a prayer for Mark’s dad, Nick.  This afternoon, he had a serious heart attack.  He was working out at the gym when he collapsed and passed out.  It was a blessing he was in a public place – he needed a defibrillator right away because his heart had stopped, and then he was rushed to the hospital.  A stent was put in, but he is still in critical condition in the ICU.

This has been one doozy of a week.  As we military folk know, summer is the most violent time in Afghanistan, so it hasn’t exactly been Disneyland over there.  Calling Mark and telling him the news that his dad had experienced a heart attack was tough, but I’m thankful that he and his brother are there together.  It is extremely hard when something bad happens to a family member and relatives are spread out literally around the world…not to mention being in a combat zone!

This isn’t the most eloquent piece I’ve written, but I wanted to get the word out to my readers.  Thank you in advance for all your prayers and well wishes.  It is our faith and others’ support that holds us up in the rough times.  We appreciate you so very much and I am hoping to post positive recovery updates soon.


About one year ago when the twins visited home for Independence Day

About one year ago when the twins visited home for Independence Day

Military Mondays: An Interview with Marshele Carter Waddell

In the final installation of my PTSD Awareness Month series, I wrote about the book Wounded Warrior, Wounded Home by Marshele Carter Waddell (co-authored by Dr. Kelly Orr).  I e-mailed Marshele, told her my and Mark’s story, and asked if I could interview her.  I was thrilled when she said yes, and I hope that her words offer just as much help and comfort to you as they did for me.  Thank you, Marshele, for sharing your heart!


Marshele headshotWhen did you and your husband Mark begin your journey in the world of PTSD/TBI?

When my U.S. Navy SEAL husband returned from Iraq with only a broken leg, I praised God that he was home safe and sound. In the months that followed his homecoming, I sensed that his leg was the least of our concerns. Although he was recovering physically, his soul still walked with a limp. His unseen wounds, caused by war zone experiences, went unmentioned, unnoticed and untreated. Slowly but surely, these invisible injuries infected our marriage, our children and our family life.  He was home with us in body; but, in his spirit a war still raged. From irritability and irrationality to nightmares and emotional paralysis, it became very clear to me that my veteran husband was suffering from post-traumatic stress. For two years my husband denied any need for help and unintentionally led our family into a land of silent suffering.

For more than two decades, our marriage had survived everything that a special operations career could throw at us: frequent deployments, long separations for training and real world conflicts, serious injuries and surgeries as well as multiple overseas family moves. The stress of my husband’s job was nothing new for either of us. That may explain why my husband’s frustrations and underlying anxieties caused me no new concerns at first. It was “all systems normal” and “steady as she goes,” or so I thought.  Hope for the Home Front: Winning the Emotional and Spiritual Battles of a Military Wife and its companion Bible study were penned before I knew anything about the beast that would raise its ugly head when Mark returned from the frontlines. Military Life 101 was cakewalk compared to the challenges that came home in Mark’s mental rucksack. Our “normal” defined our life and activity. We were living it; but, we didn’t understand it.  Mysteries rarely make formal introductions, but move in uninvited and we live among them sightless for a time.

When was the turning point?  Or are there several, continuous turning points?

Night and day, the invisible wounds continued to whisper. After several more combat deployments, my husband’s wounds were hemorrhaging and demanding to be seen, heard, tasted, touched and treated. Medical evaluations and government assessments diagnosed Mark with chronic and severe PTSD.  A couple years later, neurologists, psychiatrists, and brain scans confirmed that Mark had incurred multiple and extensive traumatic brain injuries from his combat service. In some respects, it helped to know what we were dealing with as a couple and as a family.  Finding the name for a cluster of disturbing symptoms, whether it’s a dry cough or deadly cancer, is always a relief of sorts to the one who suffers and for his closest family and friends. It gives us an initial fresh dose of hope that we can find a way to make things better. Yet, the bittersweet comfort of the diagnosis is short-lived because as an individual, as a couple and as a family, we were still faced with PTSD…the Pain of The Shattered Dream.

How does one honestly acknowledge the seriousness of the PTSD/TBI problem, yet not wallow in self-pity and despair?

Encountering self-pity and despair is going to happen.  However, wallowing in it is only one option.  I have had to learn to bracket these very normal emotions and to give them reasonable deadlines.  We all need to feel what we are feeling.   But we must make a choice how long we will stay stuck there.  I have found that finding and connecting with others on similar journeys and continuing to learn as much as I can about the two conditions give me hope and strength one day at a time.  Yet, when friends cannot be found and information rings hollow, my faith in God and His promises to us has been my trustworthy anchor through all of this.

What should a wife do if her husband with PTSD/TBI refuses to get help, or if he doesn’t think anything is wrong?

I encourage every woman I meet to seek professional counseling for herself whether her husband does or not.  In most cases, it is the woman in the life of the veteran—wife, mother, sister, daughter—who seeks help first. Statistics have shown that nearly 80% of all veterans who seek help did so because a woman in their lives cared enough about herself and her veteran and her family to seek help and information and resources first and knew where to refer her veteran when he/she was ready for help.

At 41 years old, I walked into my first counseling session not sure what I would find, a bit embarrassed to have sunk so low that I needed mental health care, but desperate for any morsel of help.

I had dreaded the exhausting process of bringing a total stranger up to speed on my life. We were years deep into this mess.  We had wandered so long inside this maze, I was convinced no one could ever find us. Yet, somehow I knew that if I didn’t allow the wounds to be reopened, irrigated, scraped and allowed to regenerate new life that the injuries would turn gangrenous and we’d be done.

What are the five stages of grief and why do spouses experience these when dealing with PTSD/TBI?

When a veteran suffers from posttraumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, every member of his/her immediate family experiences the effects and, in many cases, suffers what is known as secondary acute stress. This secondary traumatic stress resembles the universal and potentially complicated process of grief. Spouses, parents and children of warriors pass through phases of shock and confusion, hurt, anger, guilt, fatigue, fear, and finally, acceptance.

Even with faith, courage and the discernment to apply God’s promises to a very dark situation, the results of war can be emotionally scarred homes, major depression, addictive behavior, substance abuse, divorce or suicide. However, with the right guidance, professional counseling and resources, informed community and church support, these same individuals and families can find hope, healing and wholeness.

What are some simple ways a wife can encourage her husband on the road to healing?

First, be patient with him and with yourself.  His road to healing and your road to healing are going to look somewhat different.  Accept the fact that you are living in a very stressful situation.  Just accept that.  Then, realize that you cannot fix him or heal him.  That’s not your role.  Your priority has to be taking care of yourself in the process and learning as much as you can about PTSD and TBI and where the reliable resources are.  This information not only gives you hope, but equips you to respond in challenging situations in healthier ways.   Wounded Warrior, Wounded Home, the new book that I coauthored with Dr. Kelly Orr, is focused on how family members can and should take care of themselves on this journey.

What can we do, as wives of wounded warriors, to make sure we are healthy, too?


Confusion, relentless anger, false guilt, endless exhaustion, and disabling depression did not add up to the life I believed God intended for us as His children. My fears conflicted with my faith. And though smaller than the tiniest mustard seed, my faith began to speak to the mountain standing in our way. These are the five steps I took and still take to create an environment of healing for myself.

C – Connect with your Creator, your close friends, your community ministries, and your counselor.

L – Lean into the Lord as you learn all you can.

I – Intercede and get intercession.

N – Nourish your body, mind and spirit.

G – Give back; get involved.

I invite you to learn more about each step in this “recipe for resilience” in Wounded Warrior, Wounded Home, chapter 7.

If there is no “cure” for PTSD or TBI, what is our end goal?  Is healing a life-long journey?

Most “experts” would tell you to accept your new normal.  Allow me to share how I feel about that term.  Here is an excerpt from a blog post I wrote recently:

Can we dump the term “New Normal?”  Is there anyone else out there who dislikes that expression as much as I do?  Can we just click and drag it to the trash bin right now?

The “new normal” is the convenient catch phrase that so many folks use to refer to the rearranged life you have to keep waking up to and wading through after something uninvited and painful decimates your dreams.  It’s much more than the frustration of not being able to fit into your size 8 jeans anymore.  It’s more than the the myriad of minor adjustments and recalibrations that the seasons of life demand of us.   John Mellencamp nails it, “…life goes on long after the thrill of living is gone.”  For some the uninvited guest who rudely rearranges your stuff is a serious illness or a divorce. For others it’s a hurricane, a flood or a fire.  For others it’s a tragic accident.  And for still others, it’s the aftermath of combat.

I’m here to tell you right now that there is nothing normal about life after trauma. Nothing.  There is not one thread of “normal” in the tapestry you’ve worked your entire life to weave that now hangs in shredded ribbons and rags.  There is not one glimmer of “normal” seen through the shattered lens you once used to view life, love, and faith. 

I know, you’re right.  I’ve written entire chapters in more than one book on the New Normal.  I’ve stood at podiums across the country and preached the New Normal in my sincere attempt to encourage you to accept graciously what life has dealt you.  But, honestly, I can’t live with the term anymore.  Will you forgive me?  Can we expunge this from our lingo?  It doesn’t work.  It doesn’t fit.  It just doesn’t reflect the truth of what life is after trauma. 

My question to you is this:  can we reject the misnomer and continue to embrace faith, hope and love in a messy life redefined by what onlookers may call an unhappy ending to a story that started off so well?  I say yes. 

Here’s an idea:  let’s give the New Normal a taste of its own medicine.  Let’s give the New Normal a new normal.  I suggest that we divorce ourselves from this wrong way of defining life after trauma and adopt a better term: Pressing On.

I can’t take credit for this better concept. The Apostle Paul coined it nearly two millennia ago when he wrote, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 NASB) 

Eugene Peterson nails it even better than Mellencamp in The Message:  “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”

The next time you hear or read the term “New Normal,” I challenge you to replace it with “Pressing On,” and then to remind your heart of Paul’s words in Philippians 3:13-14.  It rings true.  It encourages me to keep waking up and to keep looking up.  I’d much rather press on toward the good goals God has for me than to be sadly resigned to an unhappy ending.   

Goodbye, New Normal.  Not so nice knowin’ ya.  Hello, Pressing On.  Ah, isn’t that a better fit? 


In closing:

Earlier this year, Hope for the Home Front launched “Hope for the Heart” online community support groups.  In just a few months, we’ve tripled the number of groups available!  You can learn more by visiting our web site, www.hopeforthehomefront.com or our Facebook page, or by sending an email to info@hopeforthehomefront.com.  These groups are private, closed communities and are a safe place for any woman connected to the life and service of a combat veteran of any U.S. conflict.

Ways to find out more about Marshele and her ministry:

When War Comes Home, Don’t Retreat

Hope for the Homefront Facebook page

Purchase Marshele’s books at http://www.hopeforthehomefront.com/store/

  • Wounded Warrior, Wounded Home (co-authored with Dr. Kelly Orr)
  • When War Comes Home: Christ-Centered Healing for Wives of Combat Veterans (co-authored with Chris and Rahnella Adsit)
  • Hope for the Home Front

Military Mondays: Peace Despite War

Below is a Facebook essay I wrote a couple weeks after The Warrior left on his first deployment, in November 2011.  Is it possible to have peace despite war?  I argue that yes, it is.

~ ~ ~

Mark Deployment with Quote


Before The Warrior left for Afghanistan, he gave me a book for my birthday called Bulletproof: The Making of an Invincible Mind by former Airborne Army Ranger Chuck Holton.  He told me it was for “the road ahead” and I began reading it after he left.  I have already found a wealth of encouragement in the first few chapters by Mr. Holton, who takes his inspiration from the Bible itself.  The book challenges the reader on what “safety” really means.  Can a person be “safe” during a combat deployment?  Not according to the world’s definition, but in God they can be safe.

Another idea that Mr. Holton poses which seems to be a dichotomy is the fact that we can have peace during a deployment.  What?  How can I be peaceful when my man is fighting a war?? we might ask ourselves incredulously.  How can we feel peace when every time we see him on Skype, he has a loaded M-4 slung over his shoulder?  How can we feel peace when he tells us he went on a long combat foot patrol and describes it as a “wild night”?  How can we feel peace when his base or post is getting shelled by the Taliban?  How can we feel peace when we read about more U.S. soldiers getting killed in Afghanistan?

These aren’t speculations – these are real instances that I have already experienced since he deployed just two weeks ago, and I’m sure other military wives have experienced nearly identical moments.  It seems contrary to reason to feel peace when we hear or see such things, doesn’t it?

Some people might call it naivete, but I have never been controlled by fear over The Warrior deploying.  Almost a year ago, we watched the amazing but eye-opening documentary Restrepo, produced by National Geographic: 15 months with an Army unit in the deadly Korengal Valley of Afghanistan.  After it ended, I knew more about war, but felt it was weird that I was still not scared about him going.  I had formerly gotten the impression from various sources that the normal military wife was supposed to freak out over her husband’s deployment, and maybe even have the right to be pouty because “no one else understands!”

But I wasn’t planning on feeling or doing that.  Sure, I knew I’d have my moments – I’d be lying if I said I’ve never felt stressed out or worried.  I have.  But it always passes; it is only a moment in my life, not my entire life.  I can honestly say that the overall emotion surrounding this deployment has been peace, and I never completely understood why until I read what Mr. Holton had to say about it, on page 65:

 “Peace is not the absence of tribulation.  God offers to be our peace in the midst of hardship.”

I read that last night and thought, That is the answer I’ve been looking for!  That explains how I feel.  Our lives don’t have to be ideal in order to have peace.  In fact, having an ideal life does not equal peace.  Instead, we know that no matter what happens to us or our soldier, we are safe if we are in God’s grace.

Possessing this peace has also led me to be more thankful and I find myself being more appreciative of everyday things.  Yesterday I was in Hobby Lobby, and I passed the Christmas decoration aisles as Christmas music played over the loudspeakers, and I smiled to myself: The Warrior would be loving this right now.  He might even take in a deep breath and note how it smells like the “Santa Scent” he was trying so hard to find last year.  As I drive along a suburban street donning fall colors, or pass a sporting field with soccer kids at practice, I feel thankful because he and our troops help make it possible to live these peaceful moments, ordinary though they may be.

Deployment is not fun, for either the soldier or those on the homefront, and it is very hard and tribulating.  But the All-Powerful, All-Loving God has conquered sin and death – and deployment – and is present in our lives to be our Anchor in the storm.  He didn’t promise there would never be crushing waves, but He has promised to never leave us even when they are overwhelming…and THAT is what brings us true peace.


Habemus Papam!

We have a Pope!  As a Catholic, today was such a beautiful, exciting day, one that I will never forget!  I was a senior in high school when Benedict XVI was elected, and being homeschooled I was able to watch everything on TV.  This time, thanks to technology and the iPhone, I was able to watch as our new Pope Francis was presented to the world!

I was at lunch with a couple friends from work, and Kristin had the “smoke stack feed” streaming live on her iPhone.  In the middle of lunch, I looked down at the phone (which was set on the table) and exclaimed, “Look you guys, it’s white!  It’s white smoke!”  It was such an awesome moment to share with Kristin and Carolyn.  After the white smoke appeared, there was a waiting period until we found out who it was, and I was on pins and needles!

Then there he was, Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, who chose the name Francis.  (And just in case there is ANY question, he chose the name specifically after St. Francis of Assisi and NOT St. Francis Xavier!)  Instantly his humility and kindheartedness came across – on a personal level, I felt more of a connection to him than I did with Benedict.  Pope Francis reminds me a little bit of John Paul II; granted, no one will replace our beloved JP II, but Francis mirrors him a little more than Benedict.  Tonight at home, I watched some of the videos posted online, and here are some quotes from a Fox News commentary:

He’s a “man of the people, the man who rides the bus.”

He’s “nobody’s puppet.”

“He’s a saint, he’s a holy man.”

Pope Francis is the first Jesuit priest to become the Vicar of Christ; he is a “well-educated, humble, and steady man.”

“I think we’re going to find a man with a big heart….He doesn’t put himself first, he’s a servant.”

Already stories are emerging of Pope Francis’ servant leadership and attitude, his love for the poor (he goes to visit people with AIDS and has literally washed their feet), and his staunchness for traditional values.  When he was an archbishop and later cardinal, he did not live in the mansion that the “top brass” of the Church normally reside in.  He took the city bus every day to work, and according to Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, after he was elected Pope and the cardinals were heading back to the residence they had occupied during the conclave  – Francis quietly decided to forego the fancy papal vehicle and instead rode the bus as “one of the guys”!  When he emerged from behind the curtain for his first appearance as pope, he wore just the plain white papal garb – without the fancy dark red and gold vestment the new pope would usually wear.  (He only put it on for the formal blessing over the people.)  But before he gave the formal blessing, he bowed down and asked the people to pray over him….in essence saying, I cannot do this without your love and support.  I need you and I want you to be part of this whole process.  That was a profound moment.  I think this is just a glimpse of what we can expect from Pope Francis – I believe he is truly going to be “the people’s pope” and exactly the type of Catholic shepherd we so desperately need in these times of strife.

“Francis, rebuild my Church, for you see it has fallen into ruin.” ~Jesus to St. Francis of Assisi


Videos I enjoyed:

http://video.foxnews.com/v/2223916171001/ – video of his speech and blessing

http://video.foxnews.com/v/2224065158001/ – Fr. Jonathan Morris of Fox News, commentary

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2013/03/13/cardinal-dolan-to-ny-press-on-not-being-voted-pope-i-told-ya-so/ – article and video of Cardinal Dolan, giving an insider’s take of the conclave process and Pope Francis