Feeds:
Posts
Comments

“This didn’t just change his life, but the whole family.” Cheryl Gansner, Dole Fellow and Operation Homefront’s Hearts of Valor Program Coordinator. Gansner joins us as a guest blogger for PTSD Awareness Month.

cherylblog1

In July of 2006, Cheryl’s husband, Bryan, was severely injured by an IED in Iraq six weeks before coming home

 In July of 2006, my husband, Bryan, was severely injured by an IED in Iraq six weeks before coming home. As a social worker I knew that he might experience some form of PTSD. Once he arrived at Walter Reed, I kept my eyes open for any signs. Initially, he didn’t seem to have nightmares or jump at loud noises and he seemed in good spirits (the morphine may have helped).

 

A few weeks later, with daily surgeries, I was providing non-stop care and he was receiving a constant stream of meds. I noticed that he wasn’t sleeping in spite of heavy doses of narcotics. He said he was re-living the trauma every time he closed his eyes. Apparently his brain was trying to process what his body had experienced.

He finally fell asleep one night for a few hours and the nurse came in to take vitals. It was dark in the room. He started screaming at the nurse saying she was an Iraqi that had come to kill him. She quickly left the room. He looked absolutely traumatized when I turned on the light. His skin was gray and his pupils were hugely dilated.

That night started a long process of counseling and recovery. We spent years trying to adjust his medication combination. He spent his nights down in the basement in the recliner trying to sleep and I was alone in our bedroom. He shut out family, friends…everyone. This went on for about three years.

I was at the end of my rope. I was burnt out from my job as a social worker and caregiver. I finally got some direction when Bryan became sick with a terrible double ear infection that threw off his balance. When I took him to the doctor, he was asked what medications he was taking. Bryan said “none.” My jaw nearly hit the floor. I knew things had taken a turn for the worse, but I didn’t know he had taken himself off his meds.

When we talked more, he said he was having the urge to jump out of the car or drive off bridges and overpasses. I got him to see his psychiatrist at the VA right away and he started on a different combination of meds.

Unfortunately, things got worse. He wanted to divorce, quit his job and live in his parents’ basement. I was a complete wreck and felt like I was watching him slip away. I decided to talk to a friend/mentor about what was going on. She told me about a clinical trial using Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) for TBI and PTSD. Bryan felt it was worth a shot since it wasn’t another medication and was minimally invasive.

cherylblog2

The treatment helped and he was on half the medication. I noticed that he was laughing again, engaging in conversation and doing well in his job. Since then, he has had two more rounds of HBOT which have also helped.

 

 

 

Does he still struggle? Yes, PTSD hasn’t gone away and he isn’t cured. But we have learned to work together as a team. It has taken years, more than nine years to be exact, and lots of patience but now he tells me when he needs to leave the room, or leave a location altogether. And I don’t get upset about it anymore. I connect with friends to vent and get ideas on what I can do to help him. Having a support system is vital in a post-injury life.

Cheryl, Bryan and Emory at their recent vow renewal ceremony in Hawaii.

Cheryl, Bryan and Emory at their recent vow renewal ceremony in Hawaii.

 

We’ve been through a lot together. Today WE are stronger. I say ‘we’ because this didn’t just change his life, but the whole family. Recently, we renewed our vows on the exact beach we got married on. I am so thankful that we didn’t give up and that my hero chose to carry on instead of letting it defeat him!

 

If you are struggling with the challenges from PTSD, reach out for help. Don’t try to face this alone. If you are a caregiver, join Hearts of Valor and reach out to friends. Together, you can educate yourself on PTSD.

Will She Remember Him?

The author's husband and daughter, shortly after he returned from deployment.

The author’s husband and daughter, shortly after he returned from deployment.

As my husband prepared to leave for the first time since our oldest was born, I remember confessing to a seasoned military spouse that I feared she wouldn’t remember her Dad. She had been a wonderful mentor to me, and herself was a mother of four, and a military spouse for over 20 years. I figured if she didn’t know, no one would.

After I asked, she sort of cocked her head to one side, and with a knowing smile, told me, “They don’t forget.”

I have to admit that I wasn’t entirely sold on that. “But she’s so young and he will be gone for so long.” This was way before the marvels of Skype and social platforms, and as a submariner, we were limited to radio messages and the occasional letter or call, if we were lucky. How on earth was I going to keep their connection all of those months that he would be gone?

But she was right. Just as he was never “gone” for me, he was never “gone” for her. He may not have been physically present, but he was there. At the table, at the park, while reading her a bedtime story.

When he first returned, and we met on the pier, there was a moment when my heart sank a bit when our daughter greeted him with a curious look. But then he took off his cap and the biggest smile of recognition spread across her face.

They don’t forget. Because in many ways, Dad is never “gone,” he’s just not here. It’s a distinction that may not make sense to some, but does to military children.

The baby in this blog is now about to turn 18, and if you ask her about those many years her Dad was deployed, don’t ask “what it was like to have Dad ‘gone?’” She won’t know how to answer. My mother, the daughter of a World War II veteran, won’t know either. Because, for them, Dad was never gone, and certainly never forgotten.

Surely, there are times when the days seem to go on forever, and you miss them terribly. It hurts, and there are tears and even anger. But those are the things that are forgotten. That’s why reunions are so emotional. All of the negative, if any, flees and love floods in.

This goes out to our deployed Dads today, but we also know there are many Dads whose sons or daughters are in harm’s way. We want you to know, too, that they never forget that you are with them, guiding them and giving them strength as you have done all of their lives.

Happy Father’s Day from all of us at Operation Homefront.

 

 

 

 

 

O’er the Land of the Free…

Sunrise on Omaha Beach at Normandy, France on the 70th Anniversary. June 6, 2014 (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Sunrise on Omaha Beach at Normandy, France on the 70th Anniversary. June 6, 2014 (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

 

 

Flag at Eielson Visitor Center, Denali National Park. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Flag at Eielson Visitor Center, Denali National Park. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

flag-fireworks

 

And the Home of the Brave…

 

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Marine Sgt. Maj. Samuel Heyward Jr., recruiting command New York sergeant major, salutes as a large American Flag is presented across the field at the New York Giants military appreciation game vs the Dallas Cowboys, here, Nov. 14

Photo By: Sgt. Randall A. Clinton

arlingtonnationalmemorialdaysections60

Standing watch at Section 60. This is the section of Arlington National Cemetery for veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

 

“And when we view a flag, which to the eye is beautiful, and to contemplate its rise and origin inspires a sensation of sublime delight, our national honor must unite with our interests to prevent injury to the one, or insult to the other.” Thomas Paine, Dec. 9, 1783

Flag Day reminds us that we all live and breathe under the same beautiful symbol of American freedom. Long may she wave!

 

As Military Appreciation Month comes to a close, we’d like to show you just how much of an impact your support has on our military and wounded warrior families. The simple words, “thank you,” are expressed here in moments where you have helped us make a difference.

 

may 2015 operation homefront military appreciation 1“THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT! …I would like to thank you for all your support when my family and I struggled for a way to re-unite our family for the birth of our precious little girl. I was … deployed for 12 months … but thanks to (Operation Homefront), I was able to make it back home … and witness our beautiful (daughter’s) birth day. Your kindness, service and support for all service members and their families make me record another milestone memory for me and my family to share in the future. Again, thank you, thank you, thank you for all you do.”-From a grateful emergency assistance client

 

“On behalf of my family, I cannot say thank you enough for what your organization has done my family. Your organization has been a wonderful blessing. It is hard to describe the feeling I have now that we finally have place of our own, it is a dream come true….My family and I will continue to represent the military and the Operation Homefront family in many years to come.” – recipient of a mortgage-free home through our Homes on the Homefront program

 

“I would not be where I am today without the help of Operation Homefront… Now I feel like I am in a good position to be there for my family. It helps to know that there are people out there who are there for me.” – family served by Operation Homefront

 

may 2015 operation homefront military appreciation 2“My wife is very happy. From the second we got here, it’s reduced my symptoms, and it’s a safer environment. I don’t see shadows at night as often. And when I was in the hospital, I didn’t have to worry about my wife being safe because we have Felicia (Operation Homefront transitional housing director in San Antonio).” Wounded warrior family being provided a rent-free apartment through our transitional housing program

 

“I really appreciate all your assistance… This is bringing tears to my eyes. My wife will be extremely excited about this. Again, thanks a million and one. I wish I could give you a big hug…May God Bless you and your family.”-military family served by Operation Homefront

 

may 2015 operation homefront military appreciation 3“Thank you Operation Homefront for blessing our girl with a new car seat and many other goodies!! We are incredibly thankful and appreciate all that you do for military families!!!” – new mom who attended one of our Star-Spangled baby showers

 

“I just wanted to thank you for the incredible help you and your organization provided my family. I am positive we would have suffered so much distress without the compassion and aid extended to us. I really can’t put to words just how grateful we all are… Please pass on my thanks and my wish to help out …and know that you have made a real difference in our lives and we will never forget how generous Operation Homefront has been to our family.” –family provided emergency financial assistance

 

“I really appreciate all your assistance… This is bringing tears to my eyes. My wife will be extremely excited about this. Again, thanks a million and one. I wish I could give you a big hug…May God Bless you and your family.”-military family served by Operation Homefront

 

“Thank you again. A huge stress has been lifted off of my shoulders. I cried when we got off the phone. It is so amazing to talk to caring people who want to help. You were super nice and helpful and you kept me informed throughout the entire process. What you did for me and my son means more than you know. ” –military family served by Operation Homefront

 

Thank you! Those kind words are directed to all of you, our supporters and volunteers. We couldn’t serve and honor our military families without all of you who give so much. Operation Homefront welcomes the talents and gifts from our community in a myriad of ways. You can volunteer with your local Field Office, provide support or goods for our events like Back to School Brigade and Star Spangled Baby Showers, or help a military family through a crisis by donating to our Current Needs.

 

Memorial-Day-2015-pause-remember-operation-homefrontAll of us hold dear the memory of loved ones who have passed on. We likely take time, each year, to remember the loss, and do so with a mingled sense of both fondness and sadness. We do so to keep them with us in spirit.

Memorial Day is special as we, as a nation, have the opportunity to take a moment to remember and reflect upon the loss of those who have had a profound impact on preserving the freedoms we enjoy daily. By honoring their memories, we sustain the spirit these fallen heroes shared with us.

My father served in World War II, and was one of the thousands of American and Filipino troops captured when the U.S. surrendered the Bataan Peninsula. He survived the death march, and was a prisoner of war for three and a half years. He never spoke much of his time in captivity, but it was clear that those who were lost during this difficult period came home with him in spirit. Years later, during my own service, I stood on the tarmac at Dover AFB to honor those who were making the final journey home and knew I was also bringing home loved ones in spirit.

As we get ready to enjoy an extended holiday weekend, all Americans can take part in bringing those we have lost in our nation’s service home in spirit by joining in the national moment of remembrance that takes place at 3 p.m. local time on Monday afternoon. Let us keep them with us in spirit.

With honor and in service to all,

John I Pray, Jr.

President and CEO, Operation Homefront

 

 

Throughout our history as a nation, many have spoken eloquently about the valor, courage, commitment and sacrifice made by millions of our men and women who have defended our nation and its ideals. We share some of these moving words with you in honor of Armed Forces Day:

 

  • “Today let us, as Americans, honor the American fighting man. For it is he–the soldier, the sailor, the Airman, the Marine– who has fought to preserve freedom. It is his valor that has given renewed hope to the free world that by working together in discipline and faith our ideals of freedom will always prevail.”-Admiral Forrest P. Sherman

 

  • “It is fitting and proper that we devote one day each year to paying special tribute to those whose constancy and courage constitute one of the bulwarks guarding the freedom of this nation and the peace of the free world.”-President Dwight D. Eisenhower

 

  • “Our Servicemen and women are serving throughout the world as guardians of peace–many of them away from their homes, their friends and their families. They are visible evidence of our determination to meet any threat to the peace with measured strength and high resolve. They are also evidence of a harsh but inescapable truth–that the survival of freedom requires great cost and commitment, and great personal sacrifice.”-President John F. Kennedy

 

  • “Honor to the Soldier, and Sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country’s cause. Honor also to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field, and serves, as he best can, the same cause — honor to him, only less than to him, who braves, for the common good, the storms of heaven and the storms of battle.”-Abraham Lincoln, in December 2, 1863 letter to George Opdyke and others.

 

  • “I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my official life by commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God and those who have the superintendence of them into his Holy keeping.”-General George Washington

As time waxes and wanes, and yellow ribbons fade, let us always remember the words of one of our Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson:

“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”

I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.- Abraham Lincoln

Mom. It’s a title that claims the heart and changes it forever. And we know a special class of moms – those who serve and those who love someone who serves. Their hearts often expand and bear more than the normal American. This Mother’s Day, we wanted to let our community of moms know that we are holding you close in our hearts and thoughts.

To the Moms Serving…FBCristiCrozier

We miss you. A lot. Dad’s doing a great job, and your friends are always there for us, but no one can replace you. We’re proud of you and your service to your country, and whatever we can do to support you, we will. Yes, we have days when we wish you were here, and some days where it is harder to smile, but we never doubt once that you love us. Come home soon.

 

To The Moms on the Homefront…

momdayblogsoldiersleepingYou keep the virtual, and often literal, porch light on for us. Yes, sometimes we will roll our eyes when you ask us detail after detail about our life in the military. No, that movie you saw the other day is not really how it works in the military. But we also know that we can call, anytime of day or night, from wherever we are in the world, and you will answer. We know that you will keep a Christmas tree up until February (or later) if that is what it takes to have us home for the holidays. You keep an open invitation to anyone we bring home with us, and don’t break a sweat when we told you it was three for dinner and … we showed up with six.

You are at the core of why we serve. You made us who we are today.

 

 To The Moms Caring For Our Wounded…

momdayblogwoundedwarriorYou brought us into the world, nurtured us, cared for us. You smiled with pride as we grew, and we felt the pride you had when we stepped up to serve our country despite your fears and concerns for our safety. And then those fears became reality. And again, you are there to care for us, to see us through. Even though we feel we may never be what we once were, you believe we are still someone great. Some of us won’t be able to let you know how much we love you, as our injuries are too severe and no longer allow us to speak. But we don’t have to. You know in your heart of hearts that we love you. Mighty Moms. Please take time today for yourself. You are not alone.

 

To the Mothers Who Are Grieving …

GoldStarMotherMemorialThose who have not lost a child will never know the unbearable pain that you have suffered. We can only promise to remember, to pray for your family, and to hope that as each day passes, you’ll smile a little more as you remember.

On behalf of a grateful nation, we honor you most of all.

 

 Please join us in wishing Moms all over the world a very Happy Mother’s Day.

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 163,103 other followers

%d bloggers like this: