*Disclaimer* I did call and personally get permission from the main people involved in this post. I didn't want anything to be misconstrued as gossip or stuff like that. This is simply stating the truth, as it happened, in hopes that it can be helpful to others.
In the hundreds of phone calls I got from the military there were conversations that I didn't tell you about in my last post. But you might have guessed I left something out when a nurse told my barely-out-of-surgery husband that HE needed to submit a written statement on a certain issue. After that we didn't get a tearful heartwarming reunion. We were plunged into a state of "What on earth is going on here???"
Back to the beginning....
When I was notified with that very first phone call the woman asked if I wanted to call his parents or if I wanted her to. No offense, but you are terrifying to talk to. I'll do it and break it more gently. She kind of laughed and said something to the effect that a lot of families go that route. With every medical update I was asked that same question. Each time I said I would get off the phone and notify basically all my in laws of the news. The military who are in charge of these things can sound very cold at times so I truly didn't want anyone else to have to deal with that. I have documented proof of all family members getting medical updates from me that week, all time stamped right after I got off the phone with doctors, nurses, and our casualty assistance officer.
I assumed that since I'm the next of kin the military was just communicating with me. We were under the impression that the kids and I were the only ones who were offered an all expenses paid trip to meet him and stay with him at Walter Reed. So I asked G.I. Joe on the phone when he was in Germany who he wanted to come to Walter Reed. We were told he would only be there for 2 weeks and he still hadn't met his son yet, and Lucy was having a tough time. He himself told me he just wanted me and the kids there. He had surgery after surgery after surgery already and was so worn out. He just wanted to rest and reconnect.
I knew this would not be popular. But it was his own wishes and as his wife its my job to be unpopular now and then and make sure his needs are met. I told everyone that as soon as he was back at our home we would have them over to spend as much time as they wanted with him.
Here is where things went really far south. Neither G.I. Joe nor myself were told that the military was going to also put 2 other family members on orders to come to Walter Reed. They did this without telling us anything, much less asking. So unfortunately family had gotten a very upbeat phone call from the travel department saying they would pay for food, travel, hotels...and that this will be a great time for them to come see their soldier.
As you can imagine things just blew up on us. One miscommunication after another. I don't blame any family for having hurt feelings over this. They had been told by the military that it would be wonderful for them to come. If it were me I would assume this meant that's what the soldier had asked for. But then they have his wife saying no, don't come until we get settled at home. It did seem like I was keeping them away. The reality was though, I was just taking care of him. G.I. Joe even called them the day he arrived and said not to come.
Everyone's feelings were hurt. The miscommunication continued. When I asked a military employee, the one who called to say I could finally see him, if it was normal for them to invite people to the bedside without consulting the soldier that sent up a red flag. Before we even hit the 2 week post explosion milestone allegations were thrown around that made the military question if I had his best interest at heart or if I was just doing what I wanted. There were rumors that I wasn't updating his family and even one that I had not been to visit him at all. It was a mess.
So I went off.
G.I. Joe went off.
Family went off.
I called my father in law sobbing uncontrollably when G.I. Joe got angry and just gave in to everyone, making me look even worse. But I don't blame him. We all had no right to thrust that drama on him when he was so recently severely wounded.
In the end this provided an opportunity. Under those circumstances its nearly impossible to hold your tongue. Things were said that needed to be said years ago and family relationships began to heal.
But ALL those hurt feelings and tear stained memories could have been avoided. I had no clue what questions to ask that first week. The military does not do a good job of preparing service members and their families for this. I know you can't "fully" prepare but had G.I. Joe and I only known that the procedure is to put 3 family members on orders, not just the next of kin, then this wouldn't have blown up in our faces. We would have handled things much different to better help G.I. Joe's emotional stress level and the feelings of his family.
I say all this so that someone out there reading will think of it when their service member deploys. When that happens, plan ahead! On your check list should be finding out what happens when someone in your branch is wounded. Who is notified? Who do you want to NOT have contact with the military? Who will be sent to the bedside?
Ask these questions.
I wish I had.
This was rock bottom for me as a Milie. Yelling at people, crying, having my commitment to his well being questioned are NOT things I want to be known for.
And that folks...is exactly what happened the first 2 weeks after G.I.Joe was wounded in combat.