Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Part 2...

*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 exactly what happened the first 2 weeks after G.I.Joe was wounded in combat.


Sarah said...

Oh my gosh. I can't even begin to imagine what that was like for you!! First to deal with him being wounded and then all the backfire from other people being notified and told they can come... What an awful mess! I'm so sorry you had to go through that.

Chantal said...

This is a good reminder!

Jen said...

All I can say is WOW! I am so sorry that on top of dealing with your husbands injury that you had to deal with extra nonsense.

Amy W. said...

Oh my God. I am so sorry that that happened! A similar thing happened with our family when Abbey was sent to the NICU at birth. It involved a communication issue over a dent in a car (silly, now!) and had my husband and my mother in a screaming fit in the waiting area of the NICU. It was rough. No, it was beyond rough. Everybody was on pins and needles and we didn't know half of what we were saying to one another.

Everybody's emotions were on steroids. That's how it is when there is a tragic thing going on. No one is their full, capable selves when someone they love is wounded or sick.

I'm appalled for you - that there was gossip milling about you. .. shouldn't people understand that misunderstandings like this take place when there is a break in information facilitation? Sheesh. I assumed that there would be someone there to help you understand everything fully when you first walked in the door! *sigh*

I'm happy that things have turned out well despite the crazy and stressful start to your stay at Walter Reed. I look forward to reading the rest of your story , friend! <3

Sammie said...

I am so so sorry this was your experience! My cousin is a wounded warrior & another cousin was wounded severely while stateside and both went through Walter Reed/BAMC. I know it can be so stressful, and so hard to figure out how to please everyone--when you shouldn't have to worry about that at all. You don't want to have to prepare for these things ahead of time because you never want to even imagine your military member being hurt, but this post ensures I'll be talking to my hubby about who HE would want there if something ever happened. Big hugs, and I hope things are going better in the family department!

JG said...

My goodness. I'm just in shock. I'm so, so sorry you had to go through all that. Would you mind if I shared your story (without naming names, of course) with my FRG?

Ashley said...

I can only imagine the stress that you were under, and on top of that being accused of not having your husband's well being as your first priority. Educating family members about what happens in the case of your SO being wounded is something that needs to happen. My husband has always told me that if something happened to him, I would be the first one to find out, but thats where the info stops. I hope that your husband continues to recover and that you can move on as a family.

Mrs. G.I. Joe said...

I don't mind if anyone shares this story or links to it. Service members and their families really need to be aware that this is one more thing that should be checked out before deploying. I HATE the thought of others having to deal with this kind of mess. The situations are stressful and life changing enough without all the extra issues.

Eights on the Move said...

New follower here :)

Beyond thankful to have stumbled upon your blog & to be 'catching up' & learning so much valuable information.

I can't begin to imagine the stress & hurt you've endured but would like to thank you for sharing your story for us newbie military spouses!