Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My Last Letter to Tommy

Tommy, I think it's time. I think it's been time for a little while now. Time write another post here, likely my final post. I love you Tommy. Through all the good and all the bad. All the laughter and all the pain. That will never change. You were my first love and the father of our two amazing children. We still talk of you often and remember you always. We went away for your birthday and celebrated the way I think we would have if you were still here. But it's been just over 4 years now since you died and so much has (obviously) changed. I spoke with one of your friends in April and it changed me. Drastically. Some of it was for the best and some I'm still working through. I'll get there. The point is that with that change in me I have realized it's time to say goodbye to this blog, not that I have posted in a long time. I have many partial letters/ posts sitting as drafts that I just never could quite finish. But they are still there for me to see, to help me recall if the time ever comes that I need to do so. I'm in such a different place than I was when I started this blog, these letters to you. That's what happens with time. It changes us, molds us into someone else - not fully ourselves anymore, but still so much of our essence is the same. I'm ready to start blogging again and hope to eventually become a published author. But since I'm in a different place I feel it best to start a new blog, and put this one officially to rest. I love you, Tommy. I miss you. I'm living a life you would be proud of and I'm so thankful for all the blessings you brought into my life both before and after you left this world. For those looking for my new blog, it's called "I'm Not Martha," and you can find it here: ~Katie

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Military Suicide

Oops I'm a day late posting this. I wrote it at the beginning of September as I began to collect my thoughts for a meeting at the Pentagon and wanted to post it here on the last day of the month since September is Suicide Awareness Month. My priorities didn't allow for extra time online yesterday as I had class and needed to finish and submit my paper for grad school. And then of course do all the "Mom" things going on after picking up A from school. So here it is, my blog for Suicide Awareness Month: Suicide rates are going up despite the increased efforts of our military to implement new programs and resources, and further expand existing resources. Suicide isn’t something that will ever be totally eliminated, but we are going in the wrong direction with the statistics and numbers of suicides. I know personally, though, that they are far from just statistics and numbers. They are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, husbands and wives. They are friends. They are warriors. They are the bravest of the brave who actually had the courage to sign their names - and their lives if need be to protect and defend their country, OUR country. They step up and face danger so the rest of can enjoy and embrace all the good that living in this country provides for us. The rest of America has very little knowledge of what it’s like to be in the military, and I myself can only share in part of it. I come from a military family – born on a military base to military parents. My grandfather served and worked on Air Force One for three Presidents. My uncle and brother also served, and I have a cousin who just enlisted as well. I was raised a certain way, with a set of values and code of ethics that run through my blood. I was raised to love, honor, and respect America. I was taught about the sacrifice of so many who came before me. I understand that I am blessed with a certain privilege, as is each person born in this country, whether they realize it or not. I was taught why this country was founded, something most Americans have forgotten or were neglected to have been taught in the first place. I learned to respect our government and just as they have an obligation to uphold the Constitution, we the people have a responsibility to hold them accountable. I learned from birth to always stand by and support our military, something I feel that our government is wavering on. There has become a new adage that says our military is “trained to go to war, but not to come home.” Sadly, this is true. I realize that PTSD and Military Suicide has become a hot topic, and there are efforts being made to eliminate the stigma, however, I don’t see much progress. What we have is a recurring problem with no foreseeable end. There needs to be a simultaneous, two-front initiative to battle PTSD. We need to deal with the problem of those who already have been to combat, and implement a program to better prepare the men before they even go to war in the first place. If they have the knowledge, understanding, coping skills, and support before anything happens they will be more confident that even when hard times come, they will not be forced to face their demons alone. I was fully aware that Tom would come home from Iraq with PTSD as he lacked the coping skills needed to deal with war. I remember sitting there with the other wives asking the FRO, 'What should I do?' Most of the wives thought I was jumping the gun (no pun intended) to assume my husband would come back with PTSD. I knew Tom, and I knew some of the things he encountered over there. He was fairly open with me about his close calls and scary moments. He knew I wouldn’t judge him, only be supportive. I wasn’t prepared for just how different my husband would be. I’ve said from the beginning that the man I married died in Iraq and I didn’t know the man who came home. In a sense I feel as though I lost my husband twice. When Tom returned from Iraq in April 2007 the war wasn’t over. In fact it was probably just beginning. I could tell you the all about the significant events that occurred over the next 3 years that would leave you shaking your head and just plain speechless, however we already know the story ends and I will save those 3 years for another time. The thing about our story and many like it is that it could have had a different ending. It could have had a happy ending, or even from Tom’s own indications, a much more tragic one if he had taken others with him. It probably shouldn’t need to be stated, and for some it will come as no surprise, but the issues of PTSD and suicide need to be addressed from the top down. The stigma is still there and suicide is the redheaded step-child of the military that no one wants to deal with. Even after a service member takes his own life the family is left with the stigma and the Command washing their hands of "the dirt." When we have military bases skipping out on having suicide stand downs, and Directors of Suicide Prevention intentionally sweeping suicide under the rug and being rude and lying to Gold Star suicide families (Ft. Benning), and generals like General Pittard making insensitive comments, it doesn’t create a sense of confidence that the military cares. I realize we are at war and need our military to have that warrior mentality. Personally, I think the Marine Corps is becoming too soft in all the wrong ways. Let Marines be Marines when they are at war, but teach them how to be human when they are at home.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Three Years!?

Hello My Love, I really don't blog anymore, but today I felt the need to. May 10th was a Friday this year, the Friday before Mother's Day. In 2010 it was the day after Mother's Day. You always made that day so special for me even more so than my birthday or Christmas. I hate it now. The only person who hates it more, I'm sure is your Mom, but I'm learning to ignore it as muh as possible and so have most of my friend's. Some of them acknowledge that they know it's hard for me, but felt the need to wish me a Happy Mother's Day anyway. It means a lot, probably more so that they understand how difficult it is for me than anything. It's been three years since you left this world. Three years! Three Years? I can't believe it's been so long. The time has flown by and I can't really complain when it comes to not seeing you. I've come so far from where I was initially after your death. It's still beyond painful, but I have a sense of purpose and I'm headed in the right direction in life. There is so much I want to accomplish and so much I feel I can contribute and give back to help others.  But 3 whole years without you? Wow. I mean you're in a different decade than me now... or um, I'm in a different decade than you. I kind of feel like a cougar, lol. Oh, I can just hear the jokes we would make about our ages now!   You know, what's odd to me is the way I feel the few days after the anniversary of your death - accomplished. I feel like a little weight is lifted if only for a short time. I survived another year without you. Sometimes I wonder how the world keeps on turning without you in it, but that's part of life and I'm so blessed that you were part of mine.  Your funeral was three years ago today. I'm not sure how I managed the month of May then or how I do it now, but I guess it's all part of life and taking healing steps no matter which direction those steps lead.  You'd be proud of me now, and although I can't say that for all of the past 3 years, I am confident that you would be pleased to know the plans I have and the steps I'm taking to make them happen. We all have our reasons and motives for the things we want and the things we pursue to accomplish and you're it for me, Tommy. You Are My Why! Maybe that's why this year seems different - less hopeless and more hopeful. You're still with me and always will be.  I miss you now and forever!  Love always, Katie

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A lot has changed in the past 2 years. I have changed. Some good some bad, but I was a complete mess when Tom died. Grief changes people in unexpected and sometimes unpleasant ways for sure. Now though? Wow, I can say I have really grown a lot. I don't like all the decisions I have made in the past two years, but I like the person I am now. I still have more growing and evolving to do, but let's be honest, we all should be trying on a constant basis to better ourselves. I have been getting my life in order and it still has a few areas I need to focus on, like where I want to settle down and buy a house, but seeing all the other things I've come through that just doesn't seem like such a big deal. I mean it's still a difficult decision for me, but it's one that is fixable if I later realize I made the wrong choice. I keep trying to see the silver-lining in everything. Sometimes it works and other times I need to be reminded by others. I'm glad that I have some great "others" in my life. I am very blessed.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Reflecting on This Week...

Dear Tommy,

I'm sitting here tonight sipping on tea and indulging on a brownie just listening to sound of the rain coming down outside the half opened door to the porch. This "winter" weather has been a bit peculiar and unseasonably warm. The apartment has been blistering hot, yet I assumed the rain would cool it down, not so much the case. I still refuse to put on the A/C, but I may break down in the next day or two if it doesn't cool off in here. I can hear the sound of cars driving down the road on the slick pavement, but other than that tonight is a quiet and peaceful Saturday night.

Avery and I went to a birthday party today. She enjoyed herself, as did I. It was a nice change of pace as I have been working much more lately. My traveling has been fairly limited and I have just been keeping to myself for the most part. I go out on the occasional Saturday night, but have been in mood where I just want to stay home for a while. Last weekend was a little different as a bunch of military widows came to town for the weekend. We stayed at another widow's house not far from here. It was really a lot of fun and so nice to be around them for a few days. Your parents watched Avery for me. It's such a blessing to have them so close. I know it's still a few hours, but nowhere near as far as my family.

As I sat there at the birthday party today, I looked around and realized that everyone there was a couple, not necessarily married, but a couple none-the-less. It's the first time I can recall being in such a setting since you died. Surprisingly, I was actually ok with it. Maybe because I don't feel "single" in the true sense of the word. I'm not divorced; it's not like I was Never married. You're just gone and now I'm here alone, but in part by choice. Sure, I could date. There have been plenty of men who have wanted that opportunity, but I am beyond ok with Not dating at this point. Too much hurt is still in my heart. It takes a lot for me to want to be in a committed relationship (even more so now after two other failed relationships since your death).

Speaking of your death, the other day I was at the gym and it hit me with such clarity that I stopped mid stride on the elliptical... you've been gone for almost two years. May 10th will be 2, yes TWO years since I last saw you. How can that be? I stood there for a moment on the machine while I gathered myself. It wasn't a sense of overwhelming pain and loss that I felt in that moment, but of strength and... I don't know... accomplishment, maybe-- in that I survived this long? That the day I never thought I'd survive has now been almost two years ago. How in the world have I gotten here? Maybe in part because the first year is such a blur. It just seems so surreal. I'm sure I'll have plenty of moments like this as I get older. All of a sudden I'll be at Nathan and Avery's high school graduation and thinking 'They were so little when Tom died. How have I made it THIS far?' It was a moment of peace at the gym. I felt as though, if I made it to here then I could do anything. I could counquer the world-- my world, at least.

I think a great deal of the time I live in denial, not even the "bad" kind of denial where I don't believe it ever happened or that you are still coming home, but the kind where I just push it out of my mind, saving myself the agony and anguish of feeling that loss and reminder that not only are you not here right now, but that you won't ever be here again. It's that little wall that I've built around my conscious mind, just a thin, clear layer of denial-- just enough to dull the senses so that I can make it through the day without breaking down in tears at those unexpected moments where seemingly normal and harmless trips to Wal-Mart would other wise lead to full-on widow break downs with sobs and mascara down my face; and onlookers wondering why on Earth would this woman, fine just moments ago and now looking at a "Sam's Choice" case of water just lose it? Oh yes, I fought back the tears last week and knew I wasn't ready to buy that brand of water yet, haha. (It was the only water bottles we ever bought since we were on a budget and they were the least expensive.) These are the moments that catch me off guard and if it wasn't for my small self-chosen, slight state of denial, I would not be able to go out in public at times. But I find a way to hold back most of the time when I'm out.

Well, my dear husband, I love you and miss you as always.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wow Army Wife I am PISSED at You!

NOTE: this is nothing personal against the Army or Army wives in general, just this one in particular.

I read an article shared by another military widow today that has bothered me enough to blog about it. Rebekah Sanderlin is the author of said article and I am truly shocked that this is coming from an Army wife who writes about military marriages.

To Ms. Sanderlin I say: Our husbands have Both served this amazing country of ours in ways that are honorable. It is because of men and women like our spouses that YOU have to freedom to write such things. BUT how Dare you sit there and first of all call others "ignorant and irritating" when you yourself are showing the same disrespect that you received when people looked down on you for your husband's service in Afghanistan. I mean really? You sit there and say how thankful you are that he never went to Iraq, but you say it because to you Afghanistan is the "good" war which says you think that Iraq is the "bad" war. So you, too are judging just as others have judged you.

I *LOVE* the last paragraph which says, "I hope that, going forward, Americans will keep in mind that the men and women who served in Iraq did so honorably and nobly and that they and their families sacrificed greatly for our nation. They deserve the gratitude of the nation that sent them -- again and again and again -- to war." ...And by *LOVE* I obviously am being sarcastic. You sit there for an entire article putting down the war in Iraq and are smart enough to know that since there will be backlash for it you'd better end it on a positive note hoping that is the part that remain in the minds of others, not all the negative that you wrote for paragraph before. Well, it takes A LOT to offend me, but congratulations because you have! What a disgrace you are to being a military wife. You say it's "baggage" for us? For our families? You say this as if WE should be ashamed. Well, my dear, I say it is YOU who should be ashamed, and maybe even CNN for posting this (though for the record I do love CNN for all they have done about the American Widow Project).

My husband served in BOTH wars, Iraq and Afghanistan. I assure you, sweetheart, that both are equally as worth remembering and the sacrifice of those who served should be Honored.
.... To be continued when I calm down....

I'm a bit calmer now after going to Spin class and hanging out with my neighbor having a beer. I am obviously a widow and in several widow groups and we all pretty much feel the same way-- disgusted by the things that were said by Ms. Sanderlin. Many Americans died in Iraq and to have someone like her sit there and make it seem as though it's a disgrace. I feel that Ms. Sanderlin is the disgrace. I almost pitty her because you know that she's not so popular in Fayetteville, NC right now where she lives (or anywhere else for that matter); I'm sure there are plenty of soliders and wives at Fort Bragg that would like to put her in her place-- I Almost feel bad for her, but I don't. I don't feel bad for someone like her at all and hope that she learns to be more careful about what she says on such a large scale as CNN.

Here's the link to the article...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


At the beginning of summer my Mom told me that she thinks I have PTSD. She was apprehensive to tell me this as she didn't want to upset me. Upset me? No. It didn't. It made me laugh actually because I thought the idea was Ridiculous! I could not possibly have PTSD! Why would my husband's suicide be something that could even cause PTSD? She went with the whole "Well, it IS a traumatic event" reasoning, so I ran it past one of my friends who's a Marine and has PTSD. He agreed with my Mom. I started to think about it and see why they think this way. I do show signs of it, but I'm still doubtful. I'll have to see a therapist to be formally diagnosed for me to really believe it, but I do know I have struggled with Tom's death greatly. They aren't the only ones who seem to think I am suffering with PTSD either...

So, this past weekend while I was in NC a fellow widow and I met up for a little bit, which is crazy in it's own right just because neither of us lives in NC anymore. The funny thing about this girl is that we originally met in high school because we share a mutual best friend, though we never really hung out together. She married her high school sweetheart and ended up at Camp Lejeune, too. Her husband died almost 6 years ago and our mutual friend put us in touch after my husband died. She was actually the first military widdow I ever talked to (RJP was the second). Anyway, we started talking about one of her friends. I'm not sure what her name is, but she reads my blog (HI, btw!). Apparently she started reading my blog before she knew Andrea and I were even friends. When she realized this she told Andrea that from reading my blog it sounds like I have PTSD and she needed to tell me that. I just find it amusing in the maybe-they-are-right-kind-of-way that everyone seems to think I do.

I think for me it's a scary thought, not that I'm afraid of actually having it. It's just that it was my husband's PTSD that took his life and while I don't plan on taking that path, it's still one of those things that just shouldn't be. It's just too ironic to me. I may have to explore this a little more (and with a professional), but it's just coincidental that it keeps being brought up by various people.