My story seems to be a little different, which is why I want to share. I want to find others who have experienced what I did. I will be as honest as I can, because if I had someone with a story like mine I think I might find some much needed peace, and if I can do that for someone else, it would be worth it.
My husband and I have known each other since middle school. We were in eighth grade and I was new to the school. He was my first crush there. I had a shoebox dedicated to him that was full papers that I had played MASH on (If you didn’t do that as a kid, it’s too hard to explain. If you did, you’ll understand how ridiculous this is…) that had landed on his name as being my future husband and, of course, landed on the car I wanted when I “grew up”. He ended up being my “boyfriend” for a solid two weeks, which was long term in my 13 year old mind. Our first kiss was on the football field. It was massively cliche, and one of my favorite memories of him.
We grew up together in highschool. We weren’t best friends, but good friends. He was the guy that was friends with everyone. You couldn’t help but love him. He was the life of the party, the funny guy, a shoulder to cry on, and the person who could always put a smile on your face when you needed it the most.
After highschool everyone went their separate ways including us. From 17 to 19 we were doing our own thing in different states. I moved to Florida and became a flight attendant for US Airways. He joined the Marine Corps. I was transferred to Charlotte, NC, and he was based at Camp Lejeune. We found each other on Myspace. We swapped numbers, and ended up talking every night. Finally I decided to go visit him – it was only a 30 minute flight, and I flew for free. I remember getting off the plane. I was in my uniform, dragging my bags. I look up and there he is (This memory always gives me goosebumps) . My first thought was, “HOLY CRAP HE GOT HOT!” Yea, we kissed the first night and it was downhill from there. It was only months before we decided to get married.
We were married January 11, 2006. We eloped. We knew no one would agree and didn’t care.
He deployed March 10th to Ramadi, Iraq. I remember one day he called and said something along the lines of, “I’m so unhappy when I’m here. This time I just feel like something bad is going to happen. I don’t know why, I was fine last time. I just want to be home.”
April 20, 2006 he was hit by an IED in Ramadi, Iraq. He was the only one severely injured. He hurt his leg and got a TBI and PTSD among other smaller things. He was transferred to Bethesda Naval Hospital in Washington, DC. I got there four hours after he arrived. He was inpatient and I lived in a hotel for the next three months.
First, they tried to salvage his leg. They took muscles from his back to rebuild it. The next year was spent changing his IV’s and going to TBI inpatient facilities. He ended up getting a bone infection that was growing, so he was forced to amputate.
At this point he had been on mixtures of Methadone, morphine, percocet, oxycontin, and delodit (Sp??). He was also on sleeping pills, anti anxieties, depression meds, and other meds for his injury. He formed an addiction about a year in, maybe sooner. This plus his TBI had me married to a stranger.
Right before he had to amputate his leg, he showed his first abusive behavior. I was standing in the doorway. We were fighting about something, which was becoming a constant. He wanted to get out and I wouldn’t move. He ended up choking me and head butting me (Slightly childish, and almost embarrassing to write). I wrote it off as being my fault. I shouldn’t have stood in the doorway. They took him off of the pain meds he was on and switched them to something else hoping this would help with the behavior.
After he amputated we were transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for Physical Therapy. It was a good change. They offered more trips and ways to get our mind off of the fact that we were living in yet another hotel at yet another hospital.
The trips were amazing. We had so much fun. He is a country boy and hadn’t traveled much. I’m so, so thankful he had the opportunity to. I remember the night Obama was voted president, we were in a hotel room in NYC. We had the windows open because Times Square had the whole thing playing on the big screen and we could hear it from our room. We also had our tv turned to it. When they said he won, the people were screaming in the streets, and we, honestly, were pretty bummed, but I’ll never forget that experience. We ended up cracking open the wine from the mini bar, getting sloshed, and just enjoying each others company with the sounds of the city in the background.
And yes, we did have some really good times. More good than bad. But, the war messed him up. We fought… a lot. He had a porn problem, and I found him on local “sex sites” looking for other girls. He would go to his hometown and lie about being at girls houses. His hometown was the worst. Always ditching me, and making me feel insignificant. At home, the pills were pecking away at our lives. He would get SO messed up on them that he could barely sit up straight. I fought the doctors to PLEASE take him off of them and they wouldn’t. And for his other issues we went to counselors, and TBI clinics. He seemed to be getting a little better, then all of a sudden we’d get in a fight and he’d start throwing things and pushing me around. The resentment was growing for me. I loved him, but I was getting so tired of literally sacrificing my happiness for his.
One night the pills got bad. I woke up to him overdosing next to me. He was purple and was grunting. I picked his 230 lbs body off of our huge bed, put him on the floor, put him on his side, and ran to call 911. They told me how to do CPR. I had to do it through his vomit. Finally the ambulance came and gave him an adrenaline shot. They said he was “dead”, but the shot made him come back around. He was transferred to the hospital where I stayed through the night with him. He woke up angry at me. He didn’t realize he overdosed and thought I just called 911 because I was overreacting about his pill abuse. He yelled at me when I came in the room. I just walked out and cried. It took a few days for him to realize what happened and apologize. They had locked him in an inpatient facility until they knew he wasn’t suicidal. When they released him, things just seemed to get worse. A week later I found out I was five weeks pregnant.
The pregnancy gave me knew hope. Something else to focus on! Cleve’s Master Sergeant decided he needed to stay living in the barracks for a while while they kept an eye on him. I stayed in our home on base by myself. I was SO hormonal and I was driving him insane with my baby obsession. Three weeks later I went in for an ultrasound and the baby hadn’t grown since the day Cleve overdosed. A week later I miscarried. I had never cried so hard in my life. Everything from the past three years came at me like a tidal wave. I did not understand my point on the earth. Literally. Why would all of this happen to one person? What did I do wrong?
Three weeks after that Cleve was arrested for domestic violence. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but tables were broken, I had cuts and bruises. He remained in the barracks for a while longer. I remember talking to a chaplain who basically told me that it is the spouses “…duty to make sure we do not say anything that might trigger these reactions. And if we really love them, we will see this through with them. It’s our responsibility to” At this point this was the fourth incident. I was feeling desperate, and scared for my life, and completely lost.
I decided at that point to stay. He could shoot me in the face and that would be ok as long as I died knowing I did my best to take care of him.
The next few months went by pretty smoothly. Nothing major happened. I hoped that maybe since we had been dealt so much, that we had done our time. He medically retired in August. We bought a home next door to our best friends. I had HIGH hopes for this to be the end of our struggles. I got a job, he had his disability coming in. I hoped he would kick in and get a job or volunteer or SOMETHING. Not so much. He was terrible at getting to his VA appointments, he made messes expecting me to clean them, if I didn’t cook, nobody ate. I started finding sex sites again and having issues with ex girlfriends popping up. He ditched me on my birthday. He lied about where he was at so that I wouldn’t want to go. It was just a mess.
Finally that October we got in a huge fight. He threatened to kill me for the last time. He threw my things on the lawn. Instead of fighting it, I left.
This is something that I fought with for years. Do I risk my safety for the person I love more than anything in the world? For a long time I was ok with sacrificing my life for him, and I finally got to a point where I realized I’m worth more than that.
It took a lot of strength to leave. I was judged, and I hurt, and I missed him.
He went to PTSD inpatient therapy after months of fighting with it so that we could see if it would help him so that maybe we could start over. I wasn’t sure if it would work, so I never got my hopes up. I tried to keep moving forward with my life, and support him at the same time.
The last time I saw him was when I dropped him off at the airport to go to Texas for this inpatient PTSD therapy. I hate myself, because if I knew he would die I would have hugged him longer. I would have…. well, caged him up and not let him out of my sight. My last memory of him was watching him go through the metal detector, which always is a pain because of his prosthetic. I must have watched him for 30 minutes getting scanned and poked and prodded. I wish I would have run over there and grabbed him like I wanted to. Told him I loved him one more time. Touched him one more time.
While he was in Texas, honestly, we were still fighting. It was always something. However, the night before he died our conversation changed. For the first time he had a plan. He had hope. He wanted to change. He wanted to really work on fixing us. For the first time since I had to leave, I let myself invest in the thought of us mending our relationship. I remember getting off the phone with him and thinking, I really really hope I’m not disappointed again. I hate myself.
He was suppose to call me back that night. I sent him a text message and didn’t get a response. I figured he was angry or didn’t want to talk to me for some reason so I gave him his space. I freaking hate myself.
The next day I was at work. I worked all day. It was dark out. My friend Robin called me. My husbands mother wrote on facebook that he died.
The facility did not call me because of our “situation”. I guess in anger he put his mother as the emergency person. His parents and I were not getting along because, frankly, they don’t “get it”, so they didn’t bother to call me (I really wanted to cuss here, I will refrain). It took a good hour before I had confirmation that my husband had died.
I finally received a call the next morning because his counselor found out they had not called. They did apologize, and felt horrible. All they could tell me is they found him and it looked as if he fell. An autopsy was done and he was flown home two days later. The autopsy report did not come back for four agonizing months.
The funeral was terrible, in my opinion. Nobody had money. A huge bill was tacked to my name for a mediocre funeral. He was not given full military honors, because it was not clear as to whether this was service connected.
I could go on, but the last few months have been absolute hell. Dieing after you come back is not as cut and dry. Everything requires ten times more paperwork, and MONTHS to process. Luckily it’s coming to an end now. I found out his cause of death was accidental Fentanyl overdose.
Emotionally I’m on a rollercoaster. In the end, I’m proud of myself. If I thought of this happening before it did, I would have guaranteed to anyone that I wouldn’t survive, but I am. One day at a time, one obstacle at a time.
In a sick sense, I’m finding it easier to stay positive. I think because I appreciate the small things so much more. I don’t need much to keep me happy. I’m happy with just not having tragedy every other day. I also realize that I have just experienced the worst thing that could ever happen to me… Nothing is as scary as it use to be. No mountain is too high or too scary. Every moment should be taken in. Nothing should be taken for granted. I’ve learned that the love from friends and family is priceless. That alone can get you through anything. I have realized that I am enormously blessed with love in my life. In that, I am a lucky girl.
On the other side, I’m experiencing emotions I didn’t know existed. Pain I didn’t think was possible. There is a hole so apparent in my chest, that I know will never go away. I have guilt that could potentially cripple me. I cry at random when something reminds me of him. There are things in our house that I just… can’t get rid of even though I should. It just sucks…
Now, I’m alone. No children and only memories and pictures of our life we had together. To think the future will never hold a smile or laugh from him is not fair. We had issues, he had issues, but they weren’t his fault. Everything that I wrote was not to show that he was a bad person, he wasn’t, but that the war changes people and it effects and ,ultimately, takes away lives.
I just miss him. I miss him so much.