Love Letters for Veterans
Reading families' insanely moving letters to their soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
It's not every marriage in which one partner implores the other to justify why, why they still love them. But then, it's not every marriage in which one partner went to war, killed or saw friends/enemies/innocent civilians get killed or witnessed/experienced Christ knows what kind of stress and trauma, and then came home to find the war still happening in their minds and nervous systems, making them agitated, suicidal, maybe violent.
Brannan Vines, founder of the nonprofit Family of a Vet, has a marriage like that, though. Her husband Caleb did two yearlong tours in Iraq, suffered a traumatic brain injury and struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder, so at the ripe old age of 34 he's dramatically different than the guy Brannan married. He sometimes has no control over being restless, or paranoid, or unbearably pissed off. In moments of lucidity, he asks his wife why the hell she still loves him. In response, she wrote him a love letter. And knowing that an estimated one in five vets has PTSD, she's invited other veterans' families to do the same.
And the results: holy shit. Family of a Vet's "Love Letter Campaign," which kicked off on Veteran's Day and runs until Valentine's Day, has published dozens of letters to soldiers who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, and they are insanely moving. They're from wives (and even a mother-in-law) and they're the most unimaginably intimate window into the battles for psychological well-being and readjustment that assail many veterans' families. Or destroy them—not all the relationships in the letters have happy endings.
As you left yet again to return to the VA hospital, leaving me alone with our children, I came to understand many things, you will never again be the man that I fell in love with, the father you once were, but you will survive this battle inside yourself.
For this first time in a long time I saw glipses of the man I fell in love with, while it is hard on the kids to see you leave yet again they also have pride in you for facing your demons head on. I pray everyday that this time the VA is able to help you, that this time will bring about a change in you that you will never again try and hurt yourself, that you will remember that we will always love you. I can not walk beside you down this path any longer, it has proven to hard for me and for our children. I want you to remember that although we are not by your side everyday we are your biggest fans chearing you every step of the way, we are not turning our backs on you as so many have done we are instead chosing to walk a differant path. The hypervigalance, anxiety, fighting, sleepless nights, and addictions have worn us all down, and changed us all but thru it all we have always loved you.[...]