Fridays with FAITH – Special Edition Part 2!
Hey FAITH-ful readers!
Today is Military Spouse Appreciation Day – a day when our veterans share their appreciation for their spouses. And we have added a special TREAT – we asked the spouses to share their appreciation for their veterans in this edition!
Our faithCares sponsored veterans’ spouses shared their stories as well:
- Susan Miller, wife of our faithCares sponsored team member Ben Miller, shared this with us – “When we married, in 1971, I thought I married the man that left for Vietnam over a year earlier. It took God and people He put in my path to help me be a woman that took the bad with the good. I wouldn’t trade any of those years. Love the challenges that changed me to be who I am today.”
- Cindy Brown, wife of our faithCares sponsored team member Bob Brown, shared her story as well –
A Vietnam Veteran’s Wife
Being a wife alone can be a very rewarding, yet sometimes trying title. A wife has multiple responsibilities with many being working outside the home, raising the children, caring for the house, keeping her husband happy and numerous other tasks, but being the wife of a Vietnam Veteran is by far more challenging and rewarding than any other brand.
I entered the role of wife to my beloved husband, Sgt. Robert H Brown, May 28th, 2011. We had known each other all of our lives. Our parents were best of friends. My older sisters babysat my husband and his three brothers. I was always the one who was the tag along, the pesky brat of a girl and the one that no one wanted to play with.
I fell in love with my husband over 30 years ago, but circumstances and life as it would have it kept us apart. For years, we would have chance meetings and he would always say “we should go get coffee sometime”. I would always respond with, “that would be great”, but that day never came.
There were times when his dad would be in the hospital and my mom would want to go see him and I would take her. My heart always skipped a beat when I would see Bobby, as we all called him, standing in the hospital room visiting. At that particular time, I smoked and I made the excuse that I was going to go outside for a cigarette hoping he would volunteer to go with me which he did. He was so very handsome standing there at the tailgate of his black truck with one foot on the bumper and those wavy black curls.
I was either always in a desperate relationship or I was told that he was seeing someone. I never thought that our lives would ever be joined in more than friendship or the occasional funerals.
The day came when we finally exchanged phone numbers. My marriage was on the rocks and I had nothing left to lose. We began talking and even went to the county fair. We had a lot of laughs and deep conversations over the next few months. My husband left me, he had been with someone else for some time, and I was free to see where the relationship with Bobby was going to go.
In March of 2011, he had an outpatient procedure scheduled in Durham, NC. I volunteered to meet him there and to be his driver. I live 3 hours away, but it would be a way to get to spend some time with him. I drove and met him there early one morning and was there in time for the check-in for the appointment. We sat and talked for a bit. The nurse came out and said that his appointment had been rescheduled and they were unable to perform it that day. He already had a room and we decided to stay the night together anyway and enjoy some much needed “us” time. We talked most of the night. The next morning, we went our separate ways.
We continued to talk and text over the next couple of months. My mother’s health was declining and he began spending a lot of time in the Asheville area helping me with her. He loved her as his own and was so good with her and keeping her calm when she would get upset.
Bobby was always a practical joker. He would get so tickled when he could pull something over someone. On one of the trips to my mother’s, he came in and I handed him a “Holy Matrimony” page out of an old family Bible which I had filled out with his name, my name, two fictious witnesses, a fake minister, but the real date that we were together for that outpatient procedure in March. I showed him the paper. He thought that would be a good way to get a good laugh with my mother. He said, “Dot, I have something I want you to read”. My mother read it, her mouth dropped, tears filled her eyes and she said, “WHY DIDN’T YOU DO THIS A LONG TIME AGO?!?” Needless to say, the joke was on him! She was so extremely happy! I leaned over and asked him, “Well, are YOU going to tell her the truth?” He quickly said, “No you tell her.” I said, “I’m not going to tell her! It would break her heart.” After a few moments of momma being in total bliss, Bobby looked at me and said, “I’ll be back.” When I asked where he was going, he said, “Well, since we are married, I guess I had better go get you a ring.” That was one joke that ended up being on him.
We were married for real in May of 2011. My mother passed away and was buried exactly two weeks after our wedding.
Our marriage has not been easy. Bobby was a tunnel rat in the Vietnam War. He saw many things that he has not been able to talk to me about, but as the years have passed, he has opened up a little more. The first year was hard. He would shut me out and close himself off from me. One of his counselors told me something that I have carried with me the past 10 years and that was, “it’s okay for him to “leave” you for a short time, but don’t let him stay there. Always find a way to bring him back to you”. I have tried to follow that advice. I have learned the “anniversary dates” when something monumental happened to him. I have learned to be aware of certain smells that trigger events that bring on those internal battles he continues to fight. I am conscience of the movies or documentaries that are aired which he/we watch.
He doesn’t get close to very many people. There was one soldier that he spent time with in the hospital in Salisbury in 2012 and they became very close. This soldier was a younger man and became more of the son Bobby never had. When Chuck passed, it ripped at Bobby’s heart like I have never seen before. Every anniversary of that death, is a constant reminder of how fragile life is and how precious each day with that person you love should be.
In December, 2012, Bobby was blessed to receive his service dog, Amy Renee’. She has become more than just a service dog. She is a member of our family. I have never seen such a bond between man and animal as they have. They are so close that at times it frightens me because I fear that when one goes, it may not be long before the other crosses over. I have often said that I am glad she is a dog, because if she were a woman…..it would be ON! (laughing out loud). Bobby and I were in the bed one night and Amy began licking him to get him up. He took his hand brushed her head and said, “Sweetheart, stop that.” He doesn’t even call me pet names!! Seriously, I am thankful he has her to comfort him and be a vocal point for him when I can’t seem to find the way to bring his focus back to the here and now.
We deal with the issue of Agent Orange and Agent Blue. Both are chemical agents which are slowly striping away at the health of my beloved. He has heart problems, respiratory issues, mobilization problems, memory loss, hearing loss, and so many other physical impairments. I think of them all, that the “head” wars are the worst. He battles inner demons on a daily basis and there is no winning the war. He may win a small battle from time to time and has learned to put them even further in the back of his memory, but the win won’t completely happen until he leaves this life. I have woken up to him belching out orders, to him ducking for cover, to him going outside in the middle of the night “on patrol” to be sure everything is safe. He rarely sleeps an entire night without getting up mostly due to the horrors that the night and dreams haunt him with. That’s where I am thankful for Amy, because she can sense when things are getting out of hand and she barks, licks, does something to get his attention.
Being a veteran’s wife, is the most rewarding and humbling experience I have had. I would change a few things, but none that are within my own power, but I wouldn’t change the man I married. Even with everything he has gone through and is going through, he is a very kind, loving, compassionate, sensitive companion. Knowing what I know from my background in the medical field, I know that our time could be cut short, and that I would change if I could, but since I can’t, I am going to make the best of every day, of every hour, of every minute, of every second that we are blessed to share in this life.
I am proud to be the wife of Sgt. Robert H Brown, US Army, Vietnam War.
WAGS and LICKS,