I am Gina Hill and I’m the wife of a severely injured soldier. My family and I are at the Army Wounded Warrior Symposium in San Antonio to help bring issues facing wounded warriors to the forefront and present them to the Department of Army for change.
While the majority of my husband’s physical, or visible, wounds have healed, our family still struggles daily with the psychological wounds. Often times, these are called the invisible wounds, but I have a hard time calling them that, for they are very visible to anyone who spends any amount of time with him. My husband’s triggers are now triggers for me and my children. Due to the severity of his dissociations, my husband is unable to drive or to be left alone.
Even within our own home there are many external, environmental triggers that can send him running to the middle of the street completely unresponsive to anything outside of his head, or ducked in a corner taking cover for hours. Many, many of these instances have ended with me having to call 911 for assistance. Yet, he is not injured severely enough to qualify for much of the assistance available to the more physically injured warriors.
We do not qualify for housing assistance that would allow us to move away from the rock quarry a mile from our house that blasts everyday and makes him think there are incoming mortars or the railroad tracks 100 meters from our house that cause a lot of loud noise and vibrations that he interprets as some type of danger. We also do not qualify for any type of respite care that would allow me to leave the house for errands or a job. All of these things we get denied for because they can’t see his wounds and this just fuels his PTSD and the depression and self harm feelings that go along with it.
While we do have many day-to-day struggles, we have had plenty of blessings along this journey as well. One of these came to us from an organization called Puppies Behind Bars. They provided Allen with a service dog specifically trained to help him manage his PTSD and TBI. There are many tasks she assists him with, but one of the biggest is her ability to bring him back from his dissociations. What used to end in a call to 911 now ends with him coming back to reality with her kissing his face.
She has given all of us much more confidence to go out in public and be more active in life. She is a comfort to all of us because we know she has his back! Through all of this, our AW2 Advocate has been there for us. Not only does he support us, he gives us lots of information and advocates for us when needs arise. He is always sure to check in – and if we ever need him, he is just a phone call away. That is very comforting for us, knowing that we have support and assistance available at all time.
Participating in AW2’s Symposium is very important to us for many reasons. It helps us heal by sharing our story, as well as giving us the sense of helping make this road better for other families facing similar situations. Allen and I both feel that if we don’t share our own story we can’t expect for things to get fixed that we have struggled with throughout this journey. We hope that by sharing our personal struggles and accomplishments, we will shed some light on things that need fixed and share the blessings we have received that others may not know about.
To learn more about AW2, click here.