Posted by Robyn Mincher, DCoE Strategic Communications
As a co-facilitator for the Deployment Health Clinical Center (DHCC) Significant Others Support Group, Sheri Hall supports military spouses whose husbands return from war with combat stress and find it difficult transitioning to home life. She encourages women to discuss their concerns by sharing her own story of coping with her husband’s reintegration. Army Maj. Jeff Hall experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following his second tour in Iraq. With Sheri’s support, he sought help through the DHCC Specialized Care Program. Now, the Halls share their stories to encourage all warriors and families to reach out for the care they need.
Sheri Hall shares with the DCoE Blog how she supported her family while her husband experienced post-combat stress and how she encouraged him to seek help.
Q. What was your reaction when your husband returned home?
A. I noticed he had a deep, dark, hollow look in his eyes. I asked him if he needed to talk to someone. I let him know that I was supportive but he wasn’t receptive at the time. I think he felt he needed to be the “macho” soldier.
Q. What was the impact of his post-combat stress on you?
A. I was never fearful for Jeff’s life while he was in combat, since I knew that he trained himself well. When Jeff returned and was having suicidal thoughts, I couldn’t sleep—I was so worried I would sit in bed and watch him. I feared he would just leave. I lost 15 pounds in two weeks. When I’d take the kids to school, I would race home to make sure Jeff was where I last saw him.
Q. How did you try to communicate with your husband during this time?
A. I told him that while I didn’t know the effects of combat, I knew that something was wrong. It was hard because he kind of pushed me and the girls away. Finally, I sat down with him and said, “If you kill yourself, how do I explain it to your daughters, your mother and father and my family?” It was like a light bulb went on, and that’s when we looked into the DHCC program.
Q. What would you tell military parents about how to communicate with their children?
A. Encourage children to be vocal—tell us what’s bothering you. I put on a big front when Jeff was experiencing PTSD and never told the girls about my sleepless nights. If I had, we could have communicated better.
Q. What advice would you give a military spouse experiencing similar challenges?
A. I tell military wives to keep that line of communication as open as possible—then if something is wrong, a spouse will immediately know. I wish I stood firmer with Jeff and said “no—you’re going to get help,” when he resisted. Don’t just let things be.
DHCC, a DCoE component center, offers the Specialized Care Program for those experiencing PTSD and reintegration concerns.
Sheri Hall also recommends the resources offered by Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) and Real Warriors Campaign to help military families during reintegration, such as the DCoE Outreach Center’s live chat. The feature instantly connects users with trained health resource consultants who can help with psychological health concerns. Also, check out these articles from the Real Warriors Campaign: “Boosting Family Resilience,” “Tips for Spouses of Returning Service Members,” “Caring for Yourself While Helping Support Your Service Member” and “Taking Care of You—Taking Care of Your Children.”
Click here to view the Real Warriors and Families video profile, which features the Hall family.