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Sheryl, an Army wife, writes on the Spouse Calls blog:

As I watched the towers fall, I knew our lives would change. My heart ached for the people in the towers and their families, and then I got a cold shiver and knew my life was about to change, too.

That day I knew we were going to war and my husband was going to go … I just didn’t know that it would mean that I would lose my husband and our family, too.

Forward to mid-tour homecoming from Iraq: The man I picked up at the airport was not my husband. After all of those months, he hugged me and patted me on the back. He didn’t embrace our children. His eyes were cold. In fact you, could see right through them and the sparkle that was once there was gone.

Forward to the Iraq homecoming: Again, he got off of the plane. The excitement to see me wasn’t there. He was trying, I know he was, but they left my husband and what he was in Iraq, never to return.

We were the couple that everyone thought would be together forever — never gave it another thought. Now we are separated and going through divorce.

I am teetering on the 20-20-20 rule (of spousal benefits), depending upon when the judge says the divorce is final. Due to a year of reserve duty between the Navy and the Army, I might not have anything in the end, no husband or military benefits, nothing.

To help ease the pain and make a new life for myself, I went back to school to get my master’s degree. I know that I will have to depend upon myself for the rest of my life and will have to take care of our children. So I take it one day at a time, with therapy, friends and family. It has been over a year and a half of separation and we still are not far along with the divorce, but I am getting more at peace with it every day.

My biggest fear and complaint is that there are so many like me — so, so many and many more to come. This war and the multiple deployments and a military that is so short of staff has left so many with the pain of (post-traumatic stress disorder). The military, though they say they are making strides, (has) let the families down.

Though they are treating soldiers, they are leaving out the families. I am still fighting Tricare to get my son’s mental health paid for. My therapy is not being covered. The military has left these huge holes in families and is not helping with the clean-up of the mess that was created.

I think that the Army doesn’t want it known that they are deserting families.

Something needs to be done to call attention to the families that are no longer whole, no longer functioning. Yes, we married our servicemen, but expected the Army to care and take care of us. I gave countless volunteer hours, was an OWC president and a neighborhood mayor — all of the functions that are necessary and we don’t get paid for — only to be left alone because of a war and PTSD.

I am moving on and doing okay. It is a challenge, but my next goal and challenge is to speak out and make the military listen to me. I don’t want this to happen to another family, and I will do what I can to speak up, speak out loud and try and make it better for those who are behind me.

To read Sheryl’s post in its entirety, and comments from more spouses, see the Spouse Calls blog.

Terri Barnes is a military wife and mother of three. She lives and writes in Germany. Contact her at spousecalls@stripes.com and see the Spouse Calls blog at http://blogs.stripes.com/blogs/spousecalls.

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