Congratulations to the Morales family on their new baby boy!
I would like to take this opportunity to share how my family has benefited from the respite program. First, a little about myself, I am a Combat Medic in the United States Air Force. I have served for over 20 years and spent much of my time deployed. During my last deployment to Afghanistan, I was assigned on a joint tasking with the Army where I was embedded with an Infantry Brigade. Over the course of a year we conducted dozens of tactical operations and over 300 convoys. One afternoon, our Forward Operating Base was hit by a complex attack and our walls were breeched. This was just one of the many attacks, but this one had the most impact as it was the largest and I was within close proximity to the bomb. A Suicide Bomber and Vehicle Born IED detonated and continued rocket attacks and small arms fire for hours after the initial breach. I was violently propelled into the air and thrown onto my back and head. I suffered from shrapnel wounds and a severe TBI that would later cause long-term repercussions and years of rehabilitation to recover from frontal lobe brain damage. On top of this, I was assaulted physically and sexually by a military member upon return from Afghanistan. He left me for dead with facial fractures and another TBI from being beaten so badly. All of this happened during my already difficult recovery from being injured in combat.
Fast forward to the present, my family and I have suffered unspeakable pain, healing as well as fighting the negative stigma of being a female wounded warrior. My injuries for some time were not validated and I was dismissed as having behavioral issues with a hyperfocus on my mental health from being a "victim of sexual assault." Indeed it took a toll on my mental health, but I suffered from many physical & invisible wounds that originated from combat. The ones who felt the brunt of my downfall was my family. It almost destroyed us having to deal with the challenges on our own. Scans revealed 18 frontal lobe lesions/"dead spots" causing a severe cognitive impairment which affected not only my job performance but my personality and ability to control my emotions and many aspects that the frontal lobe manages like executive functioning. I had to have over three facial surgeries to allow for proper breathing and to fix my airway which I have issues to this day. Those injuries were from the blast as well as being accosted when I returned home and punched repeatedly in the face. My PTSD was out of control, my sleep was affected and I suffer from depression and mood disorder secondary to TBI. The list is endless and it all stems from this short duration of injuries/trauma to my head. There was a time I gave up and became suicidal not knowing how to cope with these changes. I felt as though I was someone else with memories of another person, someone I no longer was. I went from being the best of my career field and successful to stuttering when I spoke and unable to organize or process simple thoughts.
There is however a happy ending to this story. My amazing husband and caregiver Ralph and I are expecting our first child next month. We are naming him Jacob. With this pregnancy, we once again faced extreme hardship and challenges with a high risk pregnancy. It is a miracle that I am even pregnant. I have been on and off bedrest after almost losing the baby which started 13 weeks into the pregnancy With the help of the WWFS respite program our family has been able to now get the support we need to assist with our home through cleaning services and with summer daycare for my step-daughter Ali. You have no idea the relief and peace of mind this has given us. With all of my medical appointments and my inability to currently drive, Ralph has had to take much time off of work to ensure my healthcare needs are met as well as the baby. When Ralph misses work he does not get paid and things have been very tight. We would have to take Ali with us for these extended appointments and we could not afford child care. Having help with housekeeping is amazing since this would all fall on my husband. Without help from Wounded Warrior Family Support, we would have had further financial hardship.
Thank you for all of the support during this time! It has truly been a blessing and life saving.
The Morales Family