This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of The Folger Coffee Company. The opinion and the text are all mine.
I’ll never forget the day my husband came home from Iraq. I flew from Southern California to Baltimore because this was his first stop back on American soil, and I just couldn’t wait another 5 hours for him to make the flight to Los Angeles.
Being a military wife was my choice and one that over a decade later, I do not regret making. I knew going in that there would be long deployments, several moves across the country, and that my husband would be going into war zones. I had mentally prepared myself for all of those things, and even the possibility of losing him or having him come home severely wounded. I had gone over every scenario in my mind and when he asked me to marry him, I confidently said, “yes.”
I could not have known then how difficult being a military family was going to be. It took far more strength and courage than I could have ever imagined, but we made it through and my husband retired after 20 years as a US Navy Diver.
One scenario that never crossed my mind at the time, were the invisible scars that my husband carried home when he landed in Baltimore. He was physically healthy, so I never gave it much thought. When we held each other in the airport that day, there were tears, we held on tight, and I never wanted to let him go again. It was an intensely emotional moment that is seared in my mind forever, but what was going through his mind?
We never really talked about it after that day, but as time passed I started to get glimpses of some of the ghosts he brought back with him. Many times he was very shut down emotionally. Coming back into regular day to day life is one of the hardest things for a service member to do, and I was seeing first hand how confusing and challenging this was for him.
There is also a tremendous amount of guilt carried by these brave men and women. “Why did I make it back unharmed and alive?” Also, they tend to down play their time overseas as, “no big deal, I had it good.” I do believe in having a positive attitude and looking at the bright side of things, but under these circumstances, I feel there needs to be some acknowledgment of the traumatic experiences. There is always someone who has had it worse, but that doesn’t make what you’ve been through irrelevant.
In our culture we have made it seem like a weakness to acknowledge past trauma. This seems especially true for our military men and women, who need to process it just like the rest of us.
There were times my husband would say things out of the blue, like, “God bless Ford Explorers,” Me: “Huh, what?” Then, a few months later we sat in a movie theater and two rows in front of us some guy I had never met before was talking about the time he and my husband were hit by an IED in a Ford Explorer and how lucky they were to make it out alive and unharmed. As the years passed, the pieces of the puzzle slowly started to fit together.
I started to research PTSD, and enlightened myself on the symptoms and how to help someone suffering. Although what my husband went through wasn’t “nothing,” I came to realize that he really was one of the lucky ones. I’m no expert, but I do know that PTSD can be debilitating and if it goes unacknowledged, it can turn into much deeper issues.
My husband is retired, and that transition was challenging as well, but we take the time out of our busy schedules to check in with each other. To make sure that we feel whole on the inside as well as the out.
With Veteran’s Day being tomorrow, I thought I’d give you some free and inexpensive ideas on what YOU or anyone can do for our Military Men and Women who have served our country.Hear the very personal story of the Veteran in my life #Sharefolgers #veteransday #ad Click To Tweet
1. TIME— Pick up some Folgers coffee from Walmart and head out with your family to the local VFW or USO and ask if you can sit and chat with some of them. Ask them where they served? What is was like, and what the worst and best thing about being the military? Establish some questions in your mind ahead of time to start the conversation. When you leave be sure to firmly shake their hand, and look into their eyes. Those hands you shake might have saved a military brother or sister’s life. They may have held someone as they took their last breath. Perhaps they lifted the spirits of a fellow soldier when he or she was suffering from terrible homesickness. It’s more than just saying thank you, it’s about looking into their soul and feeling the gratitude. Believe me, no words will be necessary, they will feel your grace. You will be amazed by how much a conversation over a cup of coffee will mean to both of you.
2. EDUCATE YOURSELF— One of the greatest gifts you can give to our Veteran’s is to have a general understanding of what they have been through. Read up on PTSD, what it is and what the symptoms are, so that you can better understand what this person might need. Read, reputable, firsthand accounts of people who have served and been overseas, so that you have some empathy.
3. WRITE— Write heartfelt letters of gratitude to our troops serving overseas or to your friends and neighbors that you know have served. Children may draw pictures or write notes too! It’s never too early to teach our children to appreciate our military.
4. RUN– Do you know a Veteran who likes to run? Most military folks have been doing PT (Physical Training) for many years while they were or are in the military. Ask a Vet to go for run with you and while you’re out there have them talk about their experience in the military. Ask questions, be open, and let them spill what’s on their mind. There is nothing better for the spirit than a nice long mind cleansing run with a friend. To top it off, have a thermos of Folgers waiting and finish your run with a hot cup coffee.
5. BE PRESENT— If you run into a Veteran on the street or during your daily life, don’t just say “Thank you,” but sincerely look into their eyes, offer your assistance– maybe they need help to their car with groceries, or moving their home. Whatever gift or talent you possess, ask yourself if this might be of use to a service member and offer to give it to them free of charge. There is no greater gift these days than time, especially to someone who might be lonely or feel isolated.5 Totally Amazing Things Anyone Can Do for Veterans #sharefolgers #veteransday #ad Click To Tweet
Sometimes we put so much pressure on ourselves to do more, and that can seem overwhelming, plus, doing things these days in real life can be challenging for some, but I assure these simple things you can do for a Veteran will make all the difference in the world for both of you. It’s not much to ask considering everything they’ve done for us, don’t you think?
So this Veteran’s day be sure to stop what you’re doing and Share a Cup & a Story with one of our many military men and women who have bravely given so much of themselves so that we may live comfortably in this incredible land of the free.
Here are two beautiful conversations that will make you stop and feel the gratitude. Please take a moment to watch and share, so that someone else may be inspired to reach out to a Veteran:
The Pruitt Family:
Gen. John Singlaub:
For more information on Walmart’s Share a Cup & a Story program please click HERE.