Wednesday, June 25, 2014

My name is Jaimie, and I am a soldier.

When I was 18 years old I married my sweetheart and became an Air Force wife. Throughout the next 5 years we welcomed 2 beautiful children into the world and transitioned from the Air Force to the Army.

I was completely unaware that my poor husband, Scott, was dealing with demons.  Bi-Polar Disorder and PTSD racked him with torment for years.  After his discharge from the Army things only worsened.  As he tried to combat the effects, he slipped deeper into the black pit of loneliness, despair, and pain.  I watched, helplessly, as my husband lost himself.

We tried over and over again to get him some help, but it was too little too late.  Scott couldn’t take it any longer.  He quit his job, withdrew from classes, and shut out family and friends.  Eventually everything came crashing down.  He climbed into a hole where I could not follow.  The only thing he could think to do was walk away.  And so he did.  He walked away from me and from the life we shared.  Even then I knew that it wasn’t a malicious decision.  He never intended to bring me any pain.  But he couldn’t live that life any more.  

I sold nearly everything we owned in order to pay the past due bills which continued to come pouring in.  I stopped answering my phone to escape the debt collectors.  Each harassing phone call reminded me again of how I had failed him.  I should have seen it sooner.  I should have done something!

But in the end, there was nothing I could have done.  We did all we could do.  Sometimes there is no easy solution. 

The kids and I moved in with my mom 400 miles away, and I searched for work to support my family.  I begged Scott to come back and to get some help, but he just wasn’t ready.  We were so fortunate to have some friends take him in.

I thought that was the end for us.  I loved Scott more than anything in the world, and it devastated me to see him suffer.

I was working three jobs, trying to pay all our bills and take care of my children.  After a long day of work I would come home to cradle my poor young son who was convinced his daddy was gone forever.  The pain all around me was tearing me up inside.  I blamed myself for everything and figured this must all be a punishment.  

Maybe if I had been a better wife Scott would have been okay.  Maybe if I had seen the severity sooner…

But it wasn’t my fault.  And I finally came to realize that.  I broke free of the guilt and the shame and the pain.  I decided that I was not going to be a victim any longer.   It was time to take control of my life for myself and for my family.  For weeks I prayed for help to know what to do.  

But this time, instead of waiting for things to happen around me, I took action.  I fought to bring Scott back and get him the help he needed.  And this time he was ready.  It was the first step in a long and difficult healing process that we are still working on.  We found a doctor who reached him on a level that no one had been able to before.  He moved into my parents’ house with us, and our relationship began to heal.  My love for Scott grew more than I ever thought possible as I watched him take those extremely difficult steps toward getting better.

One afternoon I was watering the plants at work in the Garden Center of Home Depot- It was the only quiet moment my crazy life afforded me.  As I stood there the inspiration came to me, clear as day.  I knew what I needed to do.  And it terrified me.

It seems that Heavenly Father has a way of placing us just where we need to be to conquer our fears.   For many years I have had hanging in my bathroom a picture that says, “The situations and experiences we face in life reflect what Heavenly Father really knows about us and what we need to make weak things to be made strong.”  The next few months of my life were absolute proof of that.

In January 2011 I enlisted in the US Army to be a combat medic.  

My name is Jaimie, and I am a soldier.

Boarding the airplane to basic training was the scariest thing I have ever done.  I was leaving everything and everyone I knew behind.  I was facing a challenge that I needed to complete on all on my own.  But I was ready.

In March 2011, halfway through basic training, I broke my pelvis and cracked my tibia.  The doctor told me I would probably be sent home with a medical discharge.  My heart was broken all over again.  
I couldn’t let my family down.  I knew that I was where I needed to be.

As I returned back to the barracks on crutches, I told myself that I would refuse to give up.  They would have to force me to go home.  And that’s what I did.  I fought, and I pleaded, and I prayed.  Over and over again.  After three days I was given the okay to continue, with the warning that at any time I could be pulled out and sent home.  I would have to lose the crutches and do it on my own. 

The pain that followed is hard to describe.  Just marching to breakfast brought tears to my eyes.  But I refused to give up.  I had some amazing friends who pushed me and stood by my side.  That’s one of the interesting things about the military.  The friends you make and the bonds that you form are stronger than I could ever possibly explain.  I would give my life for these people, and I know they would do the same for me.

One morning, a friend of mine overheard the Drill Sergeants talking to me about the upcoming ruck march.  We would be walking for 16 kilometers (about 10 miles) with 45 lbs of gear on our backs.  They were afraid that I would hurt myself further.  The last girl that did the march with an injury like mine had shattered her hip.  I promised them I would stop if the pain became too severe.  Somehow I knew I would be okay.  My friend piped up and asked to carry me the rest of the way if I had to stop.  His request was genuine.  My leaders were stunned.  He was willing to carry me and my gear, possibly for miles, if it meant that I could finish.  Of course, this isn’t allowed, and I would need to do it on my own.  But the sacrifice he was willing to make is indicative of the character of the people that I have been so privileged to serve with.

My friend who was willing to carry me

I began that final ruck march with the determination to reach the end.  Every time the pain became too much, I would think about my family back home and how much they needed me to finish.   There were times I felt as though I was gliding and my feet weren’t touching the ground.  At one point it didn’t feel like me walking at all, like I was being carried.  I felt a great peace in my heart, and I knew I wasn’t alone.  As I crossed the finish line and completed that final task, my heart was full of joy.  

Unfortunately, the long road wasn’t over yet.  Halfway through my AIT training (where I would learn medical skills and become certified as a medic) the injury flared up again.  This time it was more severe, and I was sidelined.  I spent 8 months in rehabilitation, the whole time away from home.    

When I was going through a particularly hard time, and I felt so utterly alone, my dear sister Katie sent me an excerpt from a talk that she had read.  The speaker, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, talked about finding the beauty in what is around you, and not always waiting for something better.  He referenced the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when all anyone wanted was a golden ticket.  The people were so busy looking for the precious golden ticket that they no longer cared about the simple joy they previously received from chocolate itself.  His loving reminder to “Forget not to be happy now,” really affected me.

It was then that I realized I don’t have to trudge on through my trials and simply endure until they end.  For years I kept thinking, “If I can just push through this and get through it now, I will be happy later.”  But I was cheating myself.  I know now that I can enjoy myself through my trials.  I can find happiness amongst stress and grief and pain.  I don’t have to wait until things get better.  I can be happy NOW.

Shortly after my rehabilitation began, Scott and the kids put what remained of our meager belongings in storage and moved into an extended stay hotel near me in Texas.  I was able to see them a couple hours during the week and several hours each weekend.  It was important to Scott that our family stay together as much as possible, and he is the one who made it happen.  It was the best thing we could have done at that time.

When it was all said and done, I was gone for over 17 months before we were permanently reunited and moved to our first duty station together.  The forced long distance relationship created a bond between my husband and me that I wouldn’t give up for anything.  

When I made the decision to join the Army I knew it would be hard.  I expected to camp out in the middle of nowhere for extended periods of time, eating awful food.  I knew I would be shooting weapons (something that had previously terrified me).  I knew I would have to push myself physically, and I would have long periods of time away from my family.  I expected to learn about being a medic and a soldier.  

What I didn’t expect was to find myself.  

I have learned to make the best of what I have.  I can trudge through the mud with a pack on my back and a smile on my face.  

I am not helpless, incapable, or afraid.

My name is Jaimie, and I am strong.

I can climb mountains.  And I can overcome!  

The last few years have brought countless ups and downs.  Sometimes things are good, and sometimes they are really hard.  I have missed birthdays, parent teacher conferences, holidays, and special events.  And while that would have been devastating a few years ago, we have learned to make the best of it.  We celebrate special occasions when we can.  We go on mini trips together to take advantage of the times that I am home.  We work around the times that are good for Scott, and we do what we can when they are not.  We have found what works for us as a family, even if some of it is a little unconventional. Through it all, I am hopeful.  I am no longer a slave to what is happening around me.  I control my own happiness and the success of my family. 

I understand now that life NEVER goes as planned.  There are bumps and cracks in the road that I cannot yet see.  But I am no longer terrified to face them.  I know that the true beauty of life is in the adventure.  You always hear that when life gives you lemons, you are supposed to make lemonade.  Well, sometimes you can’t make lemonade.  And you don’t have to, because lemons are beautiful all by themselves.  You can enjoy them for what they are.  Trials can also be blessings.  I am grateful for the path that life has given me, and I am grateful for the man who is holding my hand as we walk this road together.  

My name is Jaimie, and even though my life isn’t perfect, I am happy.  

**Remember the purpose of the "My Name is" Series is to open our hearts, to interact, to uplift, to support and to grow. Jaimie will be reading the comments and I know that she welcomes your love, words of encouragement and support.

*Jaimie, words simply cannot express how much I needed this. Thank you, thank you for blessing me with your words. You are an amazingly strong woman, wife, mother and soldier and I have been strengthened by your approach and outlook on life. I am blown away by your resiliency and courage- both physically and mentally- and your undying loyalty to your sweet husband and children. You are an inspiration! I am honored to know you. So honored.

Read other stories of inspiring women in the "My Name is" seriesHERE

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  1. This is one of the most empowering things I've read in a long time. Your family is lucky to have you!

  2. Wow! I'm bawling like a baby right now! Thank you so much! I am amazed at your courage, strength and endurance! Thank you for sharing your story! Thank you for demonstrating amazing commitment to your family & country! But most of all, thank you for your extraordinary attitude! "I can trudge through the mud with a pack on my back and a smile on my face!" Amazing! So many of us are carrying "packs on our backs and trudging through mud" can be very hard! But thank you for showing me that it's ok to appreciate the "lemons"! Best "My name is..." ever! :)

  3. This is a beautiful story Jaimie, full of all the bitter-sweet parts that make this so real and tender. It hits home to me in a particular way as the wife of a 30 retired Navy Chief, and now the mom of a Marine, just finishing basic. The military is not an easy life, but it does come with one perk, the support system is unlike anything else, even that of the church sometimes. You honored your family and your country and you and inspired me today. Thank you for your service and for the good example of seeing the good in what you have and being happy. This is a lesson I am trying to teach myself every day.

  4. Thank you for sharing this. I relate to the feelings you expressed in this post as I'm currently dealing with some very challenging trials of my own. Your words give me peace and encouragement that I too can find peace and happiness. I pray someday I will be able to have the happiness you have shared.

  5. Thank you for sharing this. I relate to the feelings you expressed in this post as I'm currently dealing with some very challenging trials of my own. Your words give me peace and encouragement that I too can find peace and happiness. I pray someday I will be able to have the happiness you have shared.

  6. Oh my goodness, thank you SO much for your story!! I'm not sure I have a more inspiring, amazing example of courage and sheer.determination!!! You are amazing!!

  7. Just what I needed today! What an inspiring, brave, strong, amazing example you are! Thank you for sharing your story. I have been doing all the right things for all the right reasons and have had the hardest time, not seeing the blessings and the outcome you would normally get. Constant "road blocks" and the people that were supposed to be the ones supporting and helping were the obstacles. Thank you for reminding me I can't give up and despite the unforseen outcomes to working hard and still not getting the outcome I wanted or needed I can still find the joy. Still choose peace and happiness over disappointment and heartache. So happy to hear you and your husband are together and working to keep your family together. Thanks for the inspiration. I have been so full of fear and doubt and need hope and faith to continue.


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