Semper Fidelis, Marine. As the wife of a former Marine and an international advocate for spouses of veterans and active duty servicemembers with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), from the bottom of my heart I thank you for your incredible and selfless service to our beloved country. You have become a national hero through your service and continue to be a role model for young Marines and servicemembers. As such, your words and social media presence can monumentally influence your audience.
Recently, you made a post* on your Facebook page concerning Independence Day fireworks and the signs some veterans have in front of their houses reminding neighbors to be courteous to sufferers of PTSD. You declared these Veterans, who often look as though they are trying to appear “as imposing as possible” to pick a side - either a “hardened warrior” or “someone suffering the traumas of war that cannot deal with fireworks.” In response to your remarks, I created my own anger and sarcasm fueled post claiming maybe you were allowed to be an a-hole because you “won” the Medal of Honor. From this, I have learned a priceless lesson.
I now realize saying you won the Medal of Honor is as much a slap in the face to you as if I were to say someone “won” PTSD or TBI. The Medal of Honor, unlike PTSD or TBI, is something that is earned. The catch is, this honor - the highest honor bestowed on a servicemember - is often earned from an event resulting in these signature wounds afflicting many combat Veterans.
As we figure out how to proceed, I often wonder how much of that borrowed time I have left. I find myself committing to memory the little things that are forgotten all too soon after your spouse dies - the freckles on his arm, the smile wrinkles in his face, the way he smells. I learned the hard way by losing my first husband in 2004 how quickly these memories fade. I will do whatever I can to remember and prolong this borrowed time indefinitely.
When I read your statement, the thousands of other families walking a similar path came to mind: Wives who may be constantly battling for their husbands to seek help, children who may be missing out on moments and memories with their dads -- and I was enraged. After mulling this over for a few days, I’ve come to see that you were referring to the very small percentage of the military population who seems to “love the attention.” But do you realize how many more hurting veterans are out there who, while they miss the battlefield, are scared to death that something will cause them to snap? Who constantly fear they will terrify their wife and children due to a flashback or PTSD? Who, in many instances, have intensified fear because something like that has already happened since returning from a combat tour? Do you realize how many sufferers are out there who do not say anything for fear of what their brothers will think of them?
Dakota, your statement -- because of who you are in the military community -- could very well fuel the denial and silence held by so many sufferers of PTSD and TBI who do not want to be perceived as weak or broken. My husband battled his illnesses in denial for so long that our marriage almost ended. I wasn’t afraid to defy or disobey him; I fought for him and for our marriage. Now I advocate for the women and families who might not be quite ready yet to fight on their own.
I am not a Marine. While I have never served and cannot know what it is like to have faced the horrific situations you and many other service members have endured, I can empathize with your story. If I were to guess, I would say that you never set out to earn the Medal of Honor. Assuming you are like so many other Marines I know - my husband, for instance - you would likely say that when you were over there, it wasn’t about “God, Country, Mom, and Apple Pie,” but rather keeping your fellow Marines alive. You’d say you didn’t behave in any particular way to earn a medal of any kind - you were merely doing your duty.
My story of becoming “the barebacked PTSD chick” was much the same. I didn’t set out to reach 55 million people or make headline news. I set out to start a conversation, and most importantly to help my husband. After three years and many hard lessons speaking out for PTSD and TBI, I have also found myself on the frontlines defending my character, integrity, values, financial habits, and fidelity to my husband (to name a few). The hardest lesson I ever had to learn was that my personal opinions and thoughts didn’t matter. All that mattered was helping this tribe of hurting servicemembers and their loved ones who were grasping for hope, a place to belong, a healing solution, peace, and security.
Whether you wanted this or not, Dakota, you are an icon within the military community. You are in a position to be an incredible advocate for the rest of your brotherhood who still struggle to find acceptable, healthy, and functional new normals.
I am not asking you to not have an opinion. I am asking -- in many ways demanding -- that you think about how your statements potentially affect others who are still denying or disguising their invisible injuries - the same kind of injuries you broached in your book.
I want to reiterate that I truly do understand the weight of the responsibility of someone in an unasked-for leadership position. I understand the desire to broadcast your personal grievances and how difficult it can be to dismiss that inclination when you are in a position to help.
Semper Fidelis. Always faithful. Always true. Always honorable. Always a leader, not only on the battlefield, but also in life. That is what I know about Marines, Dakota. Please ensure that you keep this sacred “borrowed time” at the forefront of your mind when making public statements about the rest of your military brotherhood.
Respectfully & Humbly,
Founder of Battling B.A.R.E.
When a columnist accused military families of entitlement, Creator Erin Whitehead responded with this...
Ashley Wise is a survivor of multiple traumas and abuse firsthand who has not only lived to tell the tale, but learned to be passionate and thrive in life again. She has studied human behavior and the power of thought for over a decade and is honored and humbled to service those in need.
original photo credit: United States Marine Corps Official Flickr
* Editor's Note: Dakota Meyer's original Facebook post, posted before July 4th:
June 30 at 5:11PM
Saw this come across my Facebook feed from Jarred Taylor over at Article 15 Clothing. The post had to do with veterans taking pictures in front of their homes with the signs asking people not to set off fireworks near their homes. The irony in this is that these same guys are sporting a Spartan, or sheepdog, or whatever the alpha male / military themed flavor of the month shirt is trying to look as imposing as possible. If you are such a hardened warrior or are you someone suffering the traumas of war who cannot deal with fireworks? Stop the cry for attention and pick a side.