One of the most touching memories I have of how it changed them is of our youngest. He was in preschool when his daddy came home a changed man. I was a stay at home mom and suddenly he was thrust into staying with grandparents, an aunt, friends, and daycare for the four months I was at Walter Reed right after Allen's injury. When we finally returned home to continue Allen's treatment, he had already been through so much. But he was so strong and just showed us how resilient he truly is. When we first started going to the VA for Allen's treatment, he often went with us since he wasn't in school everyday. New places are always triggering for Allen and places like hospitals are especially so. (The long hallways with many doors are huge triggers still.) Often walking down the hallway was very slow and tedious with Allen checking each and every door we passed. On one such day, Dreyson was with us. He reached up, took his daddy's hand and led him down the hallway. With each door we passed, he explained to his daddy what was in the room. Any noises, he would explain the best he could so his daddy wouldn't be scared. In his four year old voice, he would say, "it's okay daddy, that is just _______________." Whatever it was triggering Allen, Dreyson would explain exactly what it was. It was so moving for me. It really showed me how much Dreyson really understood of this new beast in our life called PTSD.
I think it is a testament to how much kids of these wounded warriors have to go through. I do not know any other four year old who would know how to help their daddy through a long, frightening hallway the way he did that day. He didn't even ask anything, he just did it. He knew how to help his daddy through the anxiety and fear that was paralyzing him. We had not ever really explained it much to Dreyson, not sure we even knew how. But he didn't need us to. He was living it everyday. It's not something we could hide from him, but yet he knew and understood better than many adults do. He truly gets "it." And this was after only having been home from Walter Reed for a couple of months. So, imagine, now three years later how much our kids truly get it.
They both have witnessed many, many frightening flashbacks and dissociative episodes. During many of these, I do not know what I would have done had Makale not been there with me. He has shown great strength and calmness in the face of an emergency. There has been many nights he has been woken up to a very dangerous and scary situation and he has been my rock. It sometimes saddens me how much they have been through, but I know that God is looking out for all of us. He is protecting us.
Our boys have had to sacrifice each and every day since that defining day in 2007. Not only have they had to get to know a dad who is completely different, but they have had to adjust their lives to this post injury life. They often can't have friends over because Dad is having a bad day. Or they can't go somewhere they get invited to because Mom is the only one who can drive and she is often too busy taking care of dad to run them wherever it is they want to go. Instead of having the full undivided attention of their parents, they are often over shadowed by whatever is going on at the moment in the realm of PTSD. At an event they are involved in, whether it be school, sports, theatre, or other, they have attention put on them because of their dad's story, or his service dog, or any number of things pertaining to their dad, rather than their own accomplishments.
They are now 14 and 7. I am proud to say that they are both amazing young men. I know that what we have been through as a family, and continue to go through, is changing who they are going to be. I'm sure that some of this may not be in a positive direction, but I know that much of it is. They are strong, compassionate, giving boys. They know what a good role model is, what a true hero looks like, and all about sacrifice. They work hard, play hard, and love hard. Makale, our 14 year old, has a strong interest in becoming a counselor. Dreyson, who is 7, wants to be an actor or a teacher. They are different as night and day, but both so precious to me. While I wish they didn't have to sacrifice as much as they do, I couldn't have asked for any more resilient and strong boys who amaze me everyday!