MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- “To anyone who has lost a loved one or has experienced the wounds of war I extend my deepest sympathy. Casualties of war are not only those lost, but also those left behind. For the departed, the family feels the loss most. For the wounded, it is both the Marine and those who love them who experience the void of a past life free from disabilities. But, in each case the sacrifice of the Marine was freely given, an outward sign of his or her faithful sense of duty to a cause larger than themselves, committed the day they proudly held up their hand and took their oath.” - Shannon Maxwell, wife of Lt.Col. Tim Maxwell, who while the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit operations officer, was wounded in Kalsu, Iraq. Lt. Col. Maxwell sustained a traumatic brain injury from mortar fire shrapnel.
Returning from combat, labeled a “wounded warrior,” without question can be the beginning of a painful, difficult, sometimes confusing and perhaps frightening path. That path can be more easily navigated with help and Marines take care of their own.
More than a motto to II Marine Expeditionary Force, “Semper Fidelis” is a way of life as we work with and continue to support individuals throughout their redeployment and healing process.
“These are our Marines and sailors and we will continue to see that they are taken care of,” said Lt. Gen. James F. Amos in a recent interview.
During the healing process, the focus is on recovery and support for those individuals. However, they are not the only ones who face new challenges, and family members say that they can begin to feel totally alone.
“None of your neighbors, none of your families – no one unless they’ve gone through what you are going through – will understand,” said Becky Klepper, wife of Sgt. Karl Klepper, who was injured in an improvised explosive device exploded, causing his vehicle to flip over, crushing his ankle and breaking the bone on the opposite side through the skin.
Shannon Maxwell, Becky Klepper and Alison Sturla, wives of wounded warriors here at Camp Lejeune, recognized that other spouses like themselves, might need the support of their own, as they assist their family members to cope with physical and mental challenges caused by wounds of war.
“Our Marines and their families hold their heads up high and continue to find hope in life beyond recovery,” said Maxwell.
Meeting at 6:30 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month in the Key Volunteer Center, in Building H14 aboard Camp Lejeune, the Wounded Warrior Spouses' Support Group offers that assistance. In an open forum, spouses, significant others and friends affected by a wounded Marine can find knowledge and strength in shared experiences with those who have walked a mile in their shoes.
“We realized in helping our husbands through their recovery that there were challenges, uncertainties and stressors we were experiencing that were hard for others to understand,” said Maxwell. “Our roles changed for a time as we became the caregiver at home.”
Guest speakers offer assistance and clarification on issues such as Veterans Affairs benefits, financial assistance, combat stress and post traumatic stress disorder and rehabilitation resources. Following a thirty-minute presentation, and question and answer opportunity, there will be a closed-door session where the spouses alone will be invited and can feel comfortable sharing their experiences and concerns in a safe, non-threatening environment, “free of rank and judgment.”
“Being able to share these things with someone and realizing that we were not alone in what we were going through was an enormous comfort - one that we hope to extend to others,” said Maxwell.
More than a support group, the WWSSG provides Marine commanders feed back that will assist them in their mission to improve quality of life for wounded service members and their families and will work to expedite the fulfillment of those needs.
“So they understand the difficulties and challenges involved for family members during this process,” said Klepper, whose family is from Wiley, Texas. “that it’s not just about the Marine or sailor.”
The next Wounded Warrior Spouses' Support Group meeting will be February 15. For more information about the group e-mail email@example.com.