- Their husbands served in Vietnam, Somalia and Iraq. They made sacrifices while their husbands were abroad. But the difficulties for these wives and families did not stop when their husbands returned home.
"All of the sudden something happened. And he was diagnosed with PTS," says
Carol Kelter, a member of the group.
Kathy Christianson, who also joined the group, adds, "Our relationship was different than most of our family and friends. And it seemed like nobody understood when I would try to explain what was going on."
It took until two years ago to find something to help these women cope with their husbands' Post Traumatic Stress. They found each other.
"It gets to be family. It's where you can go to feel safe and express yourself," says group member Audrey Kammes.
The American Legion Pavilion on the Rainbow Flowage is the peaceful place that helped them get their lives back.
Group member Julie Lamon says, "When I sat down at this table with these ladies and heard them tell me my life story before I said a word, I knew I was in the right place."
Co-facilitator Jyl Cundiff adds, "It gets easier because you've got people you can call on or email if you're having a bad day."
Tim Bahr is from Crandon and works for the Veterans' Administration as a Peer Support Specialist. He leads two support groups for spouses as well as six support groups for veterans. Bahr is a retired Marine who served in three different wars. He is the only veteran in the nation to teach a technique for the VA. It is called Mantram and is central to the coping process.
"We as veterans, when we join the service, we're conditioned a certain way. And when we come back out of service as veterans, we continue to think that way. So what Mantram does, it gives us that opportunity to stop thinking that, to stop the cycle of the destructive thought processes," says Bahr.
Some of the women in this group are the first veterans' spouses in the nation to take the class. The technique and friendships the women have formed made their lives change again - for the better.
"One year ago, you have no idea. I was sad," says Maria Kapellen "I dumped on the table everything I had and I end up feeling so good. And little by little I am feeling better."
Members say being a part of this group has taught them one very important lesson: they are not alone.
Marge Bergeon, a member of the group, says, "I've never felt so safe and loved as when I'm here."
Every member of the group encourages women to join.
"Don't let your pride keep you from getting help. There are groups out there like ours who are willing to listen," says PSVS co-facilitator Barbara Bergman.
She says the group has improved her life.
"I've been married for 43 years this year. And the last two have been the best I've had."
If you know someone who could benefit from the Peer Support for Veteran's Spouses and Significant Others group, you can contact the Rhinelander VA Outpatient Clinic at 715-362-4080.
|Story By: Lauren Stephenson