Invisible Wounds

What stress does to the soul

Battling Bare

Topless military wives with a message about PTSD

Military housewives from Fort Campbell, Ken., are finally getting the attention they want – and deserve – in calling the nation’s attention to the plight of their husbands, who have been returning home from war with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and with traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

Ashley Wise, 29, remembers being angry that no one was paying attention, so she thought: “I feel like streaking the general’s lawn.  Maybe a naked woman would get the attention.”

That’s how the “Battling Bare” campaign was born, and that’s how the nation began paying attention.

The New York Daily News recently reported that Staff Sgt. Robert E. Wise, a former Marine and Army veteran who has served three tours of duty in Iraq, had been showing signs of PTSD for years, but his condition began to deteriorate last year until he finally disappeared to a hotel room with “two cases of beer and all the guns in the house.” When his wife finally located him, he told her, “Life is just really hard.”

 “He wasn’t sure if he could go on,” Wise told the Daily News. As he continued to spiral downward, she went to the military for help, but felt angry and ignored when they charged him with domestic assault for an outburst she’d told them about to get help with his emotional problems.

So she decided to act on her idea … sort of. She created the “Battling Bare” campaign on a Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/BattlingBare . In the past six months, hundreds of women have taken off their shirts and inked themselves with a “pledge” to stand by their husbands as they heal, and to spread word that these veterans need help coping with mental health issues that can’t be seen.

"This is a pledge that you're making for your spouse that, in my opinion, is just as important as marriage vows," Wise told NBC News.

It’s a tasteful campaign, but a telling one. Wise told FOX News that she used eyeliner to pen the “Battling Bare” pledge on the back of Army wife Jennifer Brown. It reads:

Broken by battle

Wounded by war

My love is forever –

This to you I swore.

I will quiet your silent screams

Help heal your shattered soul

Until once again, my love,

You are whole.

Another of the military spouses, Alicia McCoy, told CNN that her husband, Sgt. Brandon McCoy, committed suicide in March. She said her husband sought help for PTSD, but it wasn’t enough.

“Our soldiers have a lot to say,” McCoy said. “They have a lot bottled up inside of them, and no one is listening. I feel like they are afraid to be able to say what they need to say, because they’re afraid it’s going to hurt their record.”

Wise told CNN that the “Battling Bare” mission is to spread the word about PTSD.

“We want to ensure that the stigma of PTSD goes away and people talk about it,” Wise said. “That’s really the biggest thing. In talking, there’s healing and not ignoring it. Because we’re ignoring it now, and people are dying.”

 

  

Eric Newhouse is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and the author of Alcohol: Cradle to Grave and Faces of Combat: PTSD and TBI.

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