Monday, November 11, 2013

My Husband the Veteran and His Story

Eddy and I on our wedding day.

Many of you probably know my husband Eddy Rivera. He is extremely intelligent, funny, kind, and is my personal hero. He is my veteran. I celebrate him 365 days a year, not just one day in November.

"I get bummed out on Veterans Day," Eddy said, when I interviewed him for this story. "I am appreciative of all the recognition. I sometimes feel as if the 'thank you for your service' comments are spoken to be politically correct,being no deeper than a have a nice day. I usually just say thank you and move on with my day."

"There are a lot of other guys that has it a lot harder than me, who have made more of a sacrifice. It seems that the 'thank you' belongs to someone else," he said. "I have accepted that for the guys that have died and cannot accept the gratuity. It is my responsibility to be thankful that I can."

Eddy was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York.  At 17-years-old he encouraged his mother to sign release papers to join the Army. He reported to boot camp in Oklahoma and then was given his duty station of Fort Benning,Georgia. Soon after arriving, he received his orders to deploy to Iraq.

In February of 2005 Eddy was on patrol in the village of Balad. He had just switched seats from the gunner hatch to the driver's position. He was talking with his battle buddies and that's all he remembers.

The force of the explosion physically threw him from his Humvee, knocking him unconscious and killing two men inside.When he came to, his vision was blurred. Blood dripped from his ringing ears. Wounded men nearby screamed for help.

"I don't remember much about that day, it's still hazy. I will never be able to get the sounds and the smells out of my memory," Eddy said. He later found out it was an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) in the road.

After the incident, Eddy was transported to a military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, where he soon discovered that his war was just beginning. I met Eddy soon after he returned to American soil. I had no idea that there was anything wrong with him. Even today, anyone could look at him and think that he was a healthy 27-year-old man.

Fast forward nine years later. Eddy is still battling. He received severe burns in the blast after fuel from the truck ignited. He suffers from kidney disease, he coughs up blood, and he has severe headaches. He has a traumatic brain injury and even his knees were impacted. His TBI (traumatic brain injury) affects his daily activities.

Eddy looks through a small portion of his medical records.
He has problems with remembering things, induced by the combination of PTSD  (post traumatic stress disorder)  and the brain injury. That leaves him struggling to remember events, names, and words. Small surprises, crowded rooms, traffic jams, loud noises, and a change in events can trigger anxiety and anger,echoes the violence he dealt and endured.

"Never will I smell fire the same way," he said. "I will never be at ease at the sound of fireworks and storms. It is sometimes embarrassing when I get startled or uneasy at the sight of stranded cars on the side of the road."

The challenges of being a wounded soldier and now a wounded veteran never stop. Not for my husband or any other soldier that has had similar experiences.The military never escapes a veteran, the shadows of  war never stop appearing, and the scars will always be the first thing that they see when they look at themselves in a mirror,even if we cannot see them.

"Sometimes it is more painful to go to sleep than it is to go through the motions of my daily routine. It really never gets better, you just learn to cope. I struggle with fact that a lot of people will never be able to really understand me or even relate to what I have been through," Eddy said.

For the past nine years, Eddy and I have taught each other how to be more understanding, patient, loving, and how to make the best of every day. We have seen each other at our worst and best.I forget sometimes that Eddy has medical problems. Every now and then,I'll see the scars on his back and am quickly reminded of the horrible things he has faced. I have seen him completely disconnected from the world and am proud of the progress that he has made.But in those moments of disconnect,when the injuries take over, I am bluntly reminded that our lives will never be like any other couple our age.I have held him in the bathroom floor after he has coughed up blood. I have been to every doctor appointment, every procedure, waiting long hours in waiting rooms so that he knew he would not have to be alone.

Eddy has broken the stigma of what a disabled veteran looks like. He bears through his mental and physical pain, showing anyone who is watching that nothing should hold you back,no matter what is in the way.He goes beyond expectations and succeeds in everything that he does.From battlefield to honor student, my husband is what strength and courage is about.


Unknown said...

Wow! You two are an inspiration. Never stop working to support each other through everything!

Anonymous said...

This post brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing this inside view of what it is like to live with the aftermath of war every day. We should all be so thankful to you for what you have gone through for our country.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much! We support each other even during "trying" times. Thank you for taking the time to read our story.

Unknown said...

I appreciate you taking the time to read our story.

Paul Farmer said...

What a powerful story! I have known Eddy for a couple of years and he is a great testament to all things strong and inspirational. He is a natural leader and great example. Thank you for taking the time to encourage others by sharing your struggles and your victories.

Paul Farmer said...

What a powerful story! I have known Eddy for a couple of years and he is a great testament to all things strong and inspirational. He is a natural leader and great example. Thank you for taking the time to encourage others by sharing your struggles and your victories.

Anonymous said...

Tiffany I can relate to your story in so many ways, my husband is also a veteran, and disabled from the military. He has his days where he wonders why he lived and so many died, and he has learned coping mechanisms to wake up each day with a smile on his face and to enjoy life each day and endure all that God has in store for him. He was a young man, still a teenager at 17, and from that point on had no idea what was in store for him. He was a POW, and is an amazing husband who I sometimes forget as well what all he has been through. We have our own HERO in our solders. Thank you for your story, it is very inspiration and encouraging to so many out there living life without hope, to show there is hope.

Anonymous said...

Looks as though there are two HEROS in the Rivera family. Eddy went through more than any one human being just have endured, but so did you. I am so happy that "Through Sickness And In Health" is alive and well in your family. Stick with each other and always put GOD First.

Unknown said...

Thank you all! I am glad that some of you can relate. And yes, through sickness and in health I will always be here for him.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Rivera, you have my heartfelt appreciation for your service to this country. Because of you and people like you, I am a free person. I am able to stand up for myself and demand that I be able to exercise that freedom.

Thank you.