Army Wife Deals With Stress, Helps Others
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 9, 2011 Sheri Hall is the wife of a career Army officer. She and husband, Jeff Hall, were married after high school, and she knew the Army would be their life together.
They have two daughters, ages 17 and 18, who have been around a country at war for the majority of their young lives.
Sheri served as a co-facilitator of the Significant Others Support Group that met here the week of Jan. 24, sponsored by the Defense Health Clinical Center at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
When Jeff returned from his last deployment, Sheri noticed something different about her husband.
"I knew the second he was home," she said of his post-traumatic stress symptoms. Yet, she said, they both suppressed the issue for two and a half years.
"He was so strong, and he gave up on everything," she recalled.
Although Jeff had some physical injuries, his post-traumatic stress symptoms were mostly anger-driven, Sheri said. He began to isolate himself from social events, she added, and didn’t want to bring his problems up with the Army.
"He was combat soldier,” she said, “and he said he couldn’t let the cat out of bag. I felt like a total failure. I didn’t know where to go to get help."
Jeff became suicidal, she said, and one day, everything came to a head.
“He hit the brick wall at 1,000 mph overnight," she recalled. "The day he crashed, I got really scared. He said he didn't want to live anymore and wanted to be alone.
"Several times, he told me to pack up, leave, and never come back,” she continued. “I watched him sleep, because I was afraid he would get up and do something to himself. I said, ‘You've got to make the decision to get help, because I can't explain to your children why you’ve taken your life, or your parents, when I can't answer that question for myself.’"
A light bulb went off, she said, and Jeff decided to get better for the girls, who already knew their father was ill. Jeff and Sheri saw a doctor at Fort Polk, La.
"You need more help than I can give you," the doctor said. He referred them to the Defense Health Clinical Center’s Specialized Care Program at Walter Reed, Sheri said, noting that she attended the three-week session with him, at his request.
At the end of the first week, Jeff already was turning around, Sheri said, and the communication between them was improving.
"Jeff was striving," she said. "He knew what he needed to do to get better."
Sheri attended the women's group to share her experiences, and was named a co-facilitator.
"I saw amazing strength; this group was rejuvenated," she said of the Significant Others Support Group, which met for the first time last month. “These 11 women now know they're not alone. They're with others who understand what they're going through.”
Sheri said she thinks all the women in the group have dealt with anger, the stress of taking care of children, and forgetting to tend to their own needs. "We learned it’s OK to stop and take care of yourself," she said.
Jeff is better and calmer now, she added. "He knows when to step back, take a breath and go back with a different mindset," she said.
Though their future looks promising, Sheri said, she acknowledged that she isn’t sure what lies ahead, as her family is beginning a year-long transition as her husband prepares to retire.
“The Army has been our life,” she said. Meanwhile, she added, she has a goal in mind -- a way she can make a difference for military spouses and families, based on what she's been through. She’s working toward her social work degree and wants to put her advantage of understanding the military to work.
"It's hard to find a provider or counselor who completely understands the military," Sheri said. “I want to work with those families -- the parents, the kids, … all of that. I want to give back.”