Ashley Wise's husband Rob is about as tough as they come. The career soldier spent 10 years in the Marines before joining the Army after 9/11 and serving on two tours of duty in Iraq, but in April this year, he hit a wall. He locked himself in a hotel room with guns and alcohol and told his wife "he might do something stupid."
Thankfully, he came back home alive. Ashley reached out to the Family Advocacy Service at Fort Campbell, Tennessee, where they are currently stationed, and discovered that, like many other soldiers who are suffering from mental anguish or might have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Rob was between a rock and a hard place. When Wise, believing her conversation to be confidential, divulged to a counselor that Rob had once become physical with her, an MP was immediately brought in MP. They were not allowed contact for 72-hours and Rob now faces domestic abuse charges (which Wise is trying to have dropped).
"The last thing a soldier needs is to be separated from his wife," Wise tells Shine. "Guys kill themselves because they think they are such a burden to their families." Wise says soldiers are afraid to tell anyone they are feeling depressed, angry, or even suicidal for fear of being dishonorably discharged. "Take the number of men who actually report having PTSD and multiply that by fifty."
That evening, Wise told a girlfriend, "I want to streak across the 101st command building, because then maybe the general or someone would listen to what I'm saying." Instead she grabbed an eyeliner pencil and had her friend write these words on her back:
"Broken by battle,
Wounded by war,
I love you forever,
To you this I swore:
I will quiet your silent screams,
Help heal your shattered soul
Until once again, my love, you are whole."
Wise posted a picture of her naked back on Facebook, invited other military wives to share images of themselves, and the organization Battling Bare was born. "Our initial intent was to take Facebook by storm," says Wise. She says, at heart, she simply wanted families to be able to enjoy normal things together like "eating at Chuck E Cheese's or going to the fireworks." When she spoke to other women and "realized how big the problem is, we knew we had to do something."
Now, just two months later, Wise is working with seven other military wives to launch a non-profit organization to raise awareness about PTSD and the impact it has on spouses and children. In three years, they aim to have a chapter in every state in place to support military families and hold workshops based on a model developed by Operation Restored Warrior.
While some people are critical of their bold approach-she says she's had some ugly feedback and got a call from a stranger who called her "an attention grabbing whore"-the military isn't asking them to take their website or Facebook page down. Wise says Battling Bare is "on the Pentagon's radar," and when she spoke to Colonel William Gayler, Fort Campbell's Chief of Staff, he assured her, "I want to fix this."
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