Captain, Bravo 1/5, USMC, Retired
While fighting in Fallujah, I was hit by an RPG, leaving the back of my right leg torn to shreds. After being hit with the RPG all I could think about were the contractors from Blackwater that were dragged through the streets of Fallujah and hung from a bridge above the Euphrates. I was afraid I was going to be next. But that damage was minimal compared to the hit my mind and my family took.
After lying in a hospital for over two and a half months, I came home to a life that was foreign to me. My anger was hard to understand and control, I didn’t want to make simple decisions, my kids would irritate me very quickly and I was overwhelmed most of the time. Sleeping in my own house was hard to handle at times. I would have rather slept outside on watch.
My wife, Renee, knew that I was suffering from combat trauma. When I was in the hospital, I would command my troops. I saw a Marine in the commissary that looked just like one of our Platoon Sergeants that was killed in Fallujah. With the disassociation, the flashbacks and the uncontrollable anger, Renee asked me to see someone about it. But I was too much of a man and a Marine to admit to this kind of struggle.
The turning point came after I almost killed my wife. But you need to hear it from her perspective.
Chris was a different man from the one I married, not just because of his leg, but because of his whole attitude toward life and our family.
Whenever we fought—which was often—I became the target of his anger. It seemed futile to argue with him, so I would always back down. My friends kept asking me why I wouldn’t divorce him but they didn’t understand that I couldn’t go back on my vows to my husband.
The anger got so bad that I told him he had to sleep outside in a tent until he decided to go see someone about the issues he was battling. He refused. The dark days outnumbered the bright days, making it almost impossible to maintain hope for our marriage. But I kept praying because that’s all I could do.
One day we got into a fight where I refused to back down. I followed him all over the house, demanding answers. He finally said he was going to divorce me and went to find some suitcases. I followed him, telling him that he was definitely not going to divorce me. I wiped his butt for seventy-seven days while he was in the hospital and I stood by his side through all of the garbage that he had put us through so divorcing me was not an option. I told him to put the luggage down and that’s when he pushed me hard enough to send my arm and chin into the wall. Our baby daughter was crawling by at the time and her head got slammed into the wall as well, causing her to scream.
He picked her up and I kept telling him to give her to me. “Give me the baby, Chris! Give me Sarah! Give me the baby!” I just kept saying it over and over. And then his hand was around my throat, lifting me off the floor and pinning me against the wall.
In one hand he held our infant daughter and in the other he held my life. I knew I was about to die. I looked at him and his eyes were glassed over. He wasn’t there. Later he told me that, all of a sudden, I was just a common enemy to him. He didn’t see me. He just saw a threat that he needed to eliminate. He had no clue that he was doing something wrong. He even brought home flowers for me that evening.
I spent hours that night trying to find someone or somewhere that could help him. I found an inpatient program that he agreed to check in to. He was gone for 111 days.
I was thankful for what Renee had done for me. When I returned to my family, I had the tools to identify when I was making poor judgments and what to do when I was in those situations. At first, things were so much better but then the roller coaster began. My spirit would be up and down constantly and it was getting exhausting.
Finally, I decided that enough was enough. I drew a line in the sand, reached out to God and cracked open the Bible and started reading the New Testament. I ate it up, wrestling with the things I didn’t understand. In the past, when I would wrestle with things, it was chaotic. But this struggle brought peace.
Things are not perfect by any means, but the deeper I engage the Bible, the deeper my relationship with Jesus becomes as I try to live out the story that he wants to write with my life, and discover where my place is in his bigger story.