Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Little More Wounded Warrior Etiquette

People ask me all the time if I have had similar conversations about topics that constantly effect our life. Just like other times in our lives there are somethings you just shouldn't discuss with a person you just met or barely know. So here's a little more etiquette for you in regards to the world of our wounded warriors and our families.

First, you should never sit down with or walk up to and immediately begin talking about a soldiers injuries. If you do not know the family, then it is none of your business how extensive these injuries are. It's great that you care, but you asking for a roll call of what's wrong is inappropriate and is only the business of our families and our medical team. Yes we have had people ask, "Well can you still have kids?" This is their way of what they think is the polite way of asking if Chaz had a groin injury. Before you think no way, or this has only happened to Chaz and I, think again. I have talked to several people and they have had similar occurrences. Bottom line our service member was injured and is in the hospital you really don't need to know anymore than that unless you are on our healing team.

Second PTS and TBI are completely off the table for random discussion. I had a man sit down next to me once and say, "I want to talk to you about your husband's PTSD." (First I am helping a friend change that stigma and I will refer to it as PTS, because as she pointed out it is not a disorder.) But I had never met this man in my life. My husband, nor any member of my family had ever met this man before so he totally crossed the line. Do I think he meant well? Yes I do. But you should not jump into someone else's cheerios without being asked first. Of course I asked him, "Are you a medical professional?" He said that no he wasn't but he had seen Dateline (or some show along those lines) and he volunteers and tries to help others. I was intrigued. I said so you watched a show and now you are an expert. He said no, but he had learned a lot from additional research on the internet. (Oh yes, I smiled that evil grinch grin.) I then said well how many soldiers have you helped calm down after fire works have gone off or after loud noises have occurred around them? How many times have you been called out of your warm bed at 2 am because the police need you to draw the layout of your neighbors' house because the husband has flipped out and he thinks he's under attack so he has his wife and children locked up in the bathroom at gun point? Guess what his answer was, that's right, he said no. I then said if you want to help people how about you listen to them rather than sitting down and trying to jump into their personal business. I also told him, that there's a line and you just jumped over it. I also told him reading things on the internet and watching a TV show will not qualify him as a reliable authority. I said you want to help, just smile and talk about the weather or sports or anything else that is outside of our current situation. Distraction is sometimes the best medicine.

Third, if we tell you everything is great or fine, it is. You have no right to push the issue. I have had several people say, "I've seen your pictures" or "I read your blog" then it follows with "you seem like everything is ok, but is it really?" Yes I actually do want to smack these people. First who are you?! Second, why would I instantly divulge my life to you?! Third, what gives you the permission to cross over territory that is beyond personal? Fourth, would you say that to another person? If you saw pictures of another person who wasn't injured would you ask them if everything was ok?! You know the answer is no. And just so you know we are great. I am not making this up, ask the people closest to us. I can provide references if necessary. I know we are weird. I get it. Life threw us a huge curve ball and Chaz and I swung the bat and knocked it back out of the park. I know you think I couldn't do that. Or perhaps you think it is all for show. Well it's not. Come walk around with us for a day and you'll see we are legit. Chaz and I are blazing a trail down the path less taken. We are choosing to be thankful for the lives we still have together instead of focusing on and grieving for the things we have lost. To quote Joe from Family Guy, "We life ruins your legs, you make legonade."

Fourth, please do not patronize us. Please don't try to compare what we are going through to something else, unless you have been where we are. My favorite conversations usually occur when someone says, I know what your husband is going through because my cousin's friend was in a car wreck. Or I had surgery once and so I know exactly what you are talking about. Bottom line is you don't. I would never walk up to a cancer patient and tell them I know what they are dealing with. I have never told Chaz I know what you are dealing with. I have told him I know how drugs effected my body and how hard PT was on me after my knee surgery. I listen to him and the doctors, therapists and nurses and I try to educate myself and learn as much as I can. I have had soldiers and marines ask me all the time did Chaz have this drug? Did Chaz have phantom pains? I answer them as his wife and share what I witnessed, but I do not patronize them. I tell them the meds and tricks Chaz used and answer all their questions to the best of my ability. Now as for the standpoint of the support crew of a wounded warrior I can speak very confidently on that issue.

Fifth, our kids are totally none of your business. I am a very over protective mommy. Random strangers (and some family members and close friends) do not get any say in our kids. Do not tell me that I should take them to counseling. Do not tell me how I should educate or discipline them. To me this rule extends to all parents and children not just those of wounded warrior families. The only people in our lives who get unlimited say in our kids is Chaz and myself. Don't tell me what I should say to them, when I should say it or how I should say it. But for those who want to know our girls have been observed by a few child psychologists, 2 counselors, our 2 social workers and their pediatrician. All of which have signed off saying they feel our girls are great and have told us to keep up the great work. So you can see I've got this one covered.

I truly think people think that if they see you, then they think they can ask whatever they wish to ask. You are so very wrong if you think this. Please help me teach them that such personal business is within the scope of personal friends, family and medical professionals, but does not extend to random strangers. New people to the ball game just can't jump right in. Turn the tables on yourself. Would you want someone asking you those questions? If the answer is no, then you should not ask them. We have enough stress in our lives right now, we really don't need you adding to it. Seriously just thank us for our service and talk about the most recent sports game or gossip in the media. Treat us as normal as you would others. You wouldn't go to the company Christmas party and ask questions about injuries and such, so don't do it when you meet a wounded warrior family.

Dealing with the Wounded Warrior roller coaster is fun enough without your random curves thrown in. If you really want to help, just say, "Hey I am here to help you how ever I can." Please don't try to control us. Ask us. We are all still people, we are not mentally incompetent children. Think to yourself if I was in their shoes what would be a great way to help.


  1. I think you put that very well, Jessica. There's an old saying to "Walk a mile in another person's shoes before judging them." How very true. If people would stick to this, we would have a better world. Let me say "Thank you Chaz, for your service to our country." And also, "Thank you Jessica, for all that you do for our soldiers and their families. And also for sharing with and educating us." God Bless you all and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.

  2. Yes, I believe that people have done this to you pretty much because that's the way people act. It's not just in this sphere, either. People feel that they can ask pg women anything they want, even going so far as touching the belly! Total strangers! I had someone question me about breast feeding! Talk about none of their business! When you put yourself out there by having this blog and being so open about so much, people feel like they know you. Probably like what happens to stars. They just can't get it through their heads that these things ARE personal and private!
    Praying as always!
    Galatians 4:3-6: Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
    Prayer Bears
    My email address

  3. I totally agree with you. Coty cannot stand it when people come up to him at events and ask him what his injuries are or act there isn't anything wrong with him because you can't see it! Ugh!

  4. As a fellow wounded warrior wife who has been on this journey quite a bit longer than you it's really upsetting to think you believe your family sets the bar for the wounded. you have an entire brand and charity that you created for your own family and are constantly marketing yourselves for profit. (Which I think is so wrong considering we both now how well the Army takes care of us.) You are so willing to share every single aspect of your journey I don't think it's fair to criticize those who have questions. The boundaries for "Team Allen" are extremely blurry and you can't expect civilians to understand where you draw the line. We do lead an interesting life and without trying to financially profit I want to share my story so civilans can understand this life can be a bitch! I'm proud of the injuries my husband has endured and survived so damn straight I'm more than proud to share with complete strangers the survivor he is! You and your family thrive for the lime light so honestly even as a fellow wounded family it's hard for us to even think there are any boundaries for "Team Allen." My advice to Team Allen is to take a more modest route. If you want to lead a private life then don't have a public blog. Best of luck!

  5. Hey Anonymous, when did your husbands limelight burn out? Just kidding lol, But seriously when did it go out?

  6. I agree with Anonymous.
    We have been at this almost 8 years. My husband was severely wounded in combat in Fallujah. He has PTSD..changing the name doesn't do a darn thing for it and he has TBI.He is also blind in one eye. He has gone to jail for hurting me and we have been through hell and back. I have followed you some and I am a little disgusted by what you wrote. If someone comes to me and wants to talk I am open about EVERYTHING. It's the only way the American public can learn. Don't put yourself out there for the public if you don't want to be asked. Other than that you sure don't turn down all the stuff offered to you by the American public...aka non-profits.
    My husbands limelight isn't out. We travel the country talking about the effects of this war on us and our family. We take it as a great opportunity to allow people into our war at home. Education is key.
    You did not set the bar for wounded warrior wives as you posted in the past. There have been some amazing women who have changed the way things worked way before you came along.
    You can make yourself less public...just stop blogging and demanding things.

  7. *****PART ONE******
    My opinions of “Team Allen” are far different than those of anonymous, but we are all entitled to our own opinions thanks to the sacrifices the armed forces of our great nation. Therefore, as a veteran of our decade long war I feel "Team Allen" has opened up their lives to give those who are clueless to the growing number of wounded warriors a chance to get educated. Along with being able to give those who truly want to help and follow their journey the opportunity. There are those of us that think about war and all that comes along with it daily. Then there are those who may go days, weeks, or months without it even crossing their minds. If you don't live in a military community, have friends/family serving, or catch a glimpse of what CNN or other media sources are putting out why would it? The whole 10 seconds the news gives to identify a fallen solider could easily be missed.

    What "Team Allen" does is bring the focus back to where it needs to be. She is allowing its followers to invite their friends and family to join the team. Therefore, opening their eyes getting more and more Americans involved, brining our attention to newly wounded who need support, and getting whatever our guys need by sharing their needs. There are people who don't even know what Walter Reed is or needless to say any other military hospital that is receiving wounded troops. I thought a lady was kidding when she said "what's that" I'm pretty sure I looked at her in shock for a moment or two but it opened my eyes even more.

    Profiting from Chaz's injures, I'd have to say not so much. Do they live in a lavish home? Are their children walking around looking like the Paris Hilton? No they are not, they are living in an apartment living as normal as they can. Any request for items are for "Team Walter Reed" and are disbursed throughout the hospital. The woman is well educated, home schools their children, not only support her husband but supports other families of wounded service members. If she were selfish or had anything in mind other than support and bringing awareness she would be engulfed in her career using her degree, ship the kids off to the in-laws and only be involved with the bare minimum of Chaz's rehabilitation.

  8. *****PART TWO******
    I worked as a civilian in a warrior transition unit for nearly a year and spouses that were greedy or put themselves before their warrior's were easy to spot. That being said as stated in unknowns comment "the Army takes care of you", that is not the case in everyone's situation and as the number of wounded rise the lines are stretched thinner and thinner. I had a double amputee who wanted the same kind of tennis shoes another double amputee had because he felt they would be the best for him. It wasn't the Army who provided the shoes it was another organization that I knew would make it happen. Another example was a family who needed toddler beds for their children, again another organization provided. Who is helping while mothers, fathers, siblings, and spouses sit bedsit with their wounded warrior watching their homes go in to foreclosure, and vehicles repossessed? Who is helping the single mother who has two young children at home while she sits bedside with her son? There are huge gaps in the system and I could go on for days but I’ve made my point. There are organizations out there to help for a reason and if these organizations did not exist our armed forces would be running around like chickens with their heads cut off.

    So in my opinion "Team Allen" is proud not thinking they are better than anyone else and as far as the lime light goes give credit where credit is due and I'd say it's been earned and is well deserved so suck it up! In all honestly I feel the more the family is exposed the easier it will get. Therefore, getting rid of social anxiety and learning to deal with people who do not have manors and gawk. These things affect the family as a whole and this team isn't letting anyone or anything hold them back. They are awesome and are helping reach those who are unaware of the struggles not only associated with our wounded themselves but their families. It's giving those who want to have a hand in helping really feel they are giving back to our troops by supporting them through their rehabilitation. Cheering them on with praise as goals are met and doctors prognosis's are proven wrong. Wearing their "Team Allen" shirts to events and sharing their story, therefore bringing further awareness to not only themselves but all of our Walter Reed families who are willing to let complete strangers in to support them and fight for them, as they fought for us I'm battle!

  9. Im pretty sure this is considered "CYBER BULLYING", So if you would'nt mind taking your Golf cleats of this Blogs' Metaphorical Dick! We all can enjoy life to the fullest.

    P.S. Did you know that a whales penis is called a Dork?

  10. LMAO on the cyber bullying.

  11. I find it ineffective to bicker with those who must use vulgar language in their writings to get their point across. So many words in the English dictionary and we resort to tasteless name calling. Also, when using terms like "Cyber Bullying" it behoove you to have the definition handy. For educational purposes I have listed common forms of Cyber bullying as defined by "OLWEUS Bullying Prevention Program". Perhaps I'm missing something here but the criteria hasn’t been met, unless you view at it from the opposing side. RIF: Reading Is Fundamental. Have a wonderful rest of the day :0)

    Harassment: Repeatedly sending offensive, rude, and insulting messages.

    Denigration: Distributing information about another that is derogatory and untrue through posting it on a Web page.

    Flaming: Online "fighting" using electronic messages with angry, vulgar language.

    Impersonation: Breaking into an email or social networking account and using that person's online identity to post.

    Outing and Trickery: Sharing someone's secrets or embarrassing information, or tricking someone into revealing secrets.

    Cyber Stalking: Repeatedly sending messages that include threats of harm or are highly intimidating, or engaging in other online activities that make a person afraid for his or her safety.

  12. One, she made herself a public figure open to opinions. However, simply having a different opinion and stating it does not constitute cyber bullying. I didn't see anyone threaten her or her family. An opinion was based I'm sure on someone following her blog over time. It is comical for sure that you would insinuate that she was being bullied because an opinion differed from hers or yours. I believe I heard she said that the president said "she made the bar high for wounded warrior wives" and while I have no doubt she is supportive and loving to brag about that when thousands of other spouses have gone through this years before her shows me a little about her character. We all face the same issues. Pain and loss. Those are just my opinions. Take them or leave them. I don't believe I am better than anyone. Just a blessed person.

  13. Jessica, you're awesome. Good blog article. It should be printed in a magazine. I'm sorry if I've come across as one of the ignorant people or ever overstepped any boundaries in the past. Hopefully, I won't make that mistake in the future. This is the kind of stuff it's great to know, so thanks again. :D

  14. this is like a good soap opera, but i'm confused on the plot? And what about the mistress does she know of his romantic getaways when he says he's deployed?


    Angela Landsbury

  15. CHICKEN SHIT Anonymous people!!!!!!!!!!

  16. To all those anonymous people, I feel like I have been reading a different blog. The so called facts that are being brought up and commented on are not what I have read about.

    I also cannot accept your discription of who the Allens are when they are not in the limelight. It just doesn't fit, and let me tell you why-

    I am a mom of a soldier who was in Chaz's unit. Chaz took my son, 22 yrs old at the time, under his wing, befriended him, mentored him and taught him to be a better man and soldier. It was a year ago that I was laying on the couch, feeling sorry for myself because I had broken my ankle, lost my job and my son was at war, when my son messaged me to check out Team Allen and keep tabs on the family for him. It only took a few days of following Team Allen and I was inspired! As difficult as it was being confined and non weight bearing for 16 wks, Team Allen motivated me to look at the positive and keep moving forward. As Chaz took his first steps, I was trying to build up enough stamina to crutch around at the units homecoming and be there to see my son. It took me 4 wks, but I did it. Once my son was home and I finally was back on my feet, I wrote a brief note to Team Allen simply thanking them for sharing their journey and inspiring me through a difficult time. Jessica was so sweet, she took the time to respond with a note from her and Chaz, thanking me for raising a wonderful son. They also asked how my son was doing. Someone who is out for their own personal gain doesn't do this. She doesn't know me, she doesn't know my whole story(until now), and I didn't even mention my sons name. Jessica was paying attention and recognized the last name, she cares about the other soldiers who were with her husband and about all of the others like her husband who are trying to find their new normal. I see her as being truely grateful for her blessings and thankful.

    I don't understand how anyone could see her or Chaz any other way!

    I want to again thank them for inspiring me through one of the most challenging times in my life.