Battling Bare: Military Wives Stripping Down to Battle PTSD


At one point Staff Sgt. Wise's condition became so bad that while having a flashback he broke Ashley's nose. She said he tells her that he can still smell the body odor of someone he thought was an Iraqi soldier, but turned out to be his wife.

Ashley's frustration with how the Army dealt with PTSD peaked when he was charged with assault after she went to the Army's Family Advocacy Program for help.

"I was very p***ed off, so I started sharing with other wives," she said. "'This is ridiculous,' I'd say. April was the height of suicides at Fort Campbell. I felt like streaking the general's lawn, or the 101st Airborne Command building, but that would end my butt in jail."

She says she was talking to a fellow military wife on her porch when the idea suddenly hit her. She went into the garage, grabbed her husband's M4, and quickly wrote up her pledge to support her husband. She then gave her friend a diagram of how to write it up on her back. After snapping a photo, she immediately uploaded it to Facebook.

Within hours she was contacted by Military Minds, which helps soldiers suffering from PTSD, who suggested she increase her social media efforts and offered to promote her efforts. A week after Battling Bare became public, its Facebook page had 1,000 fans. Now, the page has over 35,000.

Today, Wise says that over 600 women have sent photos to Battling Bare. It is even getting submissions from kids writing about their fathers on their arms. The organization's website also provides a forum for military families to share their personal stories and find support.

"The online forums have blown my mind. To be able talk with other families, it's so freeing, because they don't feel creepy," she said. "I thought I was going crazy -- I was told I'm fighting a losing battle by my family. We know who our soldiers are on the inside. We don't want to leave. We don't want to give up on them."

The site has also been helpful for soldiers, helping them connect with civilian programs to get help that they need, and link them with people who can help them deal with their emotional wounds.

As Battling Bare grows, Wise says she plans to launch a fundraising calendar, eBooks, a global T-shirt contest. Wise also plans to promote the effort through smaller events in her community.

Her next project, she says, will be to help female soldiers who have been raped while performing military service. But for now, she's amazed at how Battling Bare has grown in only six months.

"It's been hugely successful and the people have really been sharing stories," she said. "They felt there was no place for them to go."

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