Veterans Day: Military Spouses Share Their Pain

Amid long wars, troops aren't the only ones pushed to the brink.

ByABC News
November 11, 2011, 4:13 AM

Nov. 11, 2011— -- Less than a year ago, Army wife Kat Honaker opened her bedroom door and found her husband inside with a gun in his mouth.

Minutes earlier, he had rampaged through the house in Bristol, Tenn., picking up chairs and smashing them on the kitchen counter top, turning the family's oak dining table and chairs into thousands of splinters. When she told her trembling children to run and call 9-1-1, he grabbed all the phones and destroyed them, too. He was furious that she had put a trash bag outside the front door instead of trudging through snow to the garbage can.

She coaxed him into putting the gun down, unloaded it, and gave it to her oldest son to hide outside. After he went through all the liquor in the house -- five beers, two pints of Jack Daniels and a bottle of moonshine -- they convinced him to get into the truck.

On the way to the hospital about an hour away, Honaker's husband started ranting about improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and how the route hadn't been cleared and that they were going the wrong way. He started screaming about the tractor trailer in front of them, and how it was a bomb and they were going to get blown up.

Her oldest son, 13 at the time, took charge. Recognizing that his father thought he was in Iraq, he started giving orders.

"Sergeant, you need to get in the truck and drive. Stand down soldier ... stand down. We will be getting ourselves back to the FOB to get some rest," he barked at his father, who kept saying, "I have blood all over me, it's all over me."

"Soldier, we will get you cleaned up ... we have to move. That's an order," the son said, not missing a beat.

He would later tell his mom he learned it from playing "Modern Warfare" with dad.

With her husband safely in the ER, Honaker sobbed in the waiting room. A young Middle Eastern physician abruptly approached her and asked if her husband had ever hurt anyone of Middle Eastern descent. He explained that her husband had just threatened to attack him, and asked her if she was her husband's caregiver. Yes, she replied.

"Well, obviously you didn't do a good enough job, now did you?" he said.

It was a slap in the face.

For Honaker, it has been a four-year long struggle since her husband came home from Iraq in 2007. During his deployment, she said, he suffered an IED attack, and was bleeding from the nose and ears. He was one of two Army medics, she said, and the squad couldn't afford to lose him. Instead of being airlifted out, as he should have been, she said, he was given ibuprofen and sent on a 72-hour mission.

He would later be diagnosed with acute and chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI), she said, both signature wounds of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. But because the Army lost the records showing her husband's entire career in the military, Honaker said, he has been ineligible for awards, including his Army combat medic badge, which is the holy grail of a combat medic.

And since his injury in Iraq was inaccurately characterized as a "motor vehicle accident," she said, he is ineligible for a Purple Heart award. He suffered from severe headaches, loud ringing in his ears and dizziness. He has been prescribed the maximum dosage of an anti-anxiety medication for three years, she said.

Although her husband has been determined to be incapacitated, unable to work, and in need of assisted daily living, she said, receiving disability benefits has been an uphill struggle. He tried to kill himself in January, she said, almost becoming one of the 18 veterans who kill themselves every day, which the Department of Veterans Affairs calls a conservative estimate.

Ten long years of war and multiple deployments have taken their toll on service members, exhibited by the rising suicide rates in the past decade.

But it is not just members of the military who're being pushed to the breaking point: Their families are, too.