“Attention must be paid” is the demand being made by a woman who knows from hard experience what it is like to be married to a combat veteran with PTSD.
Bannerman (When the War Came Home: The Inside Story of Reservists and the Families They Leave Behind, 2006) tells it like it is: she survived her husband’s attempt to strangle her, but many other service wives have not. Citing statistics, she points out that the rates of domestic abuse, murder, and suicide in veterans’ families—and those include children as well as spouses—are far higher than among the general public. While her personal plight is central to the story, she also includes the stories of many other spouses of combat veterans with serious mental health problems, often from PTSD or from traumatic brain injuries. She backs up these sometimes rather long and repetitive narratives with hard studies and shocking statistics that reveal the extent of the problem. In one study, officials at the Pentagon found that cases of child neglect, abuse, sexual assault, and murder in service families increased by 40 percent from 2009 to 2012. Bannerman’s own story, which includes drinking and drug abuse, reveals how unprepared and ill-equipped the Veterans Administration is to help PTSD veterans and their families, how slow governments have been to allocate resources to their care, and how unaware the public is of the magnitude of the problem. A “wish list” at the end of the book spells out measures that the author would like to see taken to ease the burdens of the families of returning combat veterans, whose wounds may or may not be visible.
An activist, Bannerman has set up programs for women, drafted legislation, and testified before congressional committees. Here, she takes her message to a broader public in a disturbing cry for help.