Now, the Army did not assign Memphis to be Sam’s battle buddy. What is so unique about the relationships formed between battle buddies is that it is a strong bond that cannot be broken. Memphis has a leash that reads “Battle Buddy.” We found it in Florida while we were visiting the Pensacola Naval Aviation Museum (and yes, I know that podium is a Navy one). We saw the leash at the gift shop and my first thought was, “oh, we have to get that!”
Sam served in the Army for 12 years. During that time he met a lot of people. I would go as far to say he has several battle buddies. Due to the nature of war, some of those soldiers never made it home, and some came home but struggled with the civilian world. I’ve had the opportunity to meet two of Sam’s closest battle buddies. I can tell you that those men share a bond with Sam that I may never understand, and that’s okay. Those men went through situations that some of us cannot even fathom. While distance separates them, I know they are always there for Sam. When they get to talk to one another, its like they have never missed a beat. If they get to see each other in person (one is in the Chicago area, the other near Nashville, TN), well, laughter, stories, and good times ensue. Their families have become friends to me as well, welcoming me in, even if I seemed like an outsider.
I’m post-war wife. Sam and I were not married while he was deployed. I haven’t experienced what it is like to watch him leave for a tour. I haven’t been able to welcome him home from a tour. We didn’t live on a military base, and I didn’t meet a group of military wives to form a bond with. When I met Sam, he was working at SIU as a Peer Support Specialist with the VA. He was working with student-veterans. I can tell you I have witnessed the affects of three combat tours. I have been there when Sam has received calls to say that a soldier has taken his life. I have seen the ups and downs of anxiety, trauma, and stress.
I guess you could say that without having experienced war, we are battle buddies in a sense. We are going to do everything we can to battle PTSD. Do you have someone in your life that has been with you through thick and thin? Been with you at your worst, watched you grow and become your best?
There were times I worried about Sam while he was going to work. What kind of day would he have? How many triggers would there be? Would a Veteran cause Sam to have a bad memory while they were talking? What if he was so anxious and worried that he would not leave his office? I knew that his job caused triggers and was stressful at times, but at times I didn’t know how bad it could be…
Then Memphis came into Sam’s life. And a bond, just like a soldier would have with a battle buddy was formed. They spent three whole weeks together, getting to know one another in training. They were working, learning, talking, bonding…
They go to work together five days a week. If Sam has to travel for work to visit Veterans outside of the VA campus, Memphis travels too. Sometimes the weather does not cooperate and Memphis may get a day off (if it is too rainy). When Sam goes to class at SIU, Memphis goes to class at SIU. He will sit under a desk at work, or beside Sam in class. Sometimes people will comment, “I didn’t even see a dog there!”
I feel so comfortable knowing that Sam has Memphis with him every day. I know if anxiety creeps in, he’s got someone to decrease his stress. I know they have conversations on the way to work and the way home. Memphis has met many people, and even if it is a brief encounter, he makes their day better. When Sam’s voice changes, or he uses a certain body language, Memphis knows and he can alert Sam by tapping on his leg, arm, or giving him a nudge–encouraging and offering support much like a battle buddy.
I read an article by James Dunz, and he said, “We should never underestimate the power of our actions. With one small gesture, we can change a person’s outlook…So what does it mean to be a battle buddy? It could mean saving a life.”
I believe those battle buddies from Sam’s time in the military helped save his life…I believe that the work of This Able Veteran saves Veteran’s lives. I believe that Memphis is a battle buddy… his outlook on life and the way he cares for Sam; his reaction when he sees him, well, it changed Sam’s outlook…and Memphis saved Sam’s life.