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NEWS | May 10, 2021

Through good days and bad: A caregiver supports wife's recovery from invisible wounds

By Air Force Wounded Warrior Program Air Force Wounded Warrior Program

There are many roles a person will play in a lifetime. For military families, these roles often cross the threshold of personal and professional life.
 
As an active duty security forces training instructor at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Tech. Sgt. Justin Goad can list Airman, father, husband, and caregiver as just a few of the roles he cherishes most.
 
It was not until Goad’s wife, retired Master Sgt. Lisa Goad, sought treatment for her post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, that he reconsidered how he could better support her and the Airmen that he mentors each day.

In 2008, three years before Lisa and Justin met, Lisa was a victim of sexual assault. The assault resulted in wounds both seen and unseen, a hip injury, and invisible wounds that she would battle in the years that followed.
 
In 2011, Lisa changed stations from Guam to New Mexico, where she initially met Justin as her fellow security forces Wingman, though eventually, she came to know him as her husband and the father of her children.
 
In 2013, Lisa received her first hip surgery to begin healing the physical limitations that she was experiencing. Although she was able to walk, her limitations included certain activities that posed risk for causing further injuries such as running or biking. Lisa received several more surgeries to mend her physical wounds but the invisible ones persisted.
 
For Lisa, the assault’s consequences manifested as anxiety, irritability, an inability to leave the home, and a fear of driving. Justin said that neither he nor Lisa recognized these as signs and symptoms of her PTSD -- both were na├»ve to the extent PTSD could affect someone. Justin’s inability to feel he could help his wife turned to a sense of frustration in their relationship.

After years of uncertainty, Lisa was diagnosed with PTSD and attended an Air Force Wounded Warrior Program CARE event in 2016 with the full support of her commanders. She attended two events and then urged Justin to go with her to the third one. Justin followed her lead and took part in an event at JBSA where he met other caregivers who shared their experiences supporting their Warriors.

As one of the few male caregivers at the event, Justin was initially reserved and felt awkward listening to others share their vulnerabilities.
 
“I questioned why I was there. I had come from a culture where men don’t talk about their feelings or their problems,” Justin recalls. Despite his hesitancy, Justin’s perspective shifted over the course of a week as he listened to other caregivers tell their stories, only to realize that he and his wife shared similar experiences to everyone else.
 
Justin attended a course on PTSD symptoms offered during the Warrior CARE event. Through this activity, Justin began to understand Lisa’s behavior and realize his own shortfalls in supporting her as a husband and caregiver.
 
Assuming broader shoulders as a husband and a father, Justin grew into his role as a caregiver.
 
The program also gave Justin and Lisa a support network and an outlet to share their experiences without judgment. It allowed them to hear from others about their struggles with invisible wounds.
 
“Camaraderie and talking with someone who has gone through similar experiences, and really understands you, can change your life. I now have several close friends who I met during the Warrior CARE events who I talk to on a regular basis,” Justin said.

As an active duty security forces instructor at JBSA-Lackland, the technical sergeant found an outlet at his work. Through this role, he was able to educate Airmen on how to overcome adversity and challenges in their careers.
 
The sense of camaraderie Goad felt from the CARE events transferred over to his role at work, where he applied his newfound knowledge on PTSD by encouraging Airmen to talk about their mental health with others.

Having experienced his own struggles sharing his and his wife’s vulnerabilities, Goad continues to reduce the concerns of his Airmen, who believe seeking treatment for their invisible wounds could negatively impact their careers.
 
“You are still a Defender even if you cannot arm. You did not do all this training and dedicate your blood, sweat and tears to earn this badge and beret only to be deprived of that for not being able to arm,” he said.
 
Goad believes his Airmen each have value to serve and be part of the team no matter their mental state.
 
(Invisible wounds are as real and severe as physical wounds. If left untreated, invisible wounds can have negative impacts on an Airman’s personal and professional life. It is important for Airmen to recognize signs and symptoms of invisible wounds in themselves and in their peers, to ensure a mentally strong, resilient, and lethal Total Force. The Air Force is committed to supporting Airmen living with invisible wounds by providing a wide range of resources to support their recovery journey. To share your own stories of invisible wounds and/or learn about available resources, visit www.ReadyAirmen.com.