'My spouse made it clear that either I was going to deal with it, or she wasn't'

'My spouse made it clear that either I was going to deal with it, or she wasn't'
The last vehicles in a convoy of the U.S. Army's 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division crosses the border from Iraq into Kuwait, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011. The brigade's special troops battalion are the last American soldiers to leave Iraq. The U.S. military announced Saturday night that the last American troops have left Iraq as the nearly nine-year war ends. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

LAKEWOOD, Wash. -- It's never easy for husbands or wives of active duty soldiers, but when a spouse returns from combat with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, normal routines and relationships can fall apart.

Spouses are now coming forward to talk about this hidden cost of war.  We're concealing their identities at their request.

"It's something as military families we constantly live with," says Jennifer, who says soldiers get the recognition, but spouses tend to fade into the background.  "And we're the ones who take the brunt of it."

She says beyond the worst-case scenario of a loved one never coming home, there's another great fear: "the fear of what next -- the fear of not [being] sure how your spouse is going to come home."

She says her husband, Justin, back from his second deployment, scared her.  "[He was] very quick to anger, sometimes violent."  So Justin says she gave him a choice:  "my spouse made it clear that either I was going to deal with it...or she wasn't."

But at Lewis-McChord, these warriors face another battle: just getting help.  "For the individual soldier he's got more people he's got to fight through before he can get to a supervisor who says 'yeah, OK...maybe we have a bigger problem here,"' says Justin.

Tim says his wife Kristin gave him an ultimatum to get help, or move out.  Kristin says the military helped -- after she pushed the issue with non-stop calls and confrontations with commanders.

Jennifer calls that "extremely frustrating."  Kristin says the entire military needs to know more about the problem:  "I think family members -- when you have a soldier who's coming home --  there needs to be a spouses briefing that needs to be mandatory.  You need to go with it."

Justin says the military also needs to be willing to fix the problem.  "Oftentimes we punish the symptoms," he says, "Instead of scooping the soldier up and realizing that this is part of a larger situation."

Expensive?  Sure, but Kristin says "it costs a lot of money to send our guys to war.  And if we're going to send them to war, and we want to invest to protect our future, we need to invest to protect our soldiers or we're not going to have anybody to fight the war with."

We've repeatedly asked to interview doctors at Madigan Army Hospital or the command staff at Lewis-McChord.  A spokesperson did call to say that soldiers have MULTIPLE opportunities for P-T-S-D treatment and additional options if they feel that treatment is being denied.

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KOMO Newsradio Reporter Jon Repp's stories on PTSD air at 7:15 am and 5:15 pm Monday through Wednesday this week on KOMO newsradio.