USO reaching out to families of wounded warriors: New focus is helping caregivers

CAMP PENDLETON - When Crystal Arriaga's husband came back from Afghanistan in 2010, he was not the same man she knew when he left.

"He'd been shot several times and was paralyzed in his right leg," she said.

Arriaga said the family dynamic changed dramatically.

"You have to live with the repercussions, the PTSD, the nerve pain and things like that," she said.  

It is one of the reasons the United Service Organizations, or USO, is reaching out to those caring for wounded warriors to ensure that they also have the support they need.  

"Who needs us the most these days… it's clearly our wounded, ill and injured warriors and their families," said Sloan Gibson, the national USO president.  

The first workshop for caregivers at Camp Pendleton presented a host of topics that families and caregivers face, from children who act out because they are scared to recognizing the signs of post-traumatic stress.  

"No one ever expects their spouse to be injured, so of course, it's a shock," said Diana Holmes, who was planning a welcome home for her husband and ended up at a naval hospital instead.

Holmes said having a conference like that one on base did wonders.

"You're not alone in this," she said. "At first, you think you're the only one dealing with this, but you're not."

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