When Brittney Linville heard the phone ring late on her 21st birthday, she assumed her husband was calling to wish her a happy birthday. While it was her husband, Matthew, on the phone, his call wasn't a gift. He was calling to say his vehicle had been hit with an IED while enroute to set up a polling station for the first Iraqi election. Although he was injured, he was alive.
Linville, who served in the Army for two years, actually met Matthew in Iraq when they were both deployed in 2003, so she was aware of what could happen downrange. However, this put her in a new role as a caregiver, her husband's advocate and a wounded warrior wife.
She described being faced with a lot of emotions but feeling like she couldn't voice them to her spouse since he was already dealing with so much; what she needed was someone who could relate to her situation. Now, six years later, she is at the helm of a program that helps others like her.
Operation Homefront created the Wounded Warrior Wives (WWW) program at a national level almost three years ago, and now it is bringing it down to a more local level. The Washington chapter will cover the entire state, from Joint Base Lewis-McChord to Bremerton Naval Base to the National Guard armories in Yakima.
"I was never part of a group like this," said Linville, who will be the WWW leader in Washington. "I had people who listened to me, but not who understood. I wish there had been something in place like this for me."
While the name of the group implies that only wives are welcome, it is in fact open to any female caregiver with a wounded warrior at home, including girlfriends, mothers and fiancées. Male spouses are not included, since there is a desire to have open discussions about topics of a personal nature; likewise, the group requires that members be at least 17 years old.
"The goal is to help wives find the direction they need to take care of the problems they are facing," Linville explained. "It is more than a support group - it is a community group where we can all discuss struggles and successes."
"The other concern is that you spend so much time focusing on your wounded warrior that you forget to focus on yourself," she said.
Linville hopes to host an inaugural meeting in November, most likely close to JBLM. From there, her plan is to hold one large monthly meeting and perhaps other smaller meetings throughout the month, depending on what the members prefer.
Currently, Linville has six registered members, but ideally she hopes to reach all wounded warrior wives across the state. To register with the WWW group, visit www.operationhomefront.net/www/highlights.aspx?id=5281 or contact Linville at Brittney.Linville@OperationHomefront.net.
"I want the wives to know that they don't have to go at this alone," said Linville. "We can help. Things will get better and there is always a light at the end of tunnel."