She Will Stay: Inspired By a Simple ‘Thank You’

Have you ever been in the presence of someone who you know has just been through some torturous, unforgettable experiences? You are hanging onto every word as they share their story with you, which is a gift in itself — especially when the storyteller is a Vietnam veteran.

I was so tearfully wrapped up in one Vietnam veteran’s story that when he put his hand on my arm and said. “Thank you,” confusion rushed over me. 

“Thank me? I mean, thank you?” I responded.

There’s a saying, “You won’t really remember the words that people say, but you'll remember how they made you feel.” Not this time.  I’ll never forget the words this Vietnam hero said or the way he made me feel that day. 

He thanked me for sticking by my husband’s side, as he knew combat veterans are not always the easiest to live with. He thanked me for sticking it out even when it was tough — so incredibly tough. HE thanked ME. 

I was rocked to the core with emotion. There, at our dining room table, the three of us sat with tears quietly running down our faces. Through my tears I said, “Welcome home.”

I couldn't shake it that feeling. Everything I tried wouldn’t make it go away, and I knew why: I was getting out of my comfort zone again. 

Being a natural introvert, what I was about to embark on was somewhat mentally paralyzing: Starting something, building something, putting my all into it , embracing vulnerability and sometimes taking arrows, all without a map or complete step-by-step directions. I even had the same spiritual conversation repeatedly: “Really God? Like, for real? Do you not see how ‘busy’ I am? How am I even equipped for this?” 

But here’s what I knew: Every time I thought about how I felt when the Vietnam hero thanked me, I knew without a doubt that I wanted to give that gift —that feeling of being understood and validated— to other veteran wives. The gift of, “I see you, I know the tough things you're battling, too. Those shoulders are so strong to carry that much. I hear you even when you're not talking. I see YOU.” 

The birth of She Will Stay has come from many ups and even more downs as I journeyed alongside my husband through this thing called PTS. I wanted and needed to create something for the wives and significant others of veterans. The passion behind this is real; my heart is beating fast even just writing this. 

She Will Stay is a safe place for women to grow through what they’re going through at home. To the veteran wives and significant others who may be reading this: Thank YOU!

-Tara Johnson-Brower