For many service members and their families, the effects of going to war can linger long after a deployment is over, and often those struggles happen behind closed doors. But on sites like Facebook and Twitter, some military spouses have found that taking their stories public has helped them connect with like-minded communities and receive much-needed support.
Ashley Wise and Adrianna Domingos-Lupher are two military wives who have found strength via social media.
Wise, whose husband, Staff Sgt. Robert E. Wise, had been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving three tours in Iraq, took to Facebook in 2012 to share what her family had been going through in the hope that she could get more attention for the silent wounds of war.
She stripped down to her bare skin and posted a striking photo of herself in a military cap, holding a gun over her head, with the words "Broken by Battle, Wounded by War" written across her bare arms and more of her message on her shoulders and back. The photo sparked a huge reaction, and within days she was flooded by similar photos from strangers whose family members in the military were also struggling with PTSD.
"My goal was to change the conversation — or start the conversation — about what goes on with PTSD," Wise told TODAY.com, "because I had had enough."
Wise launched the Battling Bare Facebook page in April 2012 as a place for military spouses to share their photos in support of their loved ones, and the page has since received almost 50,000 likes and spawned thousands of messages in solidarity.
Wise is now also working to get the word out via Teal Star: the PTSD Magazine, which launched on Oct. 25 and covers post-traumatic stress disorder issues, as well as a radio show called Battle Beyond.
"I want to help people have hope and show people how to heal," Wise said. "As many and as quickly as possible...and not just the military, but survivors of all sorts of trauma from tragic loss to sexual assault."
Unlike Wise, Domingos-Lupher didn't set out to connect with other military spouses, but she ended up finding a strong community right under her nose.
After starting a blog in 2012 where she shared stories about parenting her two daughters, ages 8 and 4, while her husband was stationed abroad in the Air Force, she realized she was talking to an organic, informal network of military spouses. They became her inspiration and her audience.
"What it looks like to be a military spouse has changed a lot," she told TODAY.com, recalling her own mother's experience in the role. "There are some stereotypes about what it means to be a military spouse."
While Domingos-Lupher praised the support that partners give to the family member serving, she also said that military spouses shouldn't feel the need to sacrifice their identities or aspirations.
Domingos-Lupher has helped launch the online magazine NextGen MilSpouse, which provides information to military spouses on a variety of topics such as careers, finance, moving and how to face various other day-to-day issues.
"We don't shy away from topics," Domingos-Lupher said. "We elevate the conversation, push the boundaries."
One of the next items on the agenda as NextGen MilSpouse marches forward is the SpouseBox, a subscription care package service which will send items created by military spouse-run businesses to other military spouses.
"It's a privilege to be able to connect with military spouses," Domingos-Lupher said. "It's a privilege to be a community where we can support and push spouses not to give up on their dreams, to stay true to who they are, to not forget who they are, to allow them to get the permission that they need to be that spouse, parent and themselves."