By Maria Menounos, NBC News contributing correspondent
When you hear of the sacrifices that our servicemen and women make during times of war -- both of life and, quite literally, limb -- you often think of the families that are forced to cope with these losses and others like them. There are programs to help spouses and parents cope but, astonishingly, the children of these courageous men and women may be overlooked.
I had the opportunity to observe this firsthand when I sat down with the Kraima family. Naomi Kraima had served in Iraq during the height of the war in 2003 and narrowly escaped an explosion that took the life of her friend. The explosion and the war proved to injure the entire Kraima family. The sacrifices that were made during the war were grand in gesture and in number. And these sacrifices were not merely offered by the mother but by the family as a whole. And, together, the family continues to pay for them. We would all like to think that when our soldiers and marines return home, that their portion of the war is truly over -- they made it home "safe and sound"after all. But, sadly, that's not the case. Their next battle begins when they get home: the battle for normalcy and for a healthy family existence.
When Naomi Kraima came home to the States she was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. In addition to her PTSD, Naomi lives with immense physical pain from other service-related injuries. She is on six or more medications.
All in all, Naomi's health woes have taken quite the toll on her children, as the mother they once knew now seems drastically different. When Naomi returned, she had difficulty reconnecting with her children.
"My middle child was still a baby pretty much but my oldest…I really had a hard time showing any emotion towards her or towards anything," she says. An emotional Naomi assured me that she was happy to see her children again and that she loved them. Yet, as she said, "There was just something that wasn't allowing me to be Mom. It was different and I have no doubt that the PTSD had something to do with it. No doubt."
Interestingly enough, Naomi also told me that while she was deployed she attempted to exercise everything in her power to not think about her children, going so far as to avoid looking at their photos.
"If I thought about my family too much, there was no way my head would've been able to stay in the mission," she told me. So, along with being a caring mother, Naomi was and remained a dedicated soldier as well.
Her children, Carmen, 13, Sabrine, 8, and Daniel, 1, are what she calls "the silent victims." The children have had difficulties at school, grades have suffered, and newfound responsibilities at home have taken priority. All the while the girls are happy to have their mom alive, even if she does have PTSD. For these two girls to be so strong, I am left only to surmise through reason how strong their mother must have been and must still be. If it is difficult for these strong women to deal with all of this, what must it be like for other soldiers and their families who may not be so strong or for those who experienced worse hardships, i.e., the previously mentioned loss of life and limb? And how do they provide for their families in the midst of it all?
I was inspired by Naomi and her family on many levels. Mainly, I hope reporting on them, and their journey, inspires others, even in the minutest of ways, to consider the full and ongoing price that is paid by our servicemen and women.