Army wife's blog about her injured husband becomes a window into sacrifice

Two days after she learned that a roadside bomb had blown up her husband's Humvee in Afghanistan, Dena Yllescas began typing her first blog post for family in Nebraska. Fourteen months later, more than 160,000 people -- the vast majority of them strangers -- have visited the site.

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By Greg Jaffe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 29, 2009

LINCOLN, NEB. -- Two days after she learned that a roadside bomb had blown up her husband's Humvee in Afghanistan, Dena Yllescas began typing her first blog post for family in Nebraska.

Her daughters -- ages 7 years and 9 months -- were asleep. Friends, who had rushed over with casseroles and cigarettes, had gone home. The 29-year-old Army wife sat at a laptop computer in her kitchen in Texas and described how her hands had shaken as she listened to an Army captain catalogue her husband's injuries over the phone. "I just wanted him to quit talking," she wrote in the predawn hours of Oct. 31, 2008.

A few paragraphs later, she described how she had struggled to tell her elder daughter, Julia, what had happened to her father.

"Did Daddy's legs get chopped off?" the 7-year-old asked bluntly.

"Yes, baby. Daddy lost his legs but he is still daddy, and he loves you very very much," she replied.

She wrote a new entry every day for the next 32 days, opening a stoic and unusually eloquent record of what a military family endures after a soldier is badly wounded.

Fourteen months later, more than 160,000 people -- the vast majority of them strangers -- have visited the site, http://yllescasfamily.blogspot.com. Many of them are drawn by a desire to connect with a war whose burdens are borne mainly by the tiny percentage of the population that is part of the military.

Begun as a way to inform friends and family of Capt. Rob Yllescas's condition, the blog became a chronicle of Dena's own survival.

Nov. 1, 2008: "I looked under his sheets and his poor abdomen was so bruised it was almost black and he looked like he was 9 months pregnant."

In the weeks that followed the bombing, Dena Yllescas (pronounced YES-cas) blogged from the waiting room at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, where Rob was being treated; from his hospital bed; and from the small hotel suite where she was staying with her mother-in-law and mother. When there was bad news, she moved through it quickly and asked for prayers.

On better days, she lingered over the small signs of improvement: the first time Rob squeezed her hand, the first time he shrugged his shoulders, the first time he seemed to meet her gaze. "He actually LOOKED INTO MY EYES!!!!" Dena wrote two weeks after her husband's injury. "I could feel that he was actually THERE." She described holding up a picture of their two children for her husband, a broad-shouldered, intense Army officer, and wondering how close to hold it to his eyes. "I'm not sure if he was able to see it well," she conceded in her blog.

Someday her husband would read the posts, she told herself. He would take solace in how far he had come.


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