Ashley Wise, founder of the Battling Bare campaign, with husband Rob, whose struggles with PTSD, inspired her to action. / FOR THE LEAF-CHRONICLE/ANDY-LEE FRY
The first photograph of Ashley Wise's bare back pledge drew instant and overwhelming attention to her cause. / Contributed/Ashley Wise
CLARKSVILLE, TENN. — “I kind of want to take my clothes off and streak across the 101st command building, because then maybe the general or someone would listen to what I’m saying.”
These words, spoken by military wife Ashley Wise to a friend, were the catalyst for an act which, quite unintentionally, became the growing phenomenon that is the Battling Bare campaign.
While Wise and her husband, Rob, were stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash., they began their battle to get Rob’s post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosed.
“Rob and I spent 10 years at Fort Lewis and moved down here last June,” Wise said.
Rob is a career military soldier, initially spending eight years with the Marine Corps before joining the Army shortly after 9/11.
Soon after Rob’s second tour of Iraq, Ashley noticed he was experiencing flashbacks. Even going to Chuck E. Cheese’s with the family was difficult for Rob because of the noise and sudden movements.
“I finally talked him into going to see a counselor, but she said, ‘Oh, I wouldn’t say you have PTSD, I wouldn’t even say you were having anxiety. I’d just say you were having trouble reintegrating.’”
Though the family could see that Rob was suffering, it wasn’t until they relocated to Fort Campbell that things came to a head.
“He took all of the guns in our house, and some alcohol, and went to a hotel room,” Wise said. “I called him and asked what was going on, and he said, ‘Life’s just really hard, I might do something stupid.’”
This wasn’t the end of the family’s problems. Following the incident, in an attempt to help address Rob’s illness without it having it hurt his career, Wise sought help from the Army’s Family Advocacy Service.
“I was told everything was confidential and that it was a safe place,” she said.
So she told the advocate about the problems the family had experienced – including incidents in which Rob crossed the line.
“She went out and got an MP,” Wise said. “The next thing I know I’m facing 72 hours of no-contact with my husband and he’s facing domestic assault charges.”