I learned to wake him up by standing at the end of the bed and shaking his foot. That’s how they did it in combat. If he woke up swinging, I was out of range. I also learned to announce my presence when I came into a room where he slept. Sneaking into the room alerted him to danger. Announcing myself let him know that he was in a safe place and he was able to stay asleep. “Honey, I’m coming into the bedroom now! It’s me!” He would groan a little at the interruption but keep on snoozing rather than springing from bed, wide awake.
A few experiments revealed the easiest ways for him to transition from sleep to awake. It never felt like a big deal to either of us. It was a normal response to being on high alert in a combat zone for a year.
Just once he had a waking nightmare. I found myself unceremoniously dumped from the bed. “What are you doing!?” I whined as he frantically tossed the pillows and blankets.
“Where is my rifle? I can’t find my rifle!!” He was in a dead panic.
“Ollie. Ollie! OLLIE! You’re home! I’m Megan! There is no rifle! You’re HOME!” He finally heard me and stopped looking for his weapon.
“Why are you out of bed?” he asked, looking at me like I was a freak show.
After that I learned what his body felt like when he was having a nightmare. Before he could wake up, I held him closer and whispered, “It’s ok, Ollie. You’re home. I’m here with you. You’re home.” His body relaxed with my words. He squeezed me tight and whispered back, “I love you, Megan,” before his obnoxious snores resumed.