Thursday, February 21, 2013

Understanding & Supporting families of our fallen

I think it’s very important for our community and country to know about surviving families – families who have lost their service member to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Often times families feel ostracized after a loss even saying that it seems that others feel that being a widow is contagious. Sometimes moving to new communities that don’t know how to react to such loss even going as far as demanding that their husband be present for certain transactions (obviously not understanding what it means to be widowed). There are unique challenges to being the surviving spouse and family of a fallen service member. 

Having worked with the surviving spouse/family community for the past several years I have learned so much. I have listened to stories about their amazing husbands (and ones that involved leaving socks on the floor), stories about children missing daddy and schools that just don’t get it. Sadly from the moment they learn of their loved ones death there are decisions to be made and changes to learn. 

Recently I asked several spouses to tell me the things that they wanted others to know about them as a community. I asked about their needs, stigmas that they don’t like and just some much needed information to share. I remember the first time I met 10 surviving family, and wondering how to act or respond. I learned very quickly that it’s ok to talk about their husband/fathers, it’s ok to ask about his life and it’s ok to cry. It’s funny conversations about life that lead to learning about men that I will never have the pleasure of meeting. Through friendships I have learned so many cool things about our fallen service members. I laugh with Patty that Mark is just like Grant, both soldiers to the Nth degree and that David had a great sense of humor, loved to make people laugh (evident in Salina’s stories). I also learned that so many service members don’t want to ask for help, don’t realize they need it until it’s too late. I have learned about suicide and PTSD from speaking to Megan, Jennifer and Kylynn about their husband’s struggles.

Several spouses told me that people need to realize that their smiles and humor is how they cope; what some may think is an odd conversation they find comforting. I was also told that they want people to talk about their husbands, remember their sacrifice not clam up and act like they didn't exist. These men were human being’s, these couples had dreams and goals for their lives and even though their lives were cut short they are no less important and should be talked about. 

With the total service members killed in action being over 6600 and the number of those committing suicide growing we need to take care of each family. When we each sit down to our dinner tables at night, take a moment and say a prayer for those that aren't home for dinner... our military that is fighting for our freedoms, our military that are in hospitals with injuries and our military that paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

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