The Forgotten Faces of Military Conflicts/Wars

The Forgotten Faces of Military Conflicts/Wars As a Gold Star widow of a man killed in action, I am afforded access to care, programs, and military bases as long as I do not remarry. I maintain the privilege and choice to go to any of the classes or programs offered by any base. While often these programs fall short for people in my position, they are non-existent for certain populations. Recently my paradigms shifted. I have been guilty of a sense of entitlement, but something caused me to take pause. There are the forgotten faces of conflict. As a mother of four children in the military. I am not entitled to anything. I am not privy to information unless my children give it, nor am I able to access these base sponsored programs that might help me to get through a deployment, an injury, Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD), or even the death of one of my military children. Military bases do have programs in place for the deployed spouses. Deployed spouses have the opportunity to participate in Hearts Apart, a network where they come together with base leadership for support. What of the mother and father living in a non-military community? Additionally, the civilian workers in combat areas are forgotten, yet they are there. The civilian worker is exposed to death, injury, and combat stress at the same level as their military counterpart, yet there is nothing in place while they are gone or when they return. Pretending that civilians and parents or other family members are able to cope without support is to be putting blinders on a Pollyanna future. When a person enters the military, they are no longer a child no matter what the age of entry. Parents are not offered base support or counseling even if the child is unmarried. Granted, cost is an issue. Does the impact of combat exposure not touch the lives of parents? What happens when the soldier comes home bearing the invisible wounds of having seen too much and lost even more? What then? These veterans often return home to a family ill-equipped to deal with their child’s brokenness. Loss of the soldier to suicide or combat death is even harder. The toll mounts as these family members buckle under the strain of coping or caregiver fatigue. Suicide attempts among family members of veteran suicides or killed in action is epidemic, thus we should be looking at what needs to change. While I understand that the military has limited resources, how can we use those resources and how can we further our reach? Last night, I had a defining moment. I attended a local military family support group. In that group, sat the parents of many soldiers who had served, one other Gold Star family, and many community members. This group was comprised mostly of people that do not have a right to any of the programs offered on base and they live in a state where few understand the military commitment, lifestyle, or cost. Many have veteran children who are not in the military, but who bear the invisible scars. Many of this eclectic group voiced time and time again how when they needed support, there was only one place they found it which is why they continued to be involved long after their children were out of the military. At this same event, we did have base representation. Because this group sees me as one of them, and indeed I am, they talked to me and e-mailed me after the event. The base talks of resources and programs, yet these programs are not accessible to families who do not have an id card on their own. Perhaps the time has come to consider how we can provide support in our communities in terms of military family support groups. These programs can operate largely like Hearts Apart, and can be run by the parents or community members once the program is established. The base can provide a support network in terms of bringing our people to them. Why not? We talk a big game and we are making forward progress, but is a deployment any less stressful for a mother than it is for a spouse? When I think of my own children serving, and when I think of one of my children’s struggles, I am at a loss. When I am able to meet with others going through the worries for their children and share my pride in what my children are doing for their country, I am buoyed and I feel more in control. Civilians and families are then provided a network that can be lifesaving because like the military wife, there is often a sense of being alone and feeling like nobody quite gets it. In looking at the forgotten faces of combat, I see pain echoing my own. How can we not step up to the plate and shift our paradigms of the reaching arms?

Comments

  1. Heather Leiby says:

    Linda, I don’t know about the AirForce, but in the Army parents are reached out to. When Soldiers complete their paperwork we ask that they include their parents. They are then able to attend events around deployments, and the FRSAs and ACS are able to reach out to the parents of deployed Soldiers to ensure that they get the help that they need. The FRSAs are able to help the parents gain access to the post for FRG meetings classes etc. In the National Guard parents are encourage to attend Yellow Ribbon events on both sides of the deployment. As an ACS Director I will help any parent in need of assistance. Further, the Army has recently instituted a program for Gold Star Families, where they are able to get installation access passes that allow them to come on post for any services that they need. Unfortunately, I have found that the other services do not do this as well – as the sister of a deployed Marine in 2003 and 2004 I can state that the only information my family had was coming from an imbedded reporter and whenever my brother could write – and the Army has not done a great job of ensuring that this takes place for every unit, but we have come a long way in 12 years. Keep fighting the good fight and know that it makes a difference.

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