THE DARK SIDE
Yesterday as I stood in the checkout line at the Walmart Neighborhood Market in Savannah, I realized the wait might be a little longer so I got out my phone and began scrolling. Almost immediately I came to an article posted by another Army wife that was about suicide among spouses. If you’d like to read the article (and I recommend it) I’ll post it at the end of this blog. But there is a dark side of the military that apparently no one is really talking about, and I think needs to be addressed.
I knew it was going to be a longer article than I had time to read then so I made a mental note and waited until I got to the car. Joe was waiting for me, I got in the passenger seat and said, “Listen to this.” I proceeded to read him the article as he drove our family home…
stories of spouses of military services members who had committed suicide, and in one case actually killed her kids after leaving a note saying she was going to kill the kids and herself…wait…what?
How has the media not shared any of this? We hear all the time how, on average, 22 veterans a day commit suicide. But. Never. About. The. Spouses!
SUICIDE ACTUALLY HAPPENS
This hits close to home, not only has Joe known guys who have committed suicide, it’s what he deals with in his office. He handles the memorial ceremony arrangements for the unit. This month he has done five memorial services: two suicides, one murder, one accidental death, and one natural causes. These are not the official reports and they are still under investigation according to him. And that’s just for one unit out of the entire Army.
But completely unaware of the dark issue of spouses committing suicide I asked my husband, “Why is this now and issue? Wives have sent their husbands off to war for hundreds, even thousands of years, and now we have issues with spousal suicide?”
His answer was simple, but deep: no one goes to church anymore or have ties to their faith, and there’s no more “community” anymore. Wow! He’s right. He continued with not only that, but when people do go to church the church does not address the issues of the military family. I’m not trying to say we are special, but we certainly carry a very different burden than a typical family does. And we’ve experienced this first hand. I’ll tackle both these issues.
FAITH IS IMPORTANT
The truth is, people do go to church a whole lot less than before. My husband told me that usually barely 100 people show up to Sunday morning services on base to each service (I believe there are about seven services). On a base with over 30,000 people, approximately 700 are in church on Sunday. It’s hard for me to really think about it because Joe is in the religious sector on post. His life is filled with Chaplains, other Chaplain’s assistants, and helping and visiting others who have a need. So this number really shocked me.
CHURCHES LOVE TO “LOVE” THE MILITARY
As far as churches go, this is a tough one and may even ruffle some feathers, but it’s true as it’s a first hand account. People LOVE the military. So they say. They love to see military members in uniform and “thank” them for their service. Churches especially love to say that they are military friendly, have lots of current military members as well as veterans, and recognize those military members past and present on special holidays. (The church is usually first to point out that we can “say” we love something, but what do our actions say?…I know probably stepping on toes.)
But what happens when those military families go through the hardship of a deployment? I’ll tell you. (And I know it’s hard for people who have never experienced the military…I get it, but hang with me while I explain.)
WHAT USUALLY HAPPENS IN CHURCHES…AND GENERAL PUBLIC
When I moved back to my hometown while Joe was deployed, people were so excited for us to be there and as soon as Joe left I got the barrage of questions: “Where’s Joe?” “How long will he be gone?” “How’s Joe doing?” And then there was their response after I answered these questions, “Tell him we said hey.” “Praying for him.” “Man, I don’t know how you do it.” “I know you miss him.” And my favorite, “When Joe gets home, we should have y’all over for dinner.”😒 (Just for the record, why not now while he’s away when I’m alone with two kids and might need a friend??🤷♀️ Crazy, I know. I’ve written about the lonely life before.)
Within the church, only two people invited me over or offered to help out in anyway in a church of probably over 400. In fact, I actually had people over to MY house while he was deployed trying to make brand new members from a whole different part of the country feel welcome to the church. That’s okay, I’m just pointing out some issues here. This was our experience. I try not to hold it against people, and just let it go, but I bring it up because perhaps if this has been other people’s experience…I can see how others struggle. It’s dark and lonely in the military sometimes…even when it “seems” you’re surrounded by support.
1st RANGER BATTALION IS WHERE IT’S AT
The only time in Joe’s military career I’ve felt truly supported and like other people understood my situation was when Joe was with 1st Ranger Battalion. Those women get it. Every 3-6 months (at least that was the deployment rotation back then) we found ourselves without our husbands for 3-6 months. (Sometimes longer if they came home and had training.) We got together often. The FRG (while it had its issues) was there for us keeping us abreast of current events and what was happening with our husbands. That’s how it SHOULD be.
THE THOUGHT OF NO LONGER LIVING
If I’m being completely honest with you, I’ve been there. I’ve thought about what it would be like if I weren’t on this earth. While I’ve never thought of ways to actually take my life, there have been times I wished and even prayed that God would take me. (Which I’m so sorry for. I don’t get to decide that.) I get it. Marriage is HARD! Really hard. And it’s even harder when you constantly move and your favorite person isn’t around and you’re the only person there taking care of your children and the household.
I realize that this doesn’t solve the problem, but I hope that it addresses it in a way that’s more understandable. I will also tell you it’s very difficult for spouses to get mental health…at least that has been my experience and why I haven’t pursued it more. Not only are we dealing with the strange life of the military world, we are dealing, often, with men who have their own traumas. Also, not easy. It’s emotionally exhausting and overwhelming at times.
IF YOU WANT TO HELP, BE A FRIEND
So I guess what I can share is that if you know a military family and you want to help…be their friend. Not their friend who only sees them at church and asks how things are, but their real friend. I can tell you we’ve found a great church home here with some dear people I’m glad to call friends…friends who love us not just on Sunday but throughout the week.
If you’re reading this and you’re military, find people who will love you. Join a local church or your post church. If you’ve thought of hurting yourself talk to someone…I’ll listen.
And if you want to read the original post from Military.com that inspired this one, please check it out here.
Until next time, friends….