Long days and nights: Soldiers' spouses face fears
Posted Aug 23 2008 3:21pm
Watching television, answering the telephone, putting the kids to sleep - these are among the simple things in life. But for military spouses, these routine tasks are no longer so ordinary.
For some, they've become something to fear. Now when they turn on the TV and watch soldiers scrambling after an explosion rocks an Iraqi neighborhood, they worry about seeing their husband or wife carried away on a stretcher. Or worse yet, on a list of names of the dead.
And they dread one more night of having to face their children and explain one more time why Daddy or Mommy had to go away.
"It was a little over a month before I even heard from him," said Ann Anderson of Brick Township, N.J., a mother of two whose husband, Darryl, a Marine reservist, was deployed in the Middle East for more than four months. "He'll tell me that he got shot at and I'll tell him, 'Don't tell me that!'-"
For these people, war is hell, and not just because of the bullets and the bombs. The fact that, for some, the war has evolved into something uglier than they ever dreamed, where soldiers are dying nearly every day because of accidents, land mines, and guerrilla tactics, certainly doesn't make their lives any easier.
On its Web site, www.nmha.org , Mental Health America identifies a number of symptoms of emotional impact and stress related to the war. And the organization offers tips to families as they deal with the conflict dragging on, perhaps longer than they expected.
* Talking about it. By talking with others, the NMHA says, a family member or friend will reduce their stress and realize that others share their feelings. Support groups also exist at most military installations. If there's one available, the NMHA suggests, join. If not, consider starting one.
* Take care of your physical health.
* Do something positive, such as giving blood or preparing care packages.
* Take care of your children, and maintain family routines.
* Seek help. According to Mental Health America, it's not a sign of weakness.
"As our servicemen and women continue to carry out missions in Iraq , Afghanistan and elsewhere, their families, friends, and significant others continue to experience varying amounts of worry and fear," says Mental Health America on its Web site. "This stress can be due to concerns about a loved one's safety, economic hardship, the challenges of coping as a single parent, or simply missing a partner."
The Internet, moreover, has provided a variety of services that reach out to families of service men and women. One was Marine Moms Online (no longer available), and wasn't just for moms. The service has created support groups composed of moms, dads, grandmothers, brothers, sisters, and other loved ones who plug into chat rooms and message boards through the Web site.
According to the site, "Those in Marine Moms Online continue to laugh together, cry together, share the pride and joys of being part of the Marine Corps family, and offer comfort to each other in times of uncertainty, heartache, and the many goodbyes so much a part of the Marine Corps."
Josephine Hinman of Englewood Cliffs, N.J., whose husband has served in Iraq and Kuwait for more than three months, said the hardest year of her marriage was her first, in 1989 and 1990. Her husband, Richard, was deployed in Panama, and she was alone.
"I did what I could to support myself that year. But I swore to myself that I was never going to put myself in that situation again," said Hinman, who has acted as a support group leader when she's stayed at military installations, waiting for her husband to return from a deployment.
Now she's staying with her two kids at her mother's house in Englewood Cliffs, and she misses having the benefit of military spouses living nearby. "Now, I am exactly back in that situation," she said.