Military life is surrounded by the grey clouds of deployment, the sunny days of returns and little is mentioned of the rest.
Sure, we see people commenting on the budget crises, lamenting the closure of base conveniences or complaining about the latest and greatest “crazy” thing the military has them doing.
There is plenty of information out there for soldiers suffering from mental illness or temporary stress, but little is said about the quality of life of the spouses. A recent story that hits too close to home — it was less than a mile from our front door — is the murder and suicide of a military spouse and her child. Without getting into the specifics of their family for personal reasons, the husband recently had returned from deployment, and they had only just reunited as a family before the tragic day.
Stress can present itself in a myriad of ways, and civilians and military personnel alike often don’t know the best ways to handle situations. I don’t know the family personally, but the community is struggling with this incident and does not know what to expect or how to address the issues at play.
There is no right way to seek help, but the important thing is that you do, from whatever resource you deem appropriate. It could be a fellow military spouse, your mother, a religious leader or any type of mental-health professional. The issues we face as a military community, the violence that is experienced in many homes and the casualties — often the children who did not choose this life — deserve much more.
This isn’t to say that this woman didn’t reach out for help, or wasn’t experiencing other personal battles. Regardless, the military community and her peers have let her down. If you know of someone who seems to be battling internal troubles, or may be facing difficulties with their spouse or at home, step in and step up. Make an effort, stick your neck out, step up for those who cannot step up for themselves.
It isn’t about the headlines or tarnish that it adds to the heavily soiled reputation that the military has in the eyes of many civilians, but about the people. The people at the heart of the matter are much like you or me. They go to the grocery store, argue with their spouses and stress about everything from paying the bills to planning for retirement. The kids who feel the brunt of these traumas are just like your kids. They play sports, hide their report cards and write letters to Santa.
It is the holidays, a time for celebration and togetherness. Take a few moments to check in, touch base and support your extended military family this season. This time of turbulence and turmoil doesn’t seem like it will end soon, but we are a family of misfits — and together, we will make it through.
Hewlett is an Army wife who lives in Richmond Hill.