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Ms. Vicki: Left of Boom

Ms. Vicki

While sitting in a command meeting at Quantico Marine Base, I heard a Colonel admonish his staff to keep “Left of Boom.”

As a counselor, it was an “aha moment” for me. Left of Boom is great advice that admonishes us to avoid a harmful or hazardous situation.

Stay Left of Boom. You see the boom, you know it is there just waiting to explode, but you avoid it. The Boom won’t happen if you play it safe and smart and stay away from it.  The Boom is activated by our actions. Otherwise, it’s like a dormant volcano: harmless.

How many of the troubles of servicemembers, spouses, MilSos, and children who I see every week could be avoided if they just learned to stay Left of Boom?

Anger can be a problem. It’s a normal emotion but when your anger becomes out of control you lose: Left of Boom!

Alcohol can lead to legal problems, it can cause health problems, and you could lose your career, your life or cause others to lose their life: Left of Boom!

Infidelity happens every day of the week but it still wreaks havoc in many ways. It ruins marriages and relationships, ruins careers and causes serious emotional pain: Left of Boom!

Domestic violence is any physical or emotional abuse that occurs between couples who are in a relationship or who live in the same household. Domestic violence also includes financial abuse etc. It is about power and control. One person has all of the power and control and the other person is under subjection. Domestic violence hurts everyone in the family: Left of Boom!

Suicide among servicemember has unit leaders, battle buddies, and researchers grappling to understand reasons that servicemembers take their own lives. It could be one of many reasons like multiple deployment stress, untreated mental health diagnoses, traumatic brain injury, marital and relationship problems etc. There is still a lot to accomplish in this area but when we notice any strange behaviors in a person who must do what we can. Left of Boom!

So how do we stay Left of Boom when so many military families lead stressful lives? Stress is normal. We have good stress and harmful stress too.

For example, good stress can compel you to work hard for your next promotion. While at the same time harmful stress can keep you awake at night interfering with a good night’s sleep. In addition, depression in many situations can be normal given the situation. It’s normal to have some sadness when you PCS because moving can present challenges. You are leaving behind friends, family, coworkers and even a neighborhood that you loved. However, depression and sadness is not good when it last longer than two weeks.

So be proactive. Stay Left of Boom by attending educational classes to help you manage many stressful situations. I often say that people take better care of their cars than we take care of ourselves and each other. We get our cars maintenance every 3,000 miles and sometimes sooner. We repair our squealing brakes, we get tune-ups and we keep our cars detailed.

Left of Boom requires us to do the same for ourselves. We take care of ourselves and each other. We depend on our unit leadership for support and support from family, friends, clergy and other spiritual support.

Left of Boom requires us to stay ahead of it, behind it and to the sides of it. In other words, don’t activate the BOOM but if it happens it won’t lead to your demise or send you spiraling downward because you have armored against it.

Left of Boom resources:

In addition to your unit commander, Family Readiness Officers (FRO) or Chaplain, you can also consult:

Military OneSource: 800-342-9647 Telephone support 24/7

Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) Outreach Center 24/7; 866-966-1020 where you can also chat live with a specialist

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Ms. Vicki, a native of Dallas, has been the ‘Dear Abby’ for the military community since her column began in 2005. A licensed therapist and licensed clinical social worker, Ms. Vicki holds a Master of Science in social work and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology. Her column has appeared in the Washington (D.C.) Times and in the Heidelberg (Germany) Post Herald. She has been featured on CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC.

Ms. Vicki has retired from writing new columns for Although Ms. Vicki is no longer offering new advice on, you can still email military benefits questions to our Questions and Benefits team. Need military spouse career help? Email our Dear Career writers.