We know the drill all too well. Whether we want to admit to it or not, we know, deep inside that the big sedan pulling up in front of the house, with the commander, the chaplain, and the First Sergeant, mean literally that good news will not be coming soon.
But we know, as much as we hate it, that this event is something that with trumpets blaring in our head, heralds the arrival of news. News we must receive.
What if, what if, everyone thought that because of "who" you were, that you didn't "need" to receive this or any news? Hard to imagine? Impossible in this day and age of immediate news and cell phones and the Internet ... you say?
Follow along, and pocket a lesson ...
In many military to military marriages, both spouses will be working on and around the same installation. And it's possible that both will have access to all of the channels of "intel" when something out of the ordinary happens. And it's possible, that many people in the decision chain knowing this, might believe "why do I need to tell them something that they already know?"
The story, part 1: Mil husband, fighter pilot par excellent, jet jockey, sees/feels/reacts in three dimensional thinking. One day, going real fast, flying low, his aircraft as they are known to randomly do, fails. Husband knows, high speed ejection outside of the envelope could mean certain death. Husband also knows staying with disabled aircraft, will mean certain death. He executes the OODA LOOP, and ejects. His body is broken like only can be done when human flesh and bones are exposed to 600 mile per hour winds and a 28g-force cannon fired ejection seat. (The explosive charge is equal to a 105mm cannon shell detonating under your ass.) His ejection system is flawless in operation. He is hurled from the disabled aircraft, the automatic sequence separates him from the 200 pound seat, and he floats on a silk-like parachute to a crumpled landing with Terra Firma. He can't move, he can't feel, he can't think -- too much is broken. So he listens to his heart beat.
The story, part 2: Mil wife, a maintenance officer (a most honourable profession, I might add), is working in the control center. Day in and day out, radio traffic on six different frequencies all at the same time, demanding her attention. She's overseeing the movement of weapons, tools, equipment, fuel and people around a ramp that would make any DFW controller whine with envy. She's 29 years old. Then the radios crackle with a built-in override feature .... the call that stops all other radio traffic; "MAYDAY MAYDAY, we have an ejection" ... She immediately grabs the book with the checklists. She executes every task like a surgeon with a scalpel to effect and affect recovery and rescue. She, Mil Wife, is precision in motion. And then she stops, turning ghostly pale, and remembers ... my husband is flying today...
The story, epilogue: With the knowledge that Mil Wife was listening, aircraft tail numbers and pilot call signs are dismissed and generic terms are used. Mil Wife, learns that Mil Husband was indeed the pilot that ejected and broken, and being rescued. But information then stops. "Let's not upset her." "Let's be sure we have the facts." "Let's see what his condition is before we talk as it could change." "Let's just ... wait a minute." And when it was all over, no one ever came to tell Mil Wife that her husband was alive, was breathing, would probably live to see another ten-thousand sunrises and sunsets. No one stopped to think that she would want to hear, "he is hurt badly. But, he is alive."
When you're a mil-to-mil couple, people tend to presume, "they already know." When you're a mil-to-mil couple, people tend to presume, you know the business, so why do we need to belabor the issue?
No one but no one, came to Mil Wife and said, Your husband has crashed, he is hurt, we believe that if the hand of Lord was on his shoulder, he will be okay.
A different perspective? Yes. Mil-to-Mils know the technical reasons why our spouses are injured or killed. Does that mean we don't need you to help us along? Absolutely not. If my wife were injured, as much as I'd hate to see the sedan at the curb, at least I'd know ... I'd know, no good news would soon cross my threshold. At times like these though, I like many of you, can work with bad news-- whereas no news is completely debilitating.
Faced with a crisis? When you are responsible for notifying someone of bad news, remember those mil-to-mil couples; don't presume they know; and, don't presume they don't need your support and help and comfort. As a caveat, though, let the system work. Back-channel gossip, rumors, and such can be equally debilitating. My point -- when you have the responsibility to inform of bad news, inform all, equally, and timely, and with the same deportment as you would use for any spouse.
Post-story: Mil Husband is physically healed; but he'll never fly jets again. He'll never slip the surly bonds of earth or dance the skies on laughter-silvered wings, or trod the sanctity of space or put out his hand and touch the face of God, ... but he will be able to thank him each and every night, that he can hold his wife and their child, close to his heart. It is unforgivable what was done to Mil Wife, but she has grown and overcome. They don't know this post is here, but to you two, I simply say, I'm sorry, they should have done better.