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How Do You Respond to Military Deaths?

How do you respond when you hear of a military tragedy like we experienced yesterday?

I’ll go first.

Initially, I cry. For the service member lost, for the family and for their colleagues.

Then I think of those I know who were lost in service, the latest being my god-daughter in 2009. Her mother and I were both involved in tracking down her father because the protocol is a face-to-face notification. Her mother wasn’t home that day and was out of cell range. When she got back into cell range, her phone was jumping with messages. She knew without being told.

Her daughter was two weeks from coming home.

I was there for her casualty officer visits and helped them navigate the military system for bringing that beautiful young girl home. We received photos of her journey with an ever-watchful Air Force Honor Guard. My God-Daughter's superior escorted her home. She wasn’t alone, and that meant a lot. It's still fresh in my mind.

Too young, too soon, too many tours, too close to retirement, too close to coming home.

This floods my mind when I read the stories.

During Desert Storm, I remember losing a neighbor at Camp LeJeune who we socialized and barbecued with quite often. He was on the same ship as my then-husband. His wife said she had a vivid dream the night before notification that he came to her to say good-bye. Their son was two at the time.

Fast forward almost 20 years to an Air Force clinic in 2010. I was waiting for a prescription in Texas. There was a memorial plaque on the wall honoring the fallen of Desert Storm. I took a closer look and there was his name! I’d never seen this plaque in the hospitals and clinics I worked in while in the Air Force. It shook me all over again. I touched his name and thought about his wife and son, who is now a man. What became of their life after that loss?

These news stories bring tears, reality, a deep empathy, anger, memories and a renewed worry for my husband. My head goes to another place and I do have to make an effort to bring it back.

Rest in peace to my sisters and brothers-in-arms.

To my fellow military spouses and military parents who have lost, my arms are holding you tight.

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