“I will not fly into a rage and kill a messenger who brings me bad news just to illustrate how evil I really am. Good messengers are hard to come by. --Evil Overlord List Rule 32
Watch enough TV and you know exactly how the messenger of death arrives for military families. A dark sedan is supposed to slow on your street and park in front of your house. At least two guys in uniform are supposed to step out of the car. You are supposed to open your door and fall to your knees when one of them says, “We regret to inform you…”. That is the way death is supposed to happen in military life.
The messenger of death is not supposed to come by text. The messenger of death is not supposed to show up on Facebook. So it is beyond belief that Army wife Megan Born, 22, found out by text that her husband Joshua Born was shot and killed during riots on a US base in Afghanistan. Before Army officials could get to Olive Branch, Illinois to give her the official notice Thursday night, Megan had already been told by text. According to NBC affiliate WPSD, the news was already out on Facebook Thursday morning.
Update: Megan's mother and aunt have left messages for our readers -- see them here. Also, officials at Fort Stewart have placed the blame for the protocol breach squarely on the shoulders of other spouses and family members in the unit. Read that story here.
Megan is not the first to be slain by the doubly painful news of death delivered by technology. The Army is investigating how this could have happened. Which is a good thing, I’m sure of that. I am also hoping that they take this opportunity to ask themselves whether the notification system is just too slow in the age of social media.
They can scream all they want about OPSEC. They can criticize military members and their spouses for being too quick to spread the word. They can bear down on the enforcement of policies already in place. Until we develop some kind of Star Trek transporter technology, the urgency and necessity of death will travel so much faster than any dark sedan.
I don’t know what to do about that. I know I don’t want to ever be the messenger. I don’t know anyone who would crave that role. I just know that the social support system created by social media is a double-edged sword that delivers empathy and death in one blow.
Navy wife Jacey Eckhart is Editor of SpouseBuzz and author of I Married a Spartan?? The Care and Feeding of Your Military Marriage available on iTunes, Amazon and on www.jaceyeckhart.com.