Plane Crash: General Lauded, Spouse Ignored


Last week, two unexpected deaths occurred within the Air Force Family, a husband and wife.  Maj. Gen. Joseph D. Brown IV and his wife, Susan D. Brown, died Friday when the single-engine plane he was flying crashed in Williamsburg.

I did not know the general, but I did know Sue Brown. When I searched article after article to get every bit of detail I could concerning the accident, I found that everything was about him.

She was always listed as “his wife” and followed by the information that their dog died in the crash as well. Paragraph after paragraph listed his accomplishments -- where he went to school, his rise to the top, and his importance to not only the Air Force but military community as a whole.

All those accolades were well deserved. Yet there were no other words about her.

She was someone, too.

She was the president of the Air Force Officer Wives Club, a role that is not an easy one in the D.C. area. She was a friend to Friends of the Fallen, Fisher House, Air Force Aid Society, Arlington Ladies ... you name it and that was just the past year.

I found myself wondering what else did she do? Where did she go to school? What about her? What difference did she make to the communities around her with each change of duty station?

She was someone, too.

As military spouses, we understand there are times, many times, where we take the back seat of importance compared to our active duty husbands and wives. We acknowledge that fact and have come to the realization that we have a role the background as quiet supporters, fillers of vacancies, stepper-uppers extraordinaire, and chameleons in terms of employment and ability.

One of the hardest aspects of being a military spouse might be that no matter how many hours you pour into a volunteer position, teach a religious education class, sit on a board, or how you could just be there when needed is that as soon as you are gone, somebody will indeed fill the void. You are replaceable. And that is a bitter pill to swallow but goes with the territory and can be done gracefully with maturity and poise.

Oh, but the people left behind remember you. It is not just a new vacancy, but “so and so’s” position that needs to be filled. A family moves into “so and so’s” house. You might be gone, but you are not forgotten, not among other military spouses.

At times, the realization that we are an afterthought hurts. That while we stand by our active duty service members, year after year, all we will be is a blurb in an article if an unexpected accident occurs. It is a humbling thought.

I am okay with that most of the time. What saddens me is when spouses I know are treated as an additional fact, not a story all on their own, when one is deserved.

Because she was someone, too.

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