Why the Ebola Fight Scares Us

Sometimes I have an imagination that would put Anne Shirley to shame. When I close my eyes and pictures what "fight Ebola" means I see a cross between Star Wars,  The Walking Dead and the quarantine/testing scenes of E.T. Guys in white hazmat suits offing Ebola with light sabers. It's pretty epic.

When I think about our troops  -- many of whom are from home base here at Fort Campbell, Ky. -- as part of that fight and the families staying behind waiting for them to tackle this threat, I feel pretty nervous. After all, no one has trained on light sabers that I am aware of.

Of course that's not what is actually happening. Light sabers aren't even really a thing ( ... sadly ... ).

Still, there is a shred of truth somewhere in what I've conjured up -- and it's this:

The fact that I imagined a scenario at all is because I didn't have truth of what is actually happening to turn to.



We're nervous because this is a big, fat unknown. And because disease is scary.

The "fight" against Ebola freaks us out because we don't know what it means. We have no context for what that looks like, how it will impact our men and women who are being deployed there, what the impact on them will be or even how long they will be gone. We just don't know.

The good news is that this is not the first time we've not known something. Back when our troops started going to Iraq we had some inkling of what that meant. After all, they had just been there in the 90s. But Afghanistan? That was an unknown threat. "Fight the Taliban?" We had no idea what that would mean, what the impact would be, how long they would be gone or how long we would have to live with whatever they brought home.

And now, here we are, in the same spot as before. Media reports claim that troops aren't being issued sufficient protection. (In case you missed it, I already debunked that one). Now soldiers returning to Italy from West Africa are being held in "isolation" for as many as 30 days out of "an abundance of caution," regardless of whether or not they had known contact with the virus.

Our military leaders have told us that the vast majority of troops will be simply doing construction. That's not so scary, right?

Caution is good. But, as a few of my friends pointed out, caution can also be scary:

"Sending our troops to Africa does make me nervous. I am glad to hear of the hazmat suits, but I don't think anything could calm my fears if it were my husband. I remember, very clearly, my husband trying on his MOP gear (is that right?!) before going into Iraq in 2003 when none of us knew what to expect. I was terrified. I imagine this feels very much the same to those families," she said. 

And perhaps, another friend said, this nervous feeling is something we need to get used to. Maybe this is what military life is really like outside of the predictability of more than 10 years of war.

"We've been at war for so long, that many in the community have forgotten what it's like to face an unexpected deployment with unknown dangers... we all know that they're going to the desert and they'll be shot at or face IEDs," she said. "It's become common place. I can remember at the beginning of the war actually bringing families together to talk about what to expect."

Are the Ebola-related deployments making you a nervous? How are you handling it? Tell us in the comments.

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