A soldier returning from Afghanistan doesn’t usually turn a spouse into a recluse. Taking care of three kids under two years old almost never results in three counts of attempted murder. People just don’t cut their children’s throats because they are having a bad day, do they?
This week a tragic, heartbreaking, terrible story emerged about Army wife Christina Booth, 29, suspected of trying to kill her three children.
Booth allegedly called 911 to report that her children were bleeding from the neck and wouldn’t stop crying. When the paramedics arrived, they found her two-year-old daughter and six-month-old twins with life-threatening injuries to their throats.
The father, an Army sergeant stationed at Joint Base Lewis McChord, was believed to be in the house at the time of the attack, but was questioned by police and released.
Commenters are calling Christina Booth a whack job, a mental case, a monster. But the pictures in the Daily Mail taken from Facebook don’t show a monster. They show a shining young woman in a strapless red ball gown with her soldier. They show a young mother smiling down at newborns festooned in flowered headbands. They show a well-kept house in a nice suburban neighborhood.
How could such a monstrous event occur in such a place to such people without anyone noticing? Aren't we supposed to take care of our own?
People did notice there was a change. Neighbors told KIRO-TV that Christina Booth was an outgoing, attentive mother. When her husband returned from a second tour in Afghanistan, they said she became a bit of a recluse.
As a military spouse, I couldn’t help but wonder why these neighbors didn’t call one of the thousands upon thousands of helping professionals we have in the military? Why didn’t that sergeant talk to his chain of command? Did anyone ask Christina if she needed a little help? Did she refuse help offered?
I get on these questions and have to remind myself that events like this are not simple -- any more than it was simple when 21-year-old Air Force wife Tiffany Klapheke allowed her toddler to starve to death during her husband's deployment. Pretending these things are simple, or simply the responsibility of the family, doesn't help anyone.
Help is so available in the military community -- probably more available than it is in most other professions. But getting mental health care as military spouses is often predicated on the idea that we spouses will ask for help. So often that isn't how it works.
So often the most troubled people among us don't ask for help--because they can't.
One of the ways suicide is being battled in the military is to train service members to recognize the signs of suicidal ideation in the people in their unit. They are being trained to intervene. They are being told who they should call to get help for their workmate.
Would it help if we had the same kind of training for military spouses? Would a service member recognize if their spouse was that far gone? Would you know who to call if a troubled mom lived in your area?
The three Booth daughters are receiving medical help and they are currently in the custody of Child Protective Services.Their mother is charged with attempted murder. Their father has retrieved belongings from their home.
And the military community waits.
Photo courtesy of Facebook.