Suddenly, with a flurry of late night phone calls, my thoughts and concern for those in Baltimore turned into fear. I felt like someone had just punched me hard in the gut. The words came out of my husband’s mouth so slowly that they seemed not to make sense at the time. “We are being activated, the governor has declared a state of emergency in Baltimore.”
Like many of you who are reading this, I had been watching the events unfolding in Baltimore the past several days in the midst of my very busy life going to work and caring for three rambunctious little boys. I watched, I prayed for peace, I posted about the tragedy to friends and family on Facebook. I hoped that no loss of life or property would result from the protests that were going on there. I felt badly for a family and a community in mourning and for law enforcement that were dealing with a very difficult and potentially volatile situation. There was no doubt in my mind that this tragedy occurring in my state was cause for concern.
So I prayed. I watched the news. And I hoped.
But I could not wrap my head around the activation call. I felt numb. I felt sick. I felt worried. I had just been watching the news, and all I could see were groups of people burning cars, buildings and hurling bricks and rocks. What had started out as peaceful protesting had now degenerated into this awful violence that was hurting the citizens of Baltimore, and they needed help.
That singular thought echoed in my head: those people need help. Something has to be done. Order needs to be restored for the safety of all.
As the spouse of a National Guardsman, of course I am keenly aware that our spouses could be called upon in the case of national disasters or tragic events in their home state. It’s what it means to be a citizen-soldier. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel blindsided and worried. My heart has literally been in my throat ever since the orders to deploy to Baltimore came down.
That word: deploy. Deployments conjure up visions of foreign lands. My husband has been combat deployed three times and I felt more fully prepared for that news than the news that he could be going to a city, right here in our state, that is in need of support to restore order. I was more ready for that than to hear that he is needed to help a city’s citizens feel safe on their streets again.
When our spouses are combat deployed, the mission is usually to help support an operation where there are terrorists or insurgents – not fellow Americans, not close to home. Something about having to contain and deflect violence that involves American citizens just feels wrong. I was scared, I am scared. This shouldn’t be happening. Ever. Not in our nation.
But it has, and our Guardsmen and women are responding.
I’m hopeful that things will work out, that the violence will stop. But I’m scared for everyone, the citizens of Baltimore, law enforcement, and yes, our Guardsmen. Like most military spouses, despite the news, I went to work as usual today. We endure, we support, we carry on. We watch our spouses walk out the door to help.
I am proud of our Maryland National Guard. My hope is that everyone in that city is safe and sound. This is a tragedy no matter who you believe is right or wrong. We must stand together. We must support each other. And, above all, we must listen to each other.
Keep everyone in your thoughts and prayers as we all struggle to understand how it has come to this and move forward in hope.
Ingrid Herrera-Yee is a military spouse, a clinical and research psychologist and the AFI 2014 National Guard Spouse of the Year. She is the Founder of an organization for Military Spouse Behavioral Health clinicians (msbhc.org) and resides in Maryland with her husband and three beautiful boys.