There are certain things that are impossible prepare for, losing a spouse being chief among them. As a military spouse I can talk about the possibility, discuss options and get finances in order ahead of time. I have thought about the very real possibility that my husband would be killed, captured, disabled or severely injured either physically or mentally. I have prayer and support networks, but I will just never be prepared for that reality.
When I first heard the news about Robert Bales, the soldier accused of killing 17 Afghan civilians, I felt an intense mixture of horror, disgust, sadness, fear, grief, loss and confusion. I was angry at a soldier for killing Afghan civilians, including children. I was angry that someone would do this. I felt like screaming and crying and yelling. I was angry at Robert Bales for being so selfish. How could he do this to other soldiers? By killing these civilians this angry soldier is endangering every American soldier’s life by further adding to Afghan unrest. I was sad for Robert Bales, his family and countless other soldiers struggling every day.
I haven’t weighed in on this story because I felt like I didn’t know enough about the details. I don’t know if Robert Bales did or did not have PTSD or if he is or isn’t aware of his actions. I don’t know what the solution is, and I don’t know who to blame. Mostly I just wished it hadn’t happened. It took this article about Robert Bales’ wife for the reality to hit home. Karilyn Bales is a wife, a mother and a military spouse who by all appearances has done her best to hold down the home front. She’s now facing a reality you can’t prepare for.
And I suddenly realized that Karilyn Bales could be me.
Most of us will never have to go through the loss of our spouse and most of us will never know what it feels like to be in Karilyn Bale’s place. Hopefully, no military spouse will ever have to feel this way again. One thing we all need to be wary of is presuming to feel like this couldn’t happen to us.
Many in the military immediately tried to distance themselves from Robert Bales. The military has basically denied this could be the work of combat stress, TBI or PTSD. I don’t pretend to know. I do know that Robert Bales was a husband and a father. He advanced in the Army and by the book was an upstanding soldier. Karilyn Bales has a 4-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son. Here’s a snipped of her first public statement:
“I, too, want to know what happened. I want to know how this could be,” she said. “The victims and their families are all in my prayers, as is my husband who I love very much.”
We send our spouses off to war and we wait for them to come home. This isn’t the homecoming Karilyn Bates envisioned.
Let us know what your reaction is in the comments below.
Photo courtesy of The U.S. Army
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