LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE:
Milspouse Matters Episode 65
Complete show transcript and resources mentioned:
This is not the episode I’d planned, but in light of what’s going on in Afghanistan, I wanted to take a few moments to talk about that.
First, I’ll share a little bit of my story. If you’ve been a listener of this show or read my book, you already know some of this. My husband served 31 years in the world’s greatest Air Force. I’ve told him he’s “legendary” because it’s our nation’s youngest service branch, and by the time he’d retired, he’d been around for nearly half its history. We’re a proud military family, and our son is now also serving on active duty. So understand that all that follows is filtered through that lens.
I’d been a military spouse for 13 years when 9/11 happened and changed everything, not just for our country and the world, but for our military members. Of course, like anyone else who lived through it, I will never ever forget that day. And suddenly, “deployment” became an everyday word not just for certain career fields in the military, but for everyone. Everyone would now take their turn going “to the sandbox,” some multiple times.
We were scared, but proud and patriotic, glad to bring the fight to this horrid enemy who’d killed so many of our citizens. My husband was assigned to CentCom (Central Command) at MacDill AFB in Florida at the time, and we went from a pretty normal schedule to not seeing him much. During those days, he often slept on a couch at work as the mission was 24/7 and they were overseeing what was happening on the ground in the Middle East. In the weeks immediately following 9/11, we’d not see him for days at a time, and that became our new normal. You hear the acronym “OPSTEMPO” (Operations Tempo) used for this, and let’s just say, the OPSTEMPO was nuts.
This would also result in several deployments over the years, including him going to Iraq and Afghanistan. All told, we spent years apart due to deployments. like many other military families.
We had four young children during this time. I’ll never forget my 12-year-old’s reaction to his dad leaving for Baghdad. He tried to protect me, and didn’t want me to see him cry because he was afraid it would upset me. My kids struggled with these separations, knowing their dad was in danger. It was so much more than just missing him, this extra layer of fear that accompanied his departures.
His final long deployment was a year in Afghanistan while our older two were in high school. We gave up time, we gave up memories, we gave up normal life. Yes, we ‘knew what we signed up for’ (the adults anyway, the kids had no choice) but the fact is, we gave up a lot. He missed everything during our oldest son’s senior year, as he was gone from July of one year to July of the next, from ceremonies, prom, and baseball games to college visits and applications. He missed our other son’s drumline debut, our girls’ dance recitals and soccer games, normal family moments, our kids arguing over chores, and every holiday and birthday. Our family will never get that time back.
And yet, I’m fully aware that others gave up so much more….They gave up limbs. They gave up their mental health. They gave up their physical health. They gave their lives. This is a debt that we as a country cannot repay. And you know what? While most of us agree that it was time to be done in Afghanistan, we deserved a better ending. You know who else deserved a better ending? The people of Afghanistan and our allies.
I’m hearing from a lot of military spouses. A common theme is “We’re angry.” They feel that their sacrifices mean nothing right now. They feel betrayed by their own country.
One military spouse sent me a note and asked to remain anonymous:
Unfortunately, this is not a rare scenario. And while Americans have been shielded from another terrorist attack on our soil so far (thank God), military families have borne the brunt of this safeguarding for the past two decades while the majority of our country seemed unaware we were at war. Argue what you will about policy, but in the meantime a generation of Afghan girls have gone to school and discovered what life can be.
I’d like to share what Scott Deluzio from the DriveOn podcast says in this Instagram tribute to his brother, who was killed in Afghanistan:
We’re also frightened for our Afghan friends who worked with the American military. It is wrong wrong wrong and absolutely unbelievable to leave them behind and in danger this way. This is the point where we feel helpless, and if you’re a military spouse, you’d likely rather take some action then sit in that feeling for too long.
Let me point you to some ways you can help, and then I’m providing some resources for your own mental health as we work through the coming days.
Save Our Allies
No One Left Behind is a nonprofit advocacy group that was founded by US Army Captain Matt Zeller and his Afghan Interpreter, Janis Shinwary. They’re committed to ensuring that America keeps its promise to our allies and their families who risked their lives for our freedom, just like Janis Shinwari who saved five American soldiers. They’re joining up with a couple of other organizations, Mighty Oaks Foundation, and The Independence Fund to form Save Our Allies, which is a new veteran and military support coalition focused on delivering full and timely benefits to U.S. Veterans in need, and in ensuring Afghan and Iraqi personnel and their families who supported U.S. forces are properly protected from violence and persecution by evacuation to safe countries, including the United States. As they say, “This is a humanitarian crisis of biblical magnitudes and the efforts done to save innocent Afghans by governments and individuals across the region and globe has been heroic.”
Donate or purchase supplies for Afghan families: Learn more at Save Our Allies.
Consider supporting the USO:
“Currently, the USO is mobilizing to support troops as they deploy to Afghanistan by providing personal care items, access to internet and support to temporary housing units. Staff is also busy prepping USO2GO kits filled with snacks, toiletries and other necessities. USO locations along the deployment route are stocking up with beverages, snacks and other refreshments to fuel service members along their journey to Afghanistan.
All of this important work is possible thanks to the generous and continued support of dedicated donors – without them, the USO simply wouldn’t be able to provide this rapid support to thousands of deploying troops.”
Organizations Helping Afghan Refugees:
Keeping Our Promise: provides comprehensive resettlement assistance to endangered wartime allies who served U.S. interests in conflict and war zones.
International Institute of St. Louis: helps secure jobs, housing, and healthcare for refugees.
LIRS Connect: they need people in certain cities to volunteer for airport pickup, meal delivery, and apartment setup for Afghan refugees.
Women for Women: emergency support for Afghan women.
Save the Children: As the United States begins welcoming newly-arriving Afghan children and families fleeing violence in their home country, Save the Children has mobilized its emergency response team to meet their most urgent needs.
There are so many more! Please share with me any other orgs you know of, as I’ll be sharing them on my social media.
If you’re facing a rapid deployment of your servicemember to help support evacuations or other military missions, please know that our hearts are with you.
Yellow Ribbon Box is looking for donations for their care packages for family members of the deployed.
Mental health support for veterans, military members, and families:
Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255
Confidential help from Military OneSource: chat or call toll-free 1- 800-342-9647
Military and Family Life Counseling (MFLC) Program : confidential, free non-medical counseling worldwide to service members, their families, and survivors.
Military spouses, my friend Elaine Brye from Be Safe, Love Mom (she’s a veteran spouse and mom of 4 who are serving in the military) admonishes other moms whose children are serving in the military to put “tools” in their “military mom toolkit.” I think it’s good advice for any military family member. When you can’t control what’s going on around you, it’s important to take care of yourself, whatever that looks like: time alone, staying active, starting a project, reaching out, or connecting with other military spouses. Volunteer for one of the organizations listed above.
If you’re a military spouse and you’re struggling, distressed, and disturbed over all that’s transpiring, please know that you’re not alone. It is ok to be angry. This has not been handled well by any measure. In the meantime, please take care of yourself.
More resources for military spouses: