Saturday’s attack on the convoy in Kabul has resulted in the worst single casualty figures since August, when a Chinook was shot down, killing 30 SEALS. This latest truck bomb killed not only NATO soldiers, but also civilians simply going about their regular day. Between reports of the latest court shenanigans in Los Angeles or the Occupy Wall Street protests, I wonder if anyone will take notice. In my community messages have been flying. Those of us with deployed family members have called, or emailed to each other, making sure that we are all ok. We tell our civilian friends that we are fine, that we heard from our deployed service-member, but in the back of our mind, we are gasping.
We can all see in our minds eye what is happening. The Casualty Notification Officer and the chaplain are being called and told they have a notification; soon a black sedan or SUV will be pulling up in front of a door on post, or on a quiet street in a small town; two service-members in full dress uniform will be crossing a front porch or going up the elevator of a high rise; Care Teams are being called for activation. The bottom is about to drop out of a family’s world; the worst news in the world is arriving.
As always, when my husband called this morning and told me he was ok, the relief was immense, and as always the guilt followed immediately. The guilt that I was so happy and relieved, but there is another family for whom life will never be same; that he’s ok, but someone else’s “him” or “her” isn’t. They talk about Catholic guilt, or survivor guilt – they don’t know about military family guilt. We have guilt over our spouse staying in the military, or getting out because we wanted them to; we have guilt about making our children travel so much; we have guilt over being happy that our spouse was promoted, or being happy he wasn’t so retirement is certain.
But the guilt we feel the most is the “it wasn’t him/oh it was her son” guilt. To the families of the 5 service members and the 8 NATO civilians, to the families of the Afghan police officer and the soldiers, to the families of the Afghan civilians who were killed today – our thoughts and condolences.
The joy we felt earlier this week, with the official notification that troops are pulling out of Iraq, since the Iraqis have asked us to leave; in my case the knowledge that a friend will have her husband home for the holidays, is tempered now with sadness.
We know that casualties are expected during war; we know that the men and women who put on the uniform can be injured or killed; but that doesn’t mean that we cannot mourn, that we don’t hurt for the families.