Killed in Action. Although they are three relatively small words, the weight that comes with them is immeasurable. On both the soldier and spouse side, this is something that seems to only be talked about when they absolutely have to. I completely understand that there are situations in life that no amount of training or talking about can prepare you for, getting that knock on the door is one of them. This doesn’t negate that over 6,400 families in the last decade have received that knock.
A knock that they prayed wouldn’t happen, those soldiers in their dress uniform on the other side, a notification they didn’t want to receive, a hero who died too young. Besides the images from the funeral, this is where most of the public view ends. The emotions and feelings and what take place for those family members differ, every widow is different, every Gold Star Mother is different, every child who lost a parent is different. Because of this, those of us who have never been on the other side of that door don’t know what to do. We don’t know how to help and we worry about saying the wrong thing, so we just don’t. We often avoid the situation or avoid that family, because we think that it’s better for us not to say anything than risk saying the wrong thing.
What we don’t realize we are doing is alienating a family or a spouse or a child that needs us at that point in time. This is where CARE teams come into place. A team of other spouses who step in and help out, whether taking the kids to school, running errands, making a dinner or two, mowing the lawn or answering the phone. These teams allow those families the time they need to focus on their family and begin the often long process of mourning their service member.
Like these families of the fallen, most are afraid to volunteer for the CARE Team. Like interacting with the families, they don’t know what to do or how to act. What they don’t realize is often it’s as simple as making a meal for that family and dropping it off or even having someone else take it by for them. And sometimes, just being present is all the family may need, someone to help them maintain some sense of normalcy.
I’m not by any means saying this is something for everyone… no different than joining the military is left to a very small percentage; these teams are carried by a small percentage as well. All I’m saying is ask. Going to the training or asking about the CARE team doesn’t sign you up for it, but just like with everything else in the military, the more educated you are about it, the better decision you can make on whether this is something for you or not.
I sincerely hope that there are no more future knocks on the doors of our military families and that another soldier never has to slowly dress themselves in their uniform knowing the notification they are getting ready to make is going to forever change the world of a family, but as long as there is war-there will be casualties. And as long as there are casualties, there will be the need for the military community to embrace those families of the fallen.