Wednesday, March 12, 2014


I saw on the Facebooks today that CNN has a new interactive on their website called The Uncounted. It's all about military dependent suicide.

What's the big deal? Nothing new in our world, right? We've been watching this happen year after year. We even had a suicidal ideation comment on Left Face a couple of years ago, which was scary and awful and incredibly sad. Authors across the mil-sphere have tried to bring this to public attention, but it hasn't really caught on.

Now, though, we have a major news network placing the series front and center on their website. Families who struggle--spouses, parents, siblings, sprogs--do count. They do matter. But we've been told through the inaction, inattention, and disinterest of military brass, that we don't count. We remain uncounted.

Thinking about this subject today took me through a windy brain-journey that ended with memories of speech after speech where the CO thanks us, the spouses. "You have the hardest job in the Navy," they've told us year after year. "Keeping the home front secure is tough, but your support helps our sailors focus on their important and often dangerous jobs."

This has always bugged me, but this morning, I realized why, exactly, these moments of faux gratitude are so damaging.

It's because of the message underneath the thanks.

It's because these little love notes are actually reminders of what our jobs really are.

Keep the home front secure. Take care of all the financials so service members can focus on the job that really matters.

Keep the home front secure. Be the only parent, functionally a single parent, for kids who miss their deployed mom/dad and might be acting out. Even though you aren't financially doing it on your own, you need to function as if you've got all the bases covered so service members can focus on the job that really matters.

When shit goes sideways, don't whine to your deployed spouse about it. Because s/he has a bevy of more important issues to worry about on that ship. That job is important, and they can't be distracted.

Keep the home front secure. It's a tough job, but it's your job to do.

Your job is support. And anything that distracts you from this job--your own career (which we don't actually want you to have, or else we wouldn't PCS you out of state every two fucking years), friends that don't understand what comes first in your life (the home front), interests that require your spouse take leave (while he's stationed on a ship? HA! Good fucking luck)--is to be avoided because it weakens the home front.

This might not be too awful if the job weren't compulsory or if there were compensation. But there is no compensation. All the money and benefits go to the service member. Only if you've given ten fucking years of your life to military marriage do you qualify for half of the service member's retirement (should s/he make it to retirement). And only if the worst happens do you ever receive benefits directly to your bank account. Because the employed person is the service member.

We don't fill out a W-2. We don't earn benefits or retirement of our own. Yet here we are with the "toughest job in the Navy." Lucky us.

5 comments: said...

Exactly. So spot on. It's such a frustrating and mostly thankless task that we engage in. I don't do it for the thanks, I do it because there is literally no other option. But I really do feel like we are taken for granted...

Bri said...

Thank you so much for this post. I have had multiple suicide attempts since we got to our (first!) duty station. I've been scolded more times than I can count by LPOs, Chiefs, and even the CO about my "behaviors" being detrimental to my husband's career.

Last year, they discontinued all mental health services at our base, but just for families. The one psychiatrist within driving distance retired, and PCMs on base won't touch psych meds. I am now unable to afford to get treatment, as my respite childcare was just cancelled abruptly, and I can not afford the gas to drive two counties over and back(while paying for childcare).

I wish so much that I could show this to my husband's command. I wish someone cared about those of us in the ER at least once a month because of self-harm, suicidal ideation/attempts, or a medication crisis. I feel like there is nothing I can do anymore but hope someone does something before it's too late.

Anchored Away said...

SinkorSwim: *high five* Ditto here.

Bri: If you can't get psych meds on base, I think you have a case for a civilian doc. I get my anti-depressant from my PCM -- can you look into that as an alternative? That doesn't address your counseling needs but (and I hate to recommend this since their services are so hit-but-more-likely-miss) but Military One Source is an option. I hate that this kind of shit is still happening. Please email me at snarkynavywife at gmail if you continue to have trouble finding help. I have friends who are all up in the options and can offer other suggestions.

Jess said...

The mental health care services that are available to spouses are appalling. I had two horrible experiences with local counselors who actually accepted Tricare (the second insisted there was no such thing as an unaccompanied tour, and my husband just didn't want me to go on his short tour to Korea because he was planning to meet and bang another military member - at our first appointment. Beginning to feel myself falling into the abyss, I turned to the Chaplains, only to spend 3 weeks playing phone tag before I didn't even have the energy to try to seek help. As a last resort, I called the number on Airmen Family Readiness Center "Helping Agencies" seeking help. The number in their brochures was listed incorrectly, leading me to not only call someone's personal cell phone, but to then receive harassing phone calls back from that person wanting to know who I was and why I called their number.
At that point I was having... thoughts although I wasn't making plans. But I was scared, and I was tired, and I couldn't find the help they promise our service members will be there for the ones they leave behind.
I was hurting and alone, a newlywed who was new to the military life with a husband who was 7,000 miles away. I tried to hide the struggle from my husband until the strain was too much to bear and I fell to pieces on the phone.
For me, the only thing more heartbreaking than my inability to get the help I needed badly was my husband's hurt at realizing the country he'd served proudly for the last 14 years didn't give enough of a shit about him to care for his wife while he was gone.

Anchored Away said...

Good gods, Jess. That's horrible. And unfortunately, it sound par for the military course. :( I hope you're doing better now.