The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.

NOT IN FRONT OF THE KIDS |

April 26, 2010

NOT IN FRONT OF THE KIDS
Name: Charlie Sherpa
Posting date: 4/26/10
Deploying to: Afghanistan
Hometown: Boone, Iowa
Milblog: Red Bull Rising
Email: Sherpa at RedBullRising.com

A couple of weeks ago, the very same medical soldier who, back in 2008, inadvertently announced our deployment to my wife passed me as I was on the way into pick up my kids from daycare. She wasn't in uniform, but I was.

"Hey, you got called up!" she said brightly.

I wish I had been quick enough to say, "Not in front of the kids." I know she didn't mean anything by it -- in fact, she was probably trying to be supportive -- but Household-6 and I haven't even started talking about the deployment with 5-year-old Lena and 3-year-old Rain. Lucky for me, I was on my way into the daycare center, not out of it, and didn't yet have the kids in tow.

Framed Red Bull NOT IN FRONT Later that week, I asked around the Tactical Operations Center (TOC). Apparently, my near-miss at daycare is a little more common than I would've thought. A couple of TOC-dads reported similar experience. One of our sergeants major described how, prior to a 2007 deployment, he'd been greeted by a good friend at the grocery store. The friend spilled the proverbial milk. Or let the deployment cat out of the grocery bag. Whatever.

The sergeant major hadn't told his kids yet, either.

So here's a new rule of thumb, for you true patriots and well-wishers everywhere: It's more than OK to say "thanks for your service." It's great to say "I like your uniform." If a soldier's kids are within earshot, however, don't wander off into the conversational minefield of "deployment" or "Iraq" or "Afghanistan." If the soldier brings it up him- or herself, then OK. Otherwise, mum's the word.

Trust me on this one. Loose lips rock the family boat.

I didn't feel any better when I saw my medical-soldier colleague that same week. Leaving the daycare again, one of her children was in the throes of a Chernobyl-class meltdown. I tried not to make eye-contact, because I've been there once or twice myself. I don't like feeling other peoples' pity. Or judgment. Or even sympathy. I figured she might be the same.

"Hey," she called out after me. "Does your unit have any more slots open for the deployment?" It was a joke, I know, a nod to the idea that ducking bullets downrange was somehow preferable to the occasional slings-and-arrows of outraged children.

The smile I tried to flash, I fear, turned out more of a grimace.

Comments

I think, especially now, when the stakes are high.
I'll tell you what. When my husband deployed, he and I decided not to mention the exact date he'd be back. We didn't want to give the kids false hope he'd be home for Xmas. And so we said, "give or take six months, it could be longer." After all, there's always the chance for an extension.

They were fully prepared not to have him home for Xmas, and so we put up the tree, kept track of him best we could. I didn't even post anything about it on FB or my blog. When he made it to the states, I told the kids and also told the masses via FB and blog.

Sometimes people just don't think before opening their mouths, which is not a big deal in most circumstances, but in certain situations it can be a very big deal. Thoughtlessness is not an innocent action, no matter how people try and pull it out to be that way.

Here's my story, for what it's worth. ;)
I was single mom of two kids, 2 and 6, and was trying to strap the 2 yr old into the stroller near the mcdonalds concrete bench we had been sitting at when he tried to stand up while in the stroller, and landed right on the concrete on his cheeck, biting it and his tongue. He began bleeding profusely from his mouth, and I was shakily trying to unhook the stroller and then get him on me and rock him back and forth, and I was just getting ready to tell my daughter to run inside and have them call an ambulance when this woman came up to me and asked me if I wanted her to pray for my son. Okay, until then I never knew you could literally see red, and I let her have it: "no, you blankety blank blank, I want to to frickin call 911!!!"

Okay, I overreacted, I know, but there are so many things in life that if people just tried to think about what they would say before they would say it, well...in my case, I certainly would talk less, lol! Anyway, I know I should be sorry for yelling at her like that..I'll let you know if that day ever comes. ;)

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