A Soldier's Wife

Terrible news out of North Carolina last week: The wife of a soldier serving overseas killed herself and her two young children by sitting in a car and running the engine inside their garage, according to a Cumberland County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman in Fayetteville, N.C.

Faye Johnson Vick, 39, 2-year-old Jason and 3-month-old Madison were found dead Tuesday afternoon in the car. Autopsies on Wednesday showed that the cause of death was carbon-monoxide poisoning. Vick's husband, Lt. Col. Jason Vick, had been deployed to Iraq since August, the same month his daughter Madison was born. Vick, commander of a supply battalion in the dangerous Anbar province, had already served tours of duty in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East, including in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, said Col. Billy Buckner, a Fort Bragg spokesman.

A local North Carolina station's Web site, WRAL.com, reported that Faye Johnson Vick had a history of postpartum depression. Experts estimate one in 10 new moms experience PPD, and that 70 percent go through some sort of emotional stress. In June, our Guest Blog Down Will Come Mama described one woman's experience with (and recovery from) postpartum depression.

I remember what it was like to be a temporarily-single parent caring for two kids under two years old. I spent 1998 pregnant, working full-time, caring for a toddler (and then a toddler and a newborn) while my husband lived and worked 1200 miles away. For four months after the baby was born, I was so tired that I'd lay my head on our kitchen table every morning and cry. I can only imagine the added pressures Faye Johnson Vick must have felt, knowing her husband was in danger every day -- and not knowing when or if he would be coming home. It must have been particularly hard during the holiday season, when everyone seems to be together with family.

According to two spokeswomen for National Military Family Association, a nonprofit group that supports military families, isolation is a particular threat for military spouses with very young children whose partners have been deployed. "Spouses face the regular pressures of juggling roles, but when their spouse is deployed, they become single parents worried about their spouse's safety, as well as the effects on their children. Military wives feel additional pressure to be resilient and take care of other wives who need help."

The military offers family service support, online chat groups, spouse support groups such as Hearts Apart, and 24/7 counseling through Military Onesource and (800) 342-9647. "But it's especially hard to stay connected to other adults, and to ask for support, when you have very young children, no adults coming to your house regularly and little or no childcare," say Patty Barron and Joyce Raezer from NMFA.

All moms, working and at-home, military and cilivian, can use support and help. Often that help can come from other moms, such as the Moms Supporting Moms support group. What do you do to help other moms, every day and during the holidays? Was there a time when you did -- or didn't -- get the help you needed? Do you find it easy -- or hard -- to ask for help yourself?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  December 4, 2006; 7:55 AM ET  | Category:  Moms in the News
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What a horrible situation - makes me really sad, but I'm sure those feelings of desperation are more common than we think.

Honestly, I didn't think much to help other moms (or to ask for help myself) until I moved overseas - I didn't realize how tough it could be. About 15 months ago we moved for my husband's job to a new country and a place where we had no support network.

We did meet some people through his job, but I searched hard (and fast!) to find other opportunities for myself and my then-year-old daughter. It was a very difficult transition, from working mom in my hometown, with colleagues and friends dating back to middle school, to move to a new place where we knew noone.

I find it very difficult to ask for help myself, and I think others feel the same. Now, in my ever-widening circle here, I've become more pro-active, and offer to help much more than I ever did at home. When new people arrive, I try to invite them to my home and introduce them to other people, or acquaint them with other moms, playgroups, etc. I offer to watch other peoples' children when they need it, and am lucky to have great friends who have also pitched in at a moment's notice. We had a friend here whose daughter broke her leg - we went several times (as did many members or our community) to visit them and stay with her while she spent a month in the hospital. A lot of the mothers I know have husbands who travel a lot for work, and when we know they are alone for the weekend, we try to invite them to join us for meals (and similarly, we've been invited also) and that has been so fantastic.

I find it hard parenting alone for a week on the rare occasions my husband travels - I have nothing but the utmost respect and sympathy for mothers who do it all the time....

Posted by: Vienna mom | December 4, 2006 8:35 AM

When each of my two kids were born, my next door neighbor (who had 3 kids) brought over dinner one night (lasagna, salad, bread, wine (I was still nursing but had a sip or two). She was always there if I had a question (why wont this baby stop crying) and was always willing to help out. They moved away and a new family moved in. I was the experienced mom of the two of us and now she has 2 very young children. I try to help out if I know her husband is traveling. It is the least I can do.

Start small people -- be kind to your neighbors -- it can mean the world to them.

Posted by: Marie | December 4, 2006 8:47 AM

Year ago my dad did an unaccompanied tour to Korea -- to this day my mom remembers another mother volunteering to take me home from day care one Friday evening for pizza and movies with her kids. Her words to my mother -- take a few hours for yourself, you don't have to rush to get to day care. Mom doesn't remember what she did that night just the precious, unsolicited gift of it.

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | December 4, 2006 8:59 AM

vienna mom,
I had similar experiences when we moved overseas-we went from lots of support, friends, family to absolute nothing...and just in time for me to turn 40! It was indeed a learning experience-I now make more of a concerted effort to meet new neighbors as soon as they move in. I had tried before, but now I do so almost religiously. Nothing like walking in someone else's shoes to learn how hard their walk really is.

My condolences to the Vick family and their friends.

Posted by: dotted | December 4, 2006 9:01 AM

My husband was deployed 2 out of the first 2.5 years of our marriage. Luckily we didn't have children yet, however it was a very difficult time for me. He was in the Reserves. Prior to 9/11, his military duty had never impacted me - it was peripheral to my life. Without warning I was thrust into military spouse-hood - a totally foreign world to me. I battled my own anxiety and depression by trying to help as many other military spouses as I could, especially those with small children. Luckily I had a great group of friends who looked out for me, too. Thankfully my husband survived his deployments and we were able to move on, however we are both changed from the experience. It has been almost 3 years since he came home, yet I am still very demanding of his time. We lead very busy lives and have a toddler now, and I find myself resenting him when he isn't 'around' enough. I feel badly about feeling this way, and hope with time I can let go some. Has anyone experienced this? Any advice?

Posted by: M | December 4, 2006 9:02 AM

That is such a sad story. I'm so blessed by the fact that if it ever gets that bad for me, my mom, sister, mil, sil, bf, etc can get on a plane and get to me pronto. And it goes both ways. I'm guessing she either didn't have that support or wasn't communicating/couldn't communicate how bad things were. What a lonely life. And that poor soldier.

And yes, it's HARD to ask for help and so easy to give it. All we can do is keep an eye on our friends and family and make sure we offer help when it looks like they need it.

Posted by: atb | December 4, 2006 9:06 AM

At my previous job, where many of us were mothers of young children, we would pick each other's kids up from the nearby daycare and wait for each other if one of us was running late. One coworker gave me a lot of great baby and toddler clothes. And we would provide a listening ear for child problems. I was able to gain valuable knowledge from a coworker who had a child with a disability, similar to mine. Another coworker knew people who navigated the special education system and provided names of people willing to answer my questions. I would return the favors by providing support, listening and even hugs. Funny, for such an overall negative work environment, we women were pretty supportive to each other! And I was able to gain some support from a couple of men, too. The support from my bosses was pretty limited, and one of them had young children herself.

My new job puts me in the mix with women who have mostly older children. But I hear that one mother has a child in special education, so I will try to find a way to tactfully see if we can trade stories.

That said, I don't always take people up on offers to help. I should, because it gets stressful being a single mother of two kids, one of whom is disabled. Especially when their father is not around enough. I'm afraid of being more of a taker than a giver, though that is not my intent.

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | December 4, 2006 9:06 AM

I don't know how military spouses do it- it must turn their lives around to suddenly become a single parent for a year or so at a time. I can't imagine how I'd do it.

Here's a holiday suggestion- in memory of that mom and her kids, do something nice for the single parents (military or not) you know or who live nearby or who you work with.

Posted by: randommom | December 4, 2006 9:10 AM

One of the problems with post-partum depression is that the person doesn't know enough to ask for help. It is usually up to friends and family and medical personnel to ask and assist. Unfortunately, with a military family the family isn't there and friends may be hard to find. And let's not even get to the rushed atmosphere of the post-partum appointments with the OB. I thought there was a movement underway to ensure that all mothers were asked about depression at their post-partum visits, esp since this has been in the news quite a bit in the last couple of years. I am a nurse and we are forced to ask all patients about their pain - even those who are at their first appointment for a cosmetic surgery evaluation. One would think that questioning a new mother about a topic that is so important would be much more of a priority. How can we change this?

Posted by: KB Silver Spring | December 4, 2006 9:14 AM

We lived in Germany when our kids were 3, 2 and a newborn -- and my husband was technically in Germany but mostly he was actually in Bosnia. The single nicest thing anyone ever did for me during that time was a neighbor who used to call me every time she went to the grocery store and offer to pick up stuff for me and the kids so I wouldn't have to bundle all three up and drive over icy roads just to get milk. That and my girlfriend's husband who helped me out with car repairs on more than one occasion.

My heart breaks from that story you've posted, Leslie, as it does for the many military wives in difficult situations -- domestic violence, post traumatic stressed husbands, young enlisted wives trying to make it on food stamps and low wages, those far from home at the holidays. It feels very much like the average American really doesn't understand the sacrifices the military families make -- not just the employees, but their families as well.

As an aside, I'll tell you that at first I was uncomfortable accepting help from others -- but it's amazing how quickly you can get over that when you have no choice.

Posted by: Armchair mom | December 4, 2006 9:16 AM

"Military wives feel additional pressure to be resilient and take care of other wives who need help."

I think this statement may be true; however, a lot depends on the base where the soldier deploys from and the character of the commanding officer and unit. When my husband deployed, I had NO support. Because he was gone over the holidays, the one and only time his CO called was to demand that I drive to the base for his Christmas party and make a show for the remaining soldiers that it "wasn't so bad." At the time, I had a 10, 8 and 2 year old. My daughter turned 2 the week my husband deployed. I had a demanding job as a new litigation associate and we have no family whatsoever where we live. The entire time my husband was deployed, I was on my own. It was incredibly hard. We did have a lot of contact via email and phone - much more so than previous generations and something for which I remain very grateful. We also agreed before he left, that we would not hide or "sugar coat" what was going on with either of us. We remained very close during the deployment - I think in large part because we were still psychologically there even if not physically. I knew the frequency of the daily bombing attacks and what trauma my DH went through when he was called upon to help after a roadside bomb hit a convoy on his base. I knew how frightened he was when he had to send his folks out into the hostilities. All of this made it easier for me to accept the changes in him when he returned and the time it took for him to re-adjust. It was, without a doubt, the worst, most stressful, most frightening and most overwhelming time of our lives. I feel great sympathy for the Vick family and hope so much that additional services become available for those soldiers who return home (and I hope for all that this is soon) and for their families - during and after the deployments. For spouses who take on everything, it is also hard to adjust when the deployed spouse returns home and steps back into the family.

Posted by: Stacey | December 4, 2006 9:23 AM

People, you should realize -- it could have been an accident! Don't just go with NC police assessment. A person with 2 yo and 3 mo can easily fall asleep in a car, "just for a second..." after a long day, and never wake up. She is innocent until PROVEN guilty.

Posted by: a cat | December 4, 2006 9:36 AM

She is innocent until PROVEN guilty.

Perhaps you missed that she died, too? Yes, accidents happen, but so do suicides and murders. Remember Susan Smith?

Posted by: WDC | December 4, 2006 9:42 AM

I recall a few years back when my husband and I watched a newscast about a new mother harming her infant due to ppd. His repsonse was that she was a piece of ****.
I was appalled! I told him that ppd is serious and that she obviously needed help from her husband, her family, etc.

We had our son in 2003. I went through ppd and it really opened his eyes to actually experience it first hand. At first he was reluctant to think there was anything wrong other than me wanting more attention. He had no idea the exhaustion and depression I was going through. It took his family members to sit him down and tell him that he was doing more harm than good by his attitude. Our pediatrician covered the topic as well at one of our sons appointments to make sure I took time for myself to rest, keep family close and to call my doctor if my depression continued or got worse.

It was really an eye opener for him. He cut back on his side work and eventually changed his regular day job so he could be home more in the evenings. He even apologized to me for his remarks about women and ppd. I talked to him about ppd until I was blue in the face but it took him seeing me suffer to realize that ppd is for real.


Posted by: 2xmami | December 4, 2006 9:44 AM

I live down here in NC and the coverage on this tragedy is intense. It is a terrible, sad situation all around.

Another issue to think about is when the men (and women too) return from combat deployment to children and a spouse. There were several instances a few years ago where soldiers back from deployment killed their spouses over minor disagreements; they had not made the transition back to civilian/noncombat life, and the military had no program set up to help them do so. Reintegrating a spouse back into a family after one has been gone is a difficult chore; the nondeployed spouse has had to become very independent, while the deployed one had to make life and death decisions every single day.

Even now, I have seen documented stories where soldiers referred to their own children as "them" and do not trust them, since often children in Iraq are used to distract and divert their attention from what else is going on nearby. More efforts on reintegrating returning soldiers into their home life is definitely needed, as well as support for the non-deployed spouses too.

Posted by: John | December 4, 2006 10:00 AM

What a sad, sad story. It speaks to the lack of adequate support for our military families. I know one family who is going through a divorce after my friend was deployed for a year. I cannot begin to imagine the fatigue and the feeling of loneliness that this woman and others like her feel.

I think it is especially poignant that this is a war that didn't need to be fought. We are losing American lives for lies that this administration told us (and Bush's ego). That makes this even more sad.

May all families of the military feel our support. Peace.

Posted by: morning mom | December 4, 2006 10:03 AM

That poor family. Remember the first guest blog--a single mom wrote in about falling asleep and missing pick up at daycare? Looks rather pale in comparison. While I never had to deal with ppd, I did, however, have to deal with living overseas and caring for two small children (under 3) while my husband deployed constantly. There was no unit support, either. He would get a call at midnight for a 6 a.m. showtime and be gone for weeks. It got to be that I wanted to unplug the phone. I never received as much as a phone call from his unit, and if his CO had called to ask me to show up to a unit party I would have told him to stuff it. If you live on a military base, however, you tend to get to know people faster than you might otherwise. The people I knew were much more helpful than my own extended family was when I came home mid-tour. It took three flights, and I had paid extra for a bassinet which turned out to be broken, so I had to hold my baby the entire flight--12 hours-and entertain my very wide awake 2 year old. I was miserable, but kept telling myself it was temporary. Once we finally got to our destination, we were all jet-lagged, I was nursing a two-month old and had a two-year old. They were tag-teaming me sleep-wise, and I was so sleep deprived that I was crying constantly. What saved my life was my brother, whom at that time had done little for me in 30 years besides torment me. He came to my parents house and took care of my kids while I slept for 6 hours. I am still grateful.

As far as wanting him around now--I know this sounds childish, and maybe it is, but for years after we got out of the service I would just come unglued if he had to travel for work. I felt like I had paid my dues and wanted to keep him home with me. I had spent enough nights without him, I felt. What I went through is NOTHING compared to what the spouses of Iraq deployed servicemen and women feel. Maybe I was just jealous because he was eating out and playing golf and having fun while I was still running the house! Probably more jealous of the 8 hours of sleep he was getting.

Posted by: uyts | December 4, 2006 10:05 AM

I am a military spouse and my husband is currently gone. It's been 7 months- we have 2 more to go.
It's awful. I am now a single mom of a 3 year old, work fulltime,and have no family in the area. I have yet to receive one offer of help with picking up, dropping off, just taking her for a few hours! Not once. Granted, I live in DC and everyone else is also busy with their kids, they're workaholics themselves, or have spouses who work constantly
. Most people have more than 1 kid now, so it's just not manageable for them to help me out.
Plus, I don't think anyone realizes what I go through. It's beyond hard. I cried the vast majority of the summer. I'm just hardened to it now. We can't afford a nanny for extra help
I can understand that desperation- it's suffocating- it really feels as if it will never end on some days.
My husband will be out of the military when he returns in Feb. We can't wait. It's a very tough life. It was easier when I was a stay at home mom because I had more time to get things done , but the monotony of it will also drive you crazy. Working and having no back up help is extremely tiring.
And, the "support" that wives get- laughable! it's a few hours ONCE PER MONTH on a Saturday at the child dev. center (with strangers your kid doesn't know- my daughter refused to go)
Thankfully our time is almost upa nd we can be "normal" again.

Posted by: SAHMbacktowork | December 4, 2006 10:16 AM

It is all nice to think that if you have to go somewhere, there will be a support network behind to help your spouse or family. It is essentially garbage fed to make you feel good. I had to go away for a short 6 week trip- while my wife underwent a change of meds for a serious medical condition. Everyone promised they would check on her and for me to not worry. Not once did anyone call her. I had to rush home a week early because a former military neighbor saw an ambulance outside my house and called the base to track me down. The Red Cross, which is supposed to do that, never did. My boss was, of course, making excuses left and right saying she didn't know how serious the condition was, or how I should have told her- when in fact I had requested my TDY be postponed until after my wife stabilized. Lies and more lies to cover her rear. I requested and got a transfer- if only to shut me up. I did not fit in with the self-serving corruption and backstabbing and got out. There are great people in the military, unfortunately the good old boy system is alive and well at the top, and if you don't approve of squandering money landscaping while people need armor, you're hosed. It would be easy to make a real support network- even something as simple as a spouse "recall roster."

Posted by: Chris | December 4, 2006 10:23 AM

Chris,

That's an appalling story. My heart goes out to you and your wife. It sounds like priorities in the military are as bad as those in corporate America.

Is your wife doing better now?

Posted by: pittypat | December 4, 2006 10:28 AM

My mom friends are all past the immediate post partum phase now, but sadly a couple of them are now moving into the land of divorced/single parenthood. Since I've btdt, I try to keep my eyes open for things I can do for them. Just last week one of them had a big blow up with her soon-to-be-ex and he said he wasn't going to help her financially anymore (their divorce isn't final so he's under no legal obligation to do so yet), and she was trying to plan their daughter's birthday party and was freaking out. So I asked our friends to go in on a gift card to the grocery store that she could use for cake/food for the party or for "whatever" later. She had a hard time accepting it at first but after she thought about it, she was grateful for the help.

However, the problem that I see is that many many of us don't ever speak out and ask for help. I didn't when I was going through my divorce or after I had my babies. I was doing fine, but I don't think I would have spoken up even if I *hadn't* been doing fine. My friend mentioned above is very outspoken and doesn't hesitate to vent about her problems, so we know what her needs are. But often the most desparate people don't ever say a word. :o( That's when you have to be even more aware of the signs of people needing help.

Posted by: momof4 | December 4, 2006 10:29 AM

The sad truth is that this poor family is a victim of Bush's war, just like thousands of our troops and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

Posted by: Tom | December 4, 2006 10:30 AM

SAHMbacktowork: I wish there was some way I could help you. I understand what you are going through, as I went through it,too. Not as long, and my husband wasn't in any danger, and I didn't work full time. If you really need someone and are up to trekking out to the md burbs, my family would be happy to feed you, babysit your daughter and become part of your support system--even if all you want is a nap and some time alone. If you are interested, I imagine we could figure it out!

Posted by: uyts | December 4, 2006 10:32 AM

Chris, after my badmouthing of my husband's unit, they suddenly got a phone tree together and attempted to implement some kind of support system. I have no idea if it worked or not because I declined the offer. How many years have we had a standing army? You cannot tell me that 30 years after Vietnam the military has not yet figured out the needs of the military family? The are simple and low level. For the price of a fighter jet you could alleviate many, many issues.

Posted by: uyts | December 4, 2006 10:39 AM

I'm sorry for your struggles with your husband being gone. It doesn't sound fun at all.

I hope that when things get "back to normal" and you have de-stressed that you will find a way and the time to reach out to single parents who are in the situation you're in every day of every year with no end in sight.

Posted by: to SAHMbacktowork | December 4, 2006 10:41 AM

Many people have talked about how difficult and awkward it can be for many of us to ask for help. I know that feeling well, as I'm a military spouse with three children. My husband is a reservist, but has been called up into active duty, including several overseas stints, for seven years straight for all of the conflicts of the past 15 years -- Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Middle East. He wasn't always overseas for all of those, but he served several six-month deployments, including one in the Middle East when we had a five-month-old and two young school-age children. Many military families, particularly reserve families, don't live on military bases, but rather in regular civilian neighborhoods. I've found that most civilians barely give a second thought to world affairs and war -- this isn't WWII with it's calling on general citizens to ration -- and they rarely even notice the stress and burden on families with a spouse deployed in the war zone (or anywhere else). It is a bit easier to get into a support network with other spouses or families if you live on a base, but when you're in with the normal population, it can be particularly isolating. Add to that something like postpartum depression, and the fact that the government gives you no guarantees about when your spouse will be home (assuming he/she doesn't get killed), I can see why that NC woman went over the edge. When my husband was deployed, I finally worked up the nerve to ask for help -- ask people to take my kids for an evening, ask for rides for my kids to extra-curricular activities, help with school projects, etc. Once people realized a was sometimes strapped, they started offering to help out more, and we often got invited over to people's homes for dinner. If you're a member of a faith community, that is a great place to start asking for help. Although it would make sense that people should be able to see what you're up against and start offering help without prompting, they usually don't due to their own busy lives. With a little subtle "training" of your friends, though, most usually step right in and will be there for you. It's a good lesson for all of us to be aware of the need around us in our communities for all people who are struggling, especially those trying to raise children alone or care for elderly relatives alone for whatever reason. Think of them, particularly over the holidays, and invite them into your home along with your own families. For military families, you will be doing your part for the war effort and will be indirectly comforting and giving peace of mind to the deployed soldier.

Posted by: Va Military Spouse | December 4, 2006 10:45 AM

Many people have talked about how difficult and awkward it can be for many of us to ask for help. I know that feeling well, as I'm a military spouse with three children. My husband is a reservist, but has been called up into active duty, including several overseas stints, for seven years straight for all of the conflicts of the past 15 years -- Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Middle East. He wasn't always overseas for all of those, but he served several six-month deployments, including one in the Middle East when we had a five-month-old and two young school-age children. Many military families, particularly reserve families, don't live on military bases, but rather in regular civilian neighborhoods. I've found that most civilians barely give a second thought to world affairs and war -- this isn't WWII with it's calling on general citizens to ration -- and they rarely even notice the stress and burden on families with a spouse deployed in the war zone (or anywhere else). It is a bit easier to get into a support network with other spouses or families if you live on a base, but when you're in with the normal population, it can be particularly isolating. Add to that something like postpartum depression, and the fact that the government gives you no guarantees about when your spouse will be home (assuming he/she doesn't get killed), I can see why that NC woman went over the edge. When my husband was deployed, I finally worked up the nerve to ask for help -- ask people to take my kids for an evening, ask for rides for my kids to extra-curricular activities, help with school projects, etc. Once people realized a was sometimes strapped, they started offering to help out more, and we often got invited over to people's homes for dinner. If you're a member of a faith community, that is a great place to start asking for help. Although it would make sense that people should be able to see what you're up against and start offering help without prompting, they usually don't due to their own busy lives. With a little subtle "training" of your friends, though, most usually step right in and will be there for you. It's a good lesson for all of us to be aware of the need around us in our communities for all people who are struggling, especially those trying to raise children alone or care for elderly relatives alone for whatever reason. Think of them, particularly over the holidays, and invite them into your home along with your own families. For military families, you will be doing your part for the war effort and will be indirectly comforting and giving peace of mind to the deployed soldier.

Posted by: Va Military Spouse | December 4, 2006 10:46 AM

Many people have talked about how difficult and awkward it can be for many of us to ask for help. I know that feeling well, as I'm a military spouse with three children. My husband is a reservist, but has been called up into active duty, including several overseas stints, for seven years straight for all of the conflicts of the past 15 years -- Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Middle East. He wasn't always overseas for all of those, but he served several six-month deployments, including one in the Middle East when we had a five-month-old and two young school-age children. Many military families, particularly reserve families, don't live on military bases, but rather in regular civilian neighborhoods. I've found that most civilians barely give a second thought to world affairs and war -- this isn't WWII with it's calling on general citizens to ration -- and they rarely even notice the stress and burden on families with a spouse deployed in the war zone (or anywhere else). It is a bit easier to get into a support network with other spouses or families if you live on a base, but when you're in with the normal population, it can be particularly isolating. Add to that something like postpartum depression, and the fact that the government gives you no guarantees about when your spouse will be home (assuming he/she doesn't get killed), I can see why that NC woman went over the edge. When my husband was deployed, I finally worked up the nerve to ask for help -- ask people to take my kids for an evening, ask for rides for my kids to extra-curricular activities, help with school projects, etc. Once people realized a was sometimes strapped, they started offering to help out more, and we often got invited over to people's homes for dinner. If you're a member of a faith community, that is a great place to start asking for help. Although it would make sense that people should be able to see what you're up against and start offering help without prompting, they usually don't due to their own busy lives. With a little subtle "training" of your friends, though, most usually step right in and will be there for you. It's a good lesson for all of us to be aware of the need around us in our communities for all people who are struggling, especially those trying to raise children alone or care for elderly relatives alone for whatever reason. Think of them, particularly over the holidays, and invite them into your home along with your own families. For military families, you will be doing your part for the war effort and will be indirectly comforting and giving peace of mind to the deployed soldier.

Posted by: Va Military Spouse | December 4, 2006 10:46 AM

Kids do eventually grow up!

Posted by: to "to SAHMbacktowork" | December 4, 2006 10:47 AM

Twenty days after my second daughter was born my then husband went insane. He had a history of bi-polar disorder that escalated significantly, leading to a manic episode almost ten years ago from which he has never really recovered (it came with a schizo-affective disorder.) I stuck it out with him for about a year, when I painfully decided that either we were all going down with that sinking ship or I could save myself and the kids.

Riddled with guilt over not keeping the "in sickness" part of my vows to the bitter end, I nonetheless left him and our city and struck out on my own. We divorced a year later, when I was also granted no child support due to his status as "federally disabled."

Essentially I was pregnant/nursing/pregnant/nursing for four years straight, the last two of which were without a husband, job or money, on Social Services and in a new town all alone. The times couldn't have been harder, except that they could have if, I guess, I was someone different and less able to cope with it all. Not that I coped easily. It was such an emotionally and socially isolating time, and family made it no easier with their unsolicited suggestions and criticisms.

Ten years later I am proud to say that I managed to work from home most of that time, until recently, when I opened a retail business. Now that my kids are in grade school, I feel okay not working at home, and am glad for a new stage of my own life and relationship to the community.

This little snippet is only the slightest peek into the daily trials, fatigue, lonliness, uncertainty and juggling act I faced. It appears to end on a positive note, yet much of the isolation remains just in being a single-parent with very little reprieve (no visitation, sole custody, no family nearby to help.) Sometimes people offer to help by asking to take the kids. What I really wish for is a free vacation or weekend place so we could truly get away from it all together and actually afford it. If you're loking to help a middle to low income single parent that you know, that is a great way.

In the end I see that we all have our crosses to bear and I feel less like my life is so hard and more like all life is both hard and has its joys and rewards. But when I was in the thick of it, it was like I was in a deep cave with barely a glimmer of light and it took all my powers of will to emerge. I still have some challenges in that regard, but I am determined to always focus on that light, and get to it, and bloom.

Posted by: Dignity for Single Parents | December 4, 2006 10:47 AM

SAHMbacktowork - you have my sympathy and understanding and I have walked in your shoes. My lifesaver was once a month I took half a day from work and went somewhere by myself - browse the bookstore and get coffee, get a pedicure, whatever. Twice during the deployment I did get a sitter and go to a movie. It was exhausting just to be sole parent 24/7 of 3 kids. Not a single parent - just a sole parent. So, no one thought to offer to help and I didn't feel comfortable asking. Although a nanny would be wonderful, the occasional sitter and few hours off did wonders. The first weekend, before I could even tell friends or family where DH was going, was the worst. My oldest son had an asthma attack and needed to be hospitalized. I had no support to call to stay with the other two children so I could be with him. It was terrifying and awful. We worked it out and he recovered quickly but I felt very, very alone. And I too cried a lot - especially at first. My husband also got out after he returned, and had to resign his commission to do so. This caused a huge rift with his military family, none of whom have seen combat, and that rift has not healed. He's in touch with several others who deployed with him and who also left the military once they could.

Good luck and best wishes for you and your family.

Posted by: Stacey | December 4, 2006 10:52 AM

"Kids do eventually grow up!"

Yes, but it takes 20 years for that to happen. My point was that SAHMbacktowork's spouse will be home in 2 months, and that she has experienced for just 9 months what real single parents go through for decades. I would hope that she would turn her feelings and experiences into a positive thing to help others.

I'd also like to point out that real single parents don't have even the remote love and support of a spouse like military spouses do. Presence might be the most important form of support, but knowing that someone has your back emotionally is a great help as well.

Posted by: single parent | December 4, 2006 10:57 AM

This is about to get ugly: "real" single parents vs. wives whose husbands are away and in real danger. Be very careful here, people.

Posted by: atb | December 4, 2006 11:01 AM

No offense to single parents, I would never presume to know the struggles you have, but why does "single parent" insist that she has it "harder" than military wives? It shouldn't be a competition of whose life is more difficult. It's not always about you. I think that these military moms have a very stressful life, b/c not only are they taking care of children as the "sole" parent, they are also worrying about their spouse, who is in danger. It's not really the same thing. Yes, SAHMbacktowork will have her husband back in 2 months, but in the mean time, she has the additional worry of whether or not he will be killed, injured, etc.

Posted by: M | December 4, 2006 11:04 AM

It's great there are support systems in place for mothers who are single or whose spouses are away for whatever reason.

However, wouldn't it be nice if the government considered the impact the "war" is having on families, especially considering a majority of U.S. citizens no longer believe in the cause, many did not believe in it in the first place, and those who did believe in it were lied to?

I know several military wives whose husbands are on their second or third tours in Iraq or Afghanistan. It is difficult, and the military does not care -- it just keeps sending them back again and again.

Military families are already at a statistically staggering risk for divorce, domestic violence, and child abuse. There is only so much stress a family can take.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 4, 2006 11:18 AM

That is such a very sad story, and perhaps it's a great example of why a woman should NOT get involved, certainly not marry or have a child with, a man who has a military obligation.

As long as your husband is legally bound to disappear on a moment's notice with no control over his life at the government's whim, he cannot fully be responsible for his family.

Yeah, they look hot in the uniforms, but think twice before getting involved, ladies. He'll never really be yours until he retires.

Posted by: so very sad | December 4, 2006 11:20 AM

I would like to encourage the parents of those that are in the military or who even travel often, to teach your children what to do in an emergency.

While I was in the military, and in base housing, a six year old, knocked on my door to say something is wrong with Mom. I knew this family well, (and only lived 2 doors down)so he knew where to go. My point it that she was a perfectly healthly mother of three with no history of problems and all of the sudden she had a siezure. Had her children not known to come and get us, there would have been a problem. These kids did great, one of them knocked on my door to take care of them all day, and call dad, and the other knocked on a different neighbors door to take mom to the hospital. Without scaring the kids, please teach them what to do. My husband travels, so I am home alone with a 4 year old sometimes. He knows how to dial 911, and which neighbor to go to (right next door).

Posted by: ema | December 4, 2006 11:21 AM

When you are a single mom you are on your own all of the time - not just for a few months here and there while your husband is deployed. Also, while away this person can still provide the emotional support to a family that a single mother does not get. Just the facts, though I do understand that military wives do not exactly sign up for raising the kids alone - but neither do most single mothers (especially the ones whose husbands leave them).

As for this woman that died, it is very sad and it is a case where PPD is compounded by the fact that her husband was away in a war zone... I had PPD after my daugther was born (and was a single mother), the toughest part was to get an appt. with a psychologiest - after saying that I was not thinking of suicide - the next appt was about a month away. I got so frustrated with calling several places that I gave up. It was just not worth the hassle and being told to go the the emergency room (to wait several more hours) was not something I wanted on my medical history nor could afford (financially)

Posted by: single mom | December 4, 2006 11:23 AM

My mom spent many months alone in the mid 70's when my siblings and I were little. My dad was regularly deployed on 6 month cruises. She says now that she was too afraid to ask for help, because you just didn't admit that you weren't super-mom. She has regrets now that she didn't hold us more, or read to us more, etc... We lived on base, and that helped a bit as the other wives would organize picnics regularly or trips to the pool. Base life was definately a help, but still.

Her biggest regret is that she doesn't feel she did a good enough job when we were babies. We are all fine, healthy and happy..but it still bothers her.

She was scared to ask, scared that the other mothers would look at her like she was a bad mother. Now she regrets it.

Posted by: Navy Brat | December 4, 2006 11:24 AM

"Just the facts, though I do understand that military wives do not exactly sign up for raising the kids alone - but neither do most single mothers (especially the ones whose husbands leave them)."

I have a question for the military wives? When you met your husband, was he already in the military? If so, did you think that the chance that he would be deployed anywhere was low or high?

I'm asking because I chose to never have a second date with anyone in the military because I knew that I didn't want the life that many military wives have. I also married a man who does not ever have to travel for work for the same reason.

I'm not criticizing or judging military wives, just wondering. If they chose someone already in the military, I would think that they would have known there would be a chance to be a "sole" parent for an extended time. I also believe that the reality of living that way is probably much harder than what you might expect. Just like parenthood in general, more intense than you can imagine until you go through it yourself.

Posted by: curious | December 4, 2006 11:33 AM

SAHMbacktowork and others with young children:

One thing that my wife and I have discovered is that those other families with young children are also looking for time away from their kids, if only to clean up the house. And, once they are about 3 years old, when you put them together, they take care of themselves, except for food and toilet breaks. Give it a try. Invite another child over that is your child's age and who plays well. Put them in a room together with toys and you end up with a lot more time to yourself.

Posted by: Working Dad | December 4, 2006 11:34 AM

I wish mothers would be able to ask for help...would be glad to pitch in. Though sometimes it is hard to offer, because some take it as an implication that they are not doing a good job. Anyone have tips to phrase an offer to help without sending the wrong message?

Posted by: Missicat | December 4, 2006 11:35 AM

Like "Dignity for Single Parents" I had a spouse whose mental illness forced me to make a choice: go down with the ship, or save those (toddler DS and me) who could be saved. After going to the brink with the ship, I opted for the latter.

I was a single parent w/a demanding job and no immediate family for years. It's tough. It's relentless. It's tiring.

I remarried a military member who was in similar situation all around. My new spouse has been deployed several times during our marriage and that's also tough.

The biggest difference is that when I was a "single" single parent, I could do what I wanted (within limits of course), including moving or painting or a thousand other decisions, big and little.

As a "single parent through deployment," I'm tethered (not a bad thing, mind you) to a marriage partnership in ways that put some decisions on hold for fear that "moving on" too much without the spouse means that it will be harder to regain couplehood when the spouse returns. Not that we each won't have grown and changed by our life experiences in the meantime. Still, it's a weird feeling of progress-yet-suspended-animation that I never felt as a fully "single parent."

Add to that, as others mentioned, the fear for the spouse's safety. If I saw a car drive up in front of the house, I would check to see if it looked like the type of car a CAO/MAO (casualty assistance officer/mortuary affairs officer) would drive. I had resolved that if it did, I wouldn't answer the door. Stuff like that never crossed my mind--it didn't need to--when I was a "regular" single parent. In addition, the kids get worried about their absent spouse, too, so you have lots to do on that front.

During my spouse's first long deployment, I was really taken aback by how difficult it was. I had years of single parenthood--challenging single parenthood--under my belt, so I thought a few months of overseas deployment would be a breeze. Wrong. The second time, the deployment was easier (if only because I knew not to assume it would be easy) in some ways, but harder in others. Everytime I heard of a death near my spouse's deployed location, I had to wonder if it was my spouse (and look, without looking, out the window to see if the car would stop in front of my house)...

As I see it, there is NO good circumstance under which to be a single parent. It's difficult no matter why one is a single parent (which does rather make me wonder why women choose to be single parents at the outset, but that's for a different discussion).

Posted by: Done both | December 4, 2006 11:35 AM

Like "Dignity for Single Parents" I had a spouse whose mental illness forced me to make a choice: go down with the ship, or save those (toddler DS and me) who could be saved. After going to the brink with the ship, I opted for the latter.

I was a single parent w/a demanding job and no immediate family for years. It's tough. It's relentless. It's tiring.

I remarried a military member who was in similar situation all around. My new spouse has been deployed several times during our marriage and that's also tough.

The biggest difference is that when I was a "single" single parent, I could do what I wanted (within limits of course), including moving or painting or a thousand other decisions, big and little.

As a "single parent through deployment," I'm tethered (not a bad thing, mind you) to a marriage partnership in ways that put some decisions on hold for fear that "moving on" too much without the spouse means that it will be harder to regain couplehood when the spouse returns. Not that we each won't have grown and changed by our life experiences in the meantime. Still, it's a weird feeling of progress-yet-suspended-animation that I never felt as a fully "single parent."

Add to that, as others mentioned, the fear for the spouse's safety. If I saw a car drive up in front of the house, I would check to see if it looked like the type of car a CAO/MAO (casualty assistance officer/mortuary affairs officer) would drive. I had resolved that if it did, I wouldn't answer the door. Stuff like that never crossed my mind--it didn't need to--when I was a "regular" single parent. In addition, the kids get worried about their absent spouse, too, so you have lots to do on that front.

During my spouse's first long deployment, I was really taken aback by how difficult it was. I had years of single parenthood--challenging single parenthood--under my belt, so I thought a few months of overseas deployment would be a breeze. Wrong. The second time, the deployment was easier (if only because I knew not to assume it would be easy) in some ways, but harder in others. Everytime I heard of a death near my spouse's deployed location, I had to wonder if it was my spouse (and look, without looking, out the window to see if the car would stop in front of my house)...

As I see it, there is NO good circumstance under which to be a single parent. It's difficult no matter why one is a single parent (which does rather make me wonder why women choose to be single parents at the outset, but that's for a different discussion).

Posted by: Done both | December 4, 2006 11:35 AM

to So Very Sad

I knew before I married by former Army husband that military call-ups were a fact of life. That didn't stop me from marrying him. It shouldn't stop anyone from marrying a soldier or sailor. I don't think I would have been really prepared for him to leave for 6-12 months but I would have survived.

As for Leslie's post, I agree, we need more "community" in our lives. My husband and I moved six years ago, no family in the area. He worked nights so the bulk of childcare fell to me. I found it hard to ask for help because I felt that other moms were just as busy and stressed out as I was. I didn't want to burden them and I didn't want to feel inadequate. One of the nicest things my neighbor did was prepare a meal for us while I was recovering from my C-section. I have always remembered it and repeat it whenever a mom in the neighborhood has a new baby. I am also trying to organize a baby-sitting co-op so the parents in our neighborhood can go out for a few hours without having to pay for a sitter. Even if it is just for a trip to the grocery store or to clean the house, a few hours without having to meet the demands of kids can go a long way to soothing frazzled nerves.

Posted by: LM in WI | December 4, 2006 11:42 AM

SAHMBacktoWork -- I too was very moved by what you wrote. We've ALL been there! At least you can know there are many, many moms on this blog who sympathize. It helps me a lot in my loneliest times to remember the vast unseen audience of other parents cheering me on. It does get better as the kids get older. Try to find even an hour for yourself as often as you can by cutting corners at work or in housework or something!

And EMA -- what good advice. Kids as young as 3-4 should know how to dial 911 or go to a neighbor's for help in a crisis.

Posted by: Leslie | December 4, 2006 11:48 AM

"This is about to get ugly: "real" single parents vs. wives whose husbands are away and in real danger. Be very careful here, people."

Well, atb, there is a very big difference here. Military spouses do have the military paycheck coming in as well as the military health benefits for family. I'm not saying they're great, but "real" single parents usually don't have a second income and often can't afford health benefits.

I do think that military spouses need to be pragmatic. If they didn't know what they were signing on for, then maybe they should have asked better questions.

While I feel for these people, it's kind of like the deal with police officers. They choose their profession knowing the risks; when they're shot or killed, they're rarely the heroes the media make them out to be. They were just regular people doing their jobs.

Nevertheless, every time a police officer dies on duty (even if he was at fault), main roads get closed down for hours for enormous funeral processions.

Just don't get it.

Posted by: Dubious | December 4, 2006 11:58 AM

"That is such a very sad story, and perhaps it's a great example of why a woman should NOT get involved, certainly not marry or have a child with, a man who has a military obligation. . . . Yeah, they look hot in the uniforms, but think twice before getting involved, ladies."

to So Very Sad. Not only is your comment sexist (is it alright on your planet for a man to get involved with a woman who has a military obligation?), it is an insult to every individual who serves in our military and their spouses and significant others. The women and men who serve our country deserve to have spouses, significant others, and, yes, children, in their lives on the same basis as those who do not serve. Perhaps women and men who make the decision to date those persons with a commitment to Uncle Sam are attracted to decency, patriotism, values and courage rather than "hotness".

Would you discourage someone from dating a med student with an obligation to serve at the government's whim in an underprivileged, rural area? or a CIA agent with an obligation to travel wherever? or is it only military obligations that you find incompatible with family life?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 4, 2006 12:00 PM

It feels like "community" has all but disappeared in our society. It is a very depressing thought since most families now no longer live in the same location and often live on the other side of the country or worse the world. It would be wonderful if SAHM, WOHM, SAHD, Single parents, Gay or Lesbian parents, childless by choice, etc, could get over the petty bickering on stylistic differences in lifestyle choices and actually support one another. This blog has seen its share of crazy, meaningless disagreements. In the end for many of us, we only have friends and neighbors because family is too far away.

Posted by: waiting | December 4, 2006 12:05 PM

'perhaps it's a great example of why a woman should NOT get involved,'

Change it to 'perhaps it's a great example of why SOME women should NOT get involved,' and it is not so offensive.

Posted by: curious | December 4, 2006 12:07 PM

This is a very troubling and sad story. Our military families are truly the most giving. Their loved ones volunteer to sacrifice for their country and they pay a huge price. Miliatry spouses have it very hard. I am so sorry this mother did not talk to someone.

I will ignore the nasty comments about the "war that does not need to be fought" for this reason - our force is all volunteer which makes it all the more poignant when something tragic happens. There are training accidents stateside everyday where our brave service men and women loose their lives and limbs, and these loses are just as horrible.

Over the holidays there are dozens of charities that directly help families and support our wounded and dead. One that I always recommend is Fisher House at WRAMC, www.fisherhouse.org.

TO So Very sad: RE: your recommendation that women NOT get involved with, marry or have children with someone in the military - you are an jerk. What about reservists stateside, National Guard, Police Officers? What about CIA and FBI agents, Federal Marshalls? All put their lives on the line to protect you - you should be thankful they have families that love them. You couldn't be any less appreciative if you tried.

Posted by: cmac | December 4, 2006 12:08 PM

Like Dignity for Single Parents, my situation is eerily similar (though I have only one child). It's definitely difficult, but I have been a single mom for nearly five years, so this is now my "norm." But I do experience the frustration, the loneliness, the stress, etc. I have no family nearby (and even when they were geographically close, I was lucky if they showed up to my kid's birthday parties. They were zero help.).

Military wives at least know there is an end to the deployment, and they know they have someone coming home--of course, this precludes those truly unfortunate families who lose a loved one in war. But keep in mind: every person married to a cop or firefighter faces that risk every day for 20 years when they kiss their spouse goodbye at the start of a shift. My cousin was widowed at 27; her police officer husband died in the line of duty.

It's all about choices--some we have control over, some we don't. But I agree: all the military wives and wives of public safety officers are a breed apart. I worked with some of the FDNY 9/11 widows, and they are the most incredible, resilient women I have ever known. Sometimes circumstances brings out strengths we never knew we had.

Posted by: single western mom | December 4, 2006 12:10 PM

TO Curious

I don't think "knowing" your spouse could be called up and deployed can really prepare you emotionally for the reality of a deployment. My DH is currently a police officer in a not so crime free city and it took me a while to realize how much it bothered me and what the stress of him having to wear a bullet-resistant vest to work was doing to our marriage. When we had kids, the stress only became worse. As my husband reminds me, I knew this was what he wanted to do, but that doesn't make the worry any less. Once, when the stress was really bad, I confessed to him that I made sure our then four year old asked God to return him safely every night because I felt that God surely would answer the prayers of small child. We work through it by trying to make each other's lives a bit easier, being honest about the stress each is feeling, occasionally venting our frustrations (not always peaceably) and most importantly, telling each other that we love each other and telling the other thank-you and how much we appreciate the other.

Posted by: LM in WI | December 4, 2006 12:14 PM

Thanks for the response LMinWI. One of the reasons I asked is because of someone I know who married a man who travels extensively, and she knew it from day 1. This friend does not EVER want to be home alone overnight. She has trouble sleeping, jumps up at every noise, and basically is a complete wreck when he is gone. She has even gone to her parents house to spend the night, and they only live 10 minutes away. Knowing how she is, I am just shocked that she ever stayed around this man long enough to fall in love with him.

Posted by: curious | December 4, 2006 12:20 PM

Sometimes the "community" or help comes in forms that are less tangible, though no less important.

My DH volunteered to go to Baghdad because we had the oldest set of kids in his office. Someone had to go and he felt our family would handle it better than the families with the really small kids.

That didn't make it any easier on us, but it did make it easier on someone!

Posted by: Volunteering for combat | December 4, 2006 12:21 PM

I'd like to just weigh in for a minute. I've been stay at home military wife, active duty married w/child, active duty single parent and finally now with my son in college an empty nester. My husband was never deployed to combat during our marriage, but even the brief temporary duties away from home were very difficult for me to deal with when my son was small. It seems that when you're used to having a husband around it's much harder when they're not there. As a single parent you quickly learn to function on your own. You're not waiting and worring about your spouse. The difficult times as a single parent came when I had to deploy for several brief periods of a few weeks each. Luckily my father and step-mother flew out to stay with my son so he wouldn't have to miss any school to come to them. Military families are faced with terrible hardships. These separations are extremely painful. I've heard people say, "Well they volunteered". But, volunteering doesn't make it any easier and just remember that if there weren't people willing to volunteer to take on these hardships, we'd have to have a draft. Then maybe it be you or your spouse or your child going to war with no choice in the matter.

Posted by: Melt | December 4, 2006 12:29 PM

After more than two decades of marriage, I am becoming a single-parent.

Without my asking, to no fanfare, this is what my neighbors and friends have done:

mowed my grass and raked my leaves
sent me an Amazon gift certificate
bought me bulbs to put in for Spring
shared a weekly crockpot meal with me
not asked too much
said they were so sorry
did not take sides.

When I lie at night sick with grief and worry, I remember these small kindnesses, so practical and comforting.

I am grateful.

Posted by: Former Poster | December 4, 2006 12:29 PM

Well said, CMAC. A military brat thanks you.

Posted by: notyetamom | December 4, 2006 12:32 PM

I can't believe you are complaining that you are inconvenienced by someone's funeral.

Posted by: To Dubious | December 4, 2006 12:38 PM

Police officers deserve every bit of the regalia they are given when killed in the line of duty. Yes, they knew what they signed on for, but they did their job under extreme danger, for too small a paycheck. They should be paid more and given greater benefits.

Everyone hates cops and lawyers--until they need one.

No, I'm not a cop, nor is anyone in my family, but I've been helped greatly by many officers that were overworked and most likely underpaid.

Posted by: Mona | December 4, 2006 1:01 PM

"Would you discourage someone from dating a med student with an obligation to serve at the government's whim in an underprivileged, rural area? or a CIA agent with an obligation to travel wherever? or is it only military obligations that you find incompatible with family life?"

I believe a man's first duty is to his family, and if he cannot fulfill that then he should not have one.

Posted by: so very sad | December 4, 2006 1:07 PM

My dad served in the Army for 20+ years. (He went through ROTC). To so very sad I'd like to point out that many of the young soldiers my dad mentored joined the service as means of educational mobility and a stable paycheck for their families. My friend who is a current military wife can attest to the fact that you see many young families at boot camp graduation. The military provides jobs, housing, and medical care for many young people who aren't sure what to do next after high school. In our growing culture of affluence it may be hard to understand what motivates a young man (or woman) from small town America to enlist but I thank them for all that they do. Sorry, I will step off my soapbox now! ;-)

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | December 4, 2006 1:17 PM

Armchair mom--where were you in Germany? I was there with my ex when he was deployed to Bosnia. I've been both a military spouse and a single mom temporarily, but not the two together--I can't imagine that.

To Dubious: the simple fact that soldiers, policemen, firemen, etc., put themselves in harm's way every day FOR THE PROTECTION OF OTHERS makes them heroes. Next time you're inconvenienced by a road closure for a funeral, give some thought to the people who ARE driving on the closed road that day.

Posted by: niner | December 4, 2006 1:24 PM

CMAC: Thank you for your post. As an Army Brat it's nice to see that.
In regards to the other comments: I know that when I get busy or stressed or things are hectic I don't always ask for help or offer help because I think I can do it all. I think one of the hardest things for people to do is ask for help because they think it makes them weak or vulnerable. But that's just what you need to do, ask. People aren't mind readers, they can't know that you need some assistance unless you ask them.

Posted by: Melissa | December 4, 2006 1:28 PM

to so very sad. (It is my 12:00 post to which you're responding, and I did not intend to make it anonymous.)

One's duty to one's family is, at its core, the duty to protect, keep safe and provide for one's family. I can think of no more fundamental manner in which a parent can protect, keep safe and provide for his family than by serving his country and protecting it from those that threaten its existence. What's truly "so sad" is that you are able to benefit from the sacrifices of those whose choices you denigrate.

While I am the daughter of a WWII vet, no one in my family has any skin in the game with respect to this war or the military, generally. There are no police officers or firefighters in my family. I am grateful every day to all of the volunteer soldiers who are parents and take time away from home to protect their families and, by extension, all of us.

To feel gratitude to parents serving our military is not equivalent to supporting the decisions of the Commander in Chief on where such parents are deployed and for what purposes.

Just as Father of 4 gets to decide with his spouse whether having one, four, or six kids is the right decision for their family based on his evaluation of all facts, so military personnel have the right to determine for themselves whether marriage and parenting make sense based on their evaluation of all relevant facts.

Posted by: NC lawyer | December 4, 2006 1:33 PM

One more thing -- Missicat (who if I recall correctly is childless as am I) asked how to tactfully offer up help. I've seen some good ideas - meals, a few hours of babysitting but how do you offer it up in a way that a perhaps reluctant recipient will take it?

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | December 4, 2006 1:33 PM

Dubious: Unbelievable that you are complaining about a funeral procession for a Police Officer. You have nerve. It's not enough that Police Officers choose a low-paying profession that gets very little respect, they HAVE to protect and serve people like you that complain if they get killed in the line of duty. Some people "just don't get it" - put yourself in that camp.

Posted by: CMAC | December 4, 2006 1:42 PM

Some thoughts about offering help to those who could use some. If you'd like to lend a hand to a neighbor, offer something specific. Example: if you're going to the grocery store, knock on the door and ask if you can get them anything while you're there. It's easier to say yes to an offer this than to gather up the courage to go knock on a door and ask. As Melissa mentioned, people can feel weak and vulnerable asking for and accepting help. While a general "Can I do anything?" is well-intentioned, it may make the offeree feel like a burden to the community. During my stint as a single working mom this spring (we moved, and husband's job didn't transfer til four months after mine), I was lucky enough to have two kind neighbors who offered to do my yardwork. I NEVER would have asked them to, but when they offered, I accepted immediately.

Posted by: niner | December 4, 2006 1:42 PM

Oh, please.

This monster killed her children. To link this in any way to being a soldier's wife is disgusting.

And if anyone describing the tough time they've had in their husband's absence, are you saying that if you have a couple more bad days you plan on offing your kids? Three more bad days? Twenty? Thirty? Is there ever a time when you'd kill your kids because you were fed up?

To link this woman's monstrosity to any situational issue is to suggest that killing one's children is a reasonable, if slightly extreme, response to tough times. How disgusting.

If she'd been any sort of mother at all, she'd have killed herself first.

Posted by: Cal | December 4, 2006 1:46 PM

LM in WI - From one law enforcement family to another - tell your husband thanks and stay safe. You stay strong!

Posted by: cmac | December 4, 2006 1:48 PM

go back under your rock Cal.

I don't know the facts, but it seems that her death may have been an accident.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 4, 2006 1:50 PM

and Cal, read up on post partum depression.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 4, 2006 1:51 PM

Cal's not usually that mean. Is Leslie pretending to be Cal to generate more posts?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 4, 2006 1:53 PM

Cal,
I can understand your reaction on an emotional level. How awful to kill one's own children. But I think that you are minimizing the impact that serious mental health problems can have on a person's ability to reason and to make sound decisions. It sounds to me like this woman had a serious illness that caused her to make some tragic choices. And I further think that judging people who are sick in this way only makes it less likely that people with such feelings and symptoms will get help when necesssary. It is unfortunate that mental health problems are so stigmatized that people are afraid of getting help when they need it. If we were less judgmental and more supportive of the mentally ill, we might be able to help them before they go off the deep end and commit tragic deeds.

Posted by: Emily | December 4, 2006 1:54 PM

"To Dubious: the simple fact that soldiers, policemen, firemen, etc., put themselves in harm's way every day FOR THE PROTECTION OF OTHERS makes them heroes."

I must respectfully disagree.

Nobody's job, by definition, makes them a hero. The job of police officer comes with the same kinds of specific job descriptions we all have. And, at least as far as law enforcement jobs are concerned, there's very little danger faced on a daily basis. (I'd certainly accept the argument that firefighters face real danger more regularly; again, though, they're specially trained to do a difficult job.) It's not like on TV, folks. Policing is actually pretty boring most of the time. Most cops never draw their guns in the entire span of their careers.

When one is simply doing what one is paid to do (as specified in his/her job description), then, if one dies doing it, that's sad, but it doesn't make the person a hero -- except, perhaps, to relatives, friends, and neighbors.

As to the funeral issue, I have no objection to a little pomp for law enforcement funerals. What I do object to are the miles-long funeral processions that take over main highways and proceed at the stately pace of 10 miles an hour, blocking access for three to four hours at a time. That kind of display is just self-righteous PR for the cops. Cop families should object to being exploited that way.

And, you notice, they never hold these public funeral-a-thons for firefighters. Guess their lobby isn't strong enough.

Heroes are people who do something out of the ordinary in the service of others. Just doing one's job doesn't qualify.

Posted by: Dubious | December 4, 2006 1:56 PM

Very well said, Emily!

Posted by: niner | December 4, 2006 1:57 PM

To Dubious:

Regarding police funerals (and firefighters): these processions are so long because most of us recognize the sacrifice made by public safety officers killed in the line of duty. On Dec. 3, 1999, six Worcester, Mass. firefighters were killed in a warehouse fire. CNN carried the memorial service live, President Clinton spoke at the service, the Worcester Centrum was filled to capacity and another 17,000 filled the streets outside. I have a card from that service framed, sitting on the corner of my desk. Every day I remember what those men sacrificed (I worked public affairs for a fire service organization for five years; now I work for law enforcement).

Like I said: Some of us get it. Do a ride along with your local police or fire department, and perhaps you will gain an understanding and "get it."

Posted by: single western mom | December 4, 2006 1:57 PM

People like Dubious are never going to get it. They are always the one who is inconvenienced by others. But I bet they don't hesitate to call 911 and expect the first responder to save them, their house, etc without a thought for the jeopardy. Arguing with them is a waste of our breath. Let us get back to the real purpose of today - helping women with PPD or who are struggling with or without a significant other.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 4, 2006 2:04 PM

Emily, are you saying that all women with PPD are at moderate risk for killing their children? If so, then any diagnosis should be instantly referred to Child Protective Services. The mother can either move out of the home or the kids can be put in foster care.

If you are instead saying that women who kill their children are assumed to have a really, really bad case of PPD, then see my previous post.

Women who kill their children aren't "there but for the grace of god go I" folks, just a few hot baths and a massage away from normal. We spend far too much time excusing them. They don't deserve sympathy, but contempt. If we showed them more contempt, perhaps more of them would kill themselves and spare the kids.

Posted by: Cal | December 4, 2006 2:06 PM

You have a heart of stone. So sad.

Posted by: to dubious too | December 4, 2006 2:08 PM

"Heroes are people who do something out of the ordinary in the service of others."

Agreed. Leaving one's family behind to serve in a war halfway around the world is out of the ordinary. Rushing into a burning building to save people you don't know is out of the ordinary. Rushing into a school classroom because you suspect that the man holiding teenaged girls hostage at gunpoint is molesting them is out of the ordinary. And no, this doesn't happen everywhere, every day; however, just being expected to do any of this at a moment's notice is out of the ordinary. Doesn't matter if it's in your job description.

And I most certainly did not feel exploited by riding in a police funeral procession for a family member. It was a great honor. Incidentally, there was a funeral for a firefighter at that cemetary the same day, which was filled with far more pomp and circumstance than ours.

Posted by: niner | December 4, 2006 2:09 PM

A lot of you have expressed your willingness to do something to help. Below I've listed telephone numbers for the family support centers at some of the major military installations in the area and the numbers for the Red Cross at Bethesda and Walter Reed. They could probably put you in touch with military families who could use some support or tell you about other volunteer opportunities.
Quantico Family Advocacy - 703-784-3523
Ft Meade Family Advocacy - 301-677-5590
Ft Belvoir Family Advocacy - 703-805-3980
Andrews AFB Family Support Center - 301-981-7087
Bolling AFB Family Support Center - 202-767-0450
Walter Reed Red Cross - 202-782-6362
Bethesda Red Cross - 301-295-1538

Posted by: melt | December 4, 2006 2:16 PM

Single parent- I in no way implied that my life was worse than yours, or any single parent. I actually have a few "real" single parent friends (unfortunately, we don't live close) and I am constantly emotionally supporting them and giving kudos for all they do. They are strong, smart, and deserve a break, just as military wives do.
The fact that my husband will be home in 2 months does not take away the fact that it is incredibly difficult for me and others in the military.
I am thankful we have a home, food, and clothing. Many others don't. Of course I know things could be "worse", but it doesn't make my feelings any less real.

To those who believe I, and others in my position, should deal with it because we CHOSE to marry a military man- come on. That's just absurd. Who knows what it's actually like until you live it? Who knew I would have a very spirited (a.k.a. difficult) child that doesn't enjoy sleeping? What if I had had a child w/ disabilities? Do spouses of victims of 9/11 need to get over it because their loved ones chose to get on a plane or go to work that day?
Who knows where our choices in life will lead...We simply do the best we can.

I married a loving, hard working, loyal, honest man. He's an amazing daddy and a terrific husband. I wouldn't change who I married for anything.

I wholeheartedly appreciate the kind words of support from others. Honestly, it just takes a few words of encouragement to carry me through sometimes.

Thanks and here's to all of us sole/single parents! Wishing you all strength and encouragement today...

Posted by: SAHMbacktowork | December 4, 2006 2:19 PM

The fact that they take these jobs in and of itself puts them in the hero category. They chose to put themselves more at risk than the average person - isn't that what a hero is?

Posted by: Another to dubious | December 4, 2006 2:23 PM

"The fact that they take these jobs in and of itself puts them in the hero category. They chose to put themselves more at risk than the average person - isn't that what a hero is?"

No. This is the job they're getting paid for.

The word "hero" has come to mean little in our society today. That's what's so sad. Real heroes can't be adequately recognized, because every second person out there is a "hero." The whole concept has been cheapened by making sacred cows out of law enforcement and military deaths.

If we really wanted to support our military, we'd press our Congressional representatives to get them the hell out of Iraq.

Posted by: Dubious | December 4, 2006 2:29 PM

Thanks to Former Poster for sharing practical things that helped you. I'm sorry that life is hard on you right now.

I've learned that it is pretty hard to offend someone by offering help - espeically if the help is something practical, like the things Former Poster stated.

My family had a bit of a hard time this year as I spent months on bedrest and another month with a very sick infant in a hospital an hour away. Like Former Poster, most of our help just showed up unannounced. We never turned it away :-)

Similarly, a family dear to me is remembering a terrible tradgedy today. They've said that many people don't know what to say so they don't call at all. I've felt awkward every time I called, visited, or wrote them this past year. But every time, my attempts were met with more gratitude than I expected. I guess the moral of the story is: Don't wait for people to ask for help. Just do SOMETHING.

Posted by: becky | December 4, 2006 2:30 PM

Dubious has an agenda. I put a firefighter or a police office or a soldier on the level of a hero instead of a basketball player who has fathered many out of wedlock children and makes 10,000,000 a year - they are not heroes.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 4, 2006 2:34 PM

Yes, I suppose the lady who microwaved her baby was just a little down too and shouldn't get the death penalty.

Depression is never an excuse for murder.

Posted by: I agree with Cal | December 4, 2006 2:39 PM

"Dubious has an agenda. I put a firefighter or a police office or a soldier on the level of a hero instead of a basketball player who has fathered many out of wedlock children and makes 10,000,000 a year - they are not heroes."

Don't know what my agenda is, but I agree with you 100% about sports figures. They're not heroes, either. Nor are rock stars, actors, or celebrities of any stripe.

Posted by: Dubious | December 4, 2006 2:46 PM

Who are your heros?

Posted by: Another to dubious | December 4, 2006 2:49 PM

Cal,
I am saying that untreated mental illness can have tragic consequences. Assuming that every person diagnosed with depression will commit suicide or murder is not helpful, but recognizing that in some people, untreated mental illness can lead to very bad decisions does give us a baseline from which to start. Every case is different. If more people were able to get help from the onset, instead of waiting for the symptoms to become intolerable, it would be a good thing. If mental illness were not so stigmatized, more people would seek out help sooner, which would prevent the downward spiral that so often results in suicide and less often in murder. You speak as if suicide is a good thing. I just don't get your way of thinking. I am actually glad that I don't.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 4, 2006 2:52 PM

Geez Louise, yes killing your kids is always wrong. I think we can all agree on that. The point of the original article was to call our attention to the problem of PPD and the challenges faced by families coping with separation caused by the war so we could share ideas on how to help these families and maybe PREVENT any more tragedies of this kind. The mother in this instance is dead so whether or not she should be judged is really beside the point now.

Posted by: melt | December 4, 2006 2:55 PM

I still ask why are women not screened at their post-partum visits? Who better to ask the right questions, especially if the OB or Nurse Practitioner knows that the spouse/significant other is not around? Not to say they take all the responsibility but shouldn't someone ask?

Posted by: KB Silver Spring | December 4, 2006 3:03 PM

"I am saying that untreated mental illness can have tragic consequences. "

Mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorders, certainly.

However, if PPD is equivalent to these two disorders, then mothers diagnosed with the disease should not be allowed to parent or be alone with their children until they have been medicated and demonstrate that they aren't capable of harming their children.

If, on the other hand, PPD is equivalent to depression, then I disagree that we should blame her heinous acts on her relatively mild mental condition.

In either case, you are arguing that she killed her children because she was mentally ill. While I dispute this, I certainly think it's a better reason than the one that Leslie provided, and that most of the people in this thread have been offering--namely, that she was having a tough time being a soldier's wife.

Posted by: Cal | December 4, 2006 3:06 PM

KB Silver Spring, I was screened for PPD at my first two or three visits with my OB after the birth of each of our children. Screening is only as good as the honesty and awareness of the responder. I'm not sure whether this is a requirement or merely a best practice, but I understand that there's a great deal of screening being done. As you know, however, for screening to identify all moms with PPD, those moms first have to show up for post-partum OB visits, and if a woman thinks that a "good mom" should be able to handle whatever she's feeling, human nature is to respond to inquiries with reassurance that she's fine.

Posted by: NC lawyer | December 4, 2006 3:09 PM

I don't believe that all mom's with PPD are considered a danger to their children. Some women digress into Post Partum Psychosis. Who knows what this particular mother's problem was. The point is, Cal, are you listening? What can be done to prevent similar situations and support military families in general.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 4, 2006 3:13 PM

As someone who just returned from Afghanistan after a 13 month long tour I understand the family that is left behind.
Have served over 22 years in the Army and having numerous deployments over those years my family understands and accepts being apart. It is especially hard on them, like the article says, knowing that you are in a war zone and in constant danger. I am also struck by the mention of the back to back tours by this officer. This is never a good idea. This is a very sad story.

Posted by: Lou | December 4, 2006 3:19 PM

"The point is, Cal, are you listening? What can be done to prevent similar situations and support military families in general."

No, her point is that supporting military families, while a worthy goal, has nothing to do with preventing similar situations. The vast majority of military spouses are not one rough year away from killing their kids.

Posted by: Lizzie | December 4, 2006 3:20 PM

Cal,

You're extremely ill-informed about this whole range of subjects.

First of all, PPD isn't mild depression. PPD often involves temporary psychosis, whereby a mother truly may not be able to distinguish right from wrong (as in the case of Andrea Yates). More often, however, PPD manifests as a deep, clinical depression that renders a woman unable to function.

As to your assertion that "if PPD is equivalent to [schizophrenia and biploar disorder], then mothers diagnosed with the disease should not be allowed to parent or be alone with their children until they have been medicated and demonstrate that they aren't capable of harming their children," that's not only ridiculous; it's not enforceable.

You can't force a woman -- or anyone else, for that matter -- to be evaluated and/or take medication. Furthermore, if that were possible, how many women would come forward for help, knowing that their infant will be taken away?

Screening can, indeed, be done during post-partum ob-gyn visits -- and should be. In addition, caregivers like nurses, midwives, hospital social workers, etc., could -- if it were an allowable part of their jobs -- check in with new mothers to see how they're feeling.

But the draconian measures you're proposing will only cause women to hide rather than seek help. And that's not good for either mother or baby.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 4, 2006 3:24 PM

Thanks for the list, melt.
I saw a program on Andrea Yates and I could not believe what that women went through trying to get help....I know hindsight is 20/20, but it seems she wanted to get help so badly, but was basically patted on the head and told to go home and try to be a good mother. *sigh*

Posted by: Missicat | December 4, 2006 3:31 PM

I am not a health care professional, but I am under the impression that depression can indeed be very serious and not just a mild ailment. I think like any illness, depression and PPD can be either mild or severe or somewhere in between. Why not be understanding that these are in fact illnesses, and not weaknesses in character. If society brought more attention to the fact that these illnesses are real and can be treated, more people would get help before things became dire for them.

Posted by: Emily | December 4, 2006 3:32 PM

'while lack of sleep might play a role in postpartum depression.' from usatoday

http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2006-12-03-baby-time_x.htm

Maybe the push in this country for "breast is best" at all costs should be reconsidered by mothers who may be headed for trouble with ppd.

Posted by: xyz | December 4, 2006 3:33 PM

A Different Christmas Poem
The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know, Then the
sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.
"What are you doing?" I asked without fear,
"Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..
To the window that danced with a warm fire's light
Then he sighed and he said "Its really all right,
I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night."
"It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at ' Pearl on a day in December,"
Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers."
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ' Nam ',
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue... an American flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall."

"So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."
But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
"Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son."
Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."

Posted by: NY, NY | December 4, 2006 3:39 PM

dubious: you wrote: "The whole concept (heroes)has been cheapened by making sacred cows out of law enforcement and military deaths."

You insist that being a police officer and soldier is not inherently dangerous - you are simply wrong.

You state that most cops don't draw their weapons in their career - GOOD! I wish that was always the case - but it is not. Everytime a cops approaches a car, walks into a domestic dispute or responds to an alarm they are putting their lives on the line. There is no "routine call" - that is the first things cops learn. A situation can escalate without notice. You do not know anything about police work and if you insist on degrading their service - have the balls to go down to a police station and tell them what you think of their service instead of sitting pretty at your PC. They have unlimited restraint and will probably tell you to have a nice day.

As for any member of the armed service, they do jobs we would never do. From organizing supply lines, to cleaning latrines to fixing radios in deserts and jungles across the world, they ask for nothing but respect from their fellow citizens - and you won't even give them that. Millions of men throughout this country's history have laid down their lives, not all on the battlefield, so that idiots like you can spew your nonsense. You aren't worth the time it is taking me to respond to you.

Actually I really pity you, you are missing a basic human emotion - love of man that will put down his life for yours.

You degrade men and women in uniform and I am appalled, but not surprised.

Posted by: CMAC | December 4, 2006 3:44 PM

Lou - thanks for your service to our country.

Posted by: cmac | December 4, 2006 3:48 PM

I'm sure everyone knows this, but I am definitely not Cal!

Posted by: Leslie | December 4, 2006 3:53 PM

A couple of the last posts have struck me especially - I agree with the posters who have said PPD needs to be given more attention by the medical community - it has become more visible in the last few years, but I know I wasn't screened/evaluated/asked about it after the birth of my son ten years ago, and I was what you might consider a "high-risk" candidate. Also, as someone anonymous pointed out, not all women make or attend follow-up appointments, whether for reasons of time, money/insurance or just a general feeling that they don't "need" to go. Maybe it is time we emphasized the degree of importance of postpartum care the same way we now emphasize prenatal care.

Posted by: TakomaMom | December 4, 2006 3:54 PM

As a former military brat, I will say that it appears to me that the pace of deployment has far exceeded what used to be considered "normal". My dad served thirty years and besides Vietnam, when I was very young, was never away for more than three or four weeks at a time. These back to back to back "war" deployments are breaking the backs of the military and their families. The military just isn't big enough to sustain this pace. If you live near a base, one of the best things you can do is get in touch with Family Services and see what they might need for families in need, of which there are plenty. Lower enlisted families make less than you might ever imagine.

Posted by: nc mom | December 4, 2006 3:56 PM

"I am appalled, but not surprised."

cmac --

I'm curious. What are you not surprised at?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 4, 2006 4:03 PM

Thanks, Becky.

My practical follow-up here is that friends, with care, should just do things, without asking too much.

I tended to be the caregiver and did not truly think about asking for help when my lottery (bad prize) came up. I would walk past my lawn and say, "tomorrow" but then go inside the house and deal with more pressing issues, like a crying child and later in the evening, give myself permission to watch stupid TV on the couch and not fold laundry or even work via email.

Here are helpful gestures for any family in need, that don't cross too many boundries like say, doing laundry.

*gift certificate to pizza (several)
*pan of anything homemade, sweet or savory
*box of special tea, with note saying let's enjoy a cup or glass together
*rake leaves in front, but not back
*bring bulbs and offer to plant with them
*invite child to movie or walk in park
*offer to walk dog
*gift certificate to Amazon as holidays approach
*picking up milk
*bringing a loaf of bread from the fancy side of town.

One especially touching gift was a platter of cut veggies with a nice dip. Keeps well, goes with any dinner, and made the evening better (and healthier).

But as another poster suggested, don't abandon a family in grief. Make eye contact. Say hello. Stay in touch. Take the cue from them, but listen if they want to tell. Listen if they don't. You can always find something to say: Redskins. Grey's Anatomy, how Katie Couric is doing, silliness/sadness of Britney, that the leaves are beautiful, that turkey leftover is yummy.

Thanks, Becky.

Posted by: Former Poster | December 4, 2006 4:06 PM

To Dubious

Would you actively seek out drug dealers? Would you chase down gun-toting thugs? My husband does. My husband's standing orders are to protect and serve. Pretty ambigious job description if you ask me. I'm willing to bet your "job description" doesn't including dodging sniper fire and if you did have to hunker down on the floor of your vehicle, screaming into a radio for back-up, that your boss would commend you for your bravery and throw the book at the guy to tried to kill you. My husband had to watch as the sniper who set up an ambush for him got off with disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace citations. Is that a definition of a hero? If it isn't, then we truly live in a sad state of affairs.

Posted by: LM in WI | December 4, 2006 4:13 PM

""I am appalled, but not surprised."

cmac --

I'm curious. What are you not surprised at?

Posted by: | December 4, 2006 04:03 PM"

The lack of respect for those in uniform never surprises me. I see it frequently through remarks and actions that people casually throw about, but I am married to a cop - so my ears are peeled.

As for lack of respect for the military - I don't think people understand the sacrifice. We are woefully uneducated in this country about who should get the credit for the freedoms we enjoy. As the poem goes, it is not the politician or the journalist, but the soldier that provides our freedom.

Posted by: cmac | December 4, 2006 4:14 PM

LM --

That's all very laudable, and I'm sure your husband is a fine officer.

But he did choose the job, right? He wanted to be a policeman, right? He applied for the job, took the tests, passed everything, was hired, became a cop.

Are you saying that he didn't want this kind of a job?

Seems to me that he must have wanted it a whole lot to have gone through the application, testing, and training processes.

All I'm saying is that, when people CHOOSE to go into professions that are sometimes dangerous, there must be something about the job that really appeals to them -- beyond the "ambiguous" notion of serving and protecting the public.

Granted, it's gotta be hard on wives, husbands, kids, other loved ones. But for the person, himself, it's the job he wants.

So, how is it that this person -- doing the job he wanted and getting paid for it -- is a hero simply by virtue of his affilation?

Posted by: Dubious | December 4, 2006 4:25 PM

You still haven't answered my question if you don't regard the police officers, or military or firefighters as heros who do you regard as heros?

Posted by: Another to dubious | December 4, 2006 4:29 PM

Recently friends of ours welcomed a new baby. Knowing there is so much to do and with a toddler you are only half as effective I asked their son over for two play dates before the baby came. We have been traveling lately but I plan to invite him over again, just to give mom and dad a little break. I can only imagine that for a sole or single parent this would be an even bigger help.

Posted by: baltimama | December 4, 2006 4:29 PM

LM - give your hubby a big thanks from me...

Posted by: Missicat | December 4, 2006 4:34 PM

I don't think all cops or firefighters are heroes either. Some might be. Some might not. You cannot categorize a category of careers as heroic. It all depends on the individual person. Some cops are heroes. Others are abusive and racist. It all just depends on the person.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 4, 2006 4:34 PM

First off, we can remove children from mothers, at least temporarily, if they are a danger to their children.

But you're right, we wouldn't be able to do it with mothers with PPD, and that supports *my* point. Women with PPD don't kill their children in the overwhelming majority of cases. Therefore, it's absurd to argue that the women who kill their kids are suffering from an extreme case. Much more likely that the women, like all child murderers, are monsters. Why do so many people want to give them an excuse?

Regardless, it's unacceptable to attribute it in any way to being a single parent, missing one's husband, or whatever other idiocy Leslie think the war caused.


And hey! Lizzie. Hope all is well.

Posted by: Cal | December 4, 2006 4:41 PM

dubious - Are you implying that all cops walk around calling themselves heroes? They are much bigger men then you just by virtue of their willingness to protect your silly butt.

Ask any cop if they think they are a hero and they will tell you they are doing their job. If LM and me and 90% of the population want to call them heroes, we can do so - because we view them as such. You think law enforcement is just a job, but it most certainly is not.

Ask any servicemen if they think they are heroes and they will tell you the real heroes are the ones that never came home. There is nothing ambiguous about their actions and sacrifice.

It is the utter selflessness that seperates these "heroes" from asses such as yourself.

Soemthing tells me you get a lot of speeding tickets.

Posted by: cmac | December 4, 2006 4:44 PM

Cal, you've never been seriously depressed, have you?

Posted by: to Cal | December 4, 2006 4:45 PM

To Dubious

Soldiers and sailors "choose" to serve. Does that mean they aren't heros? Last I checked, the draft was a thing of the past. The point is that the uniformed services (military and civilian) choose to perform the dangerous jobs that society needs. The very fact that they choose to put themselves in harms way when most people will not, is heroic.

To the anon poster at 4:34:

Heros falter, that's part of the human tragedy. Heros can also redeem themselves. I and others both in and out of uniform would agree that there are some who degrade military and other uniformed services. However, answering the call to serve is still heroic, despite the failings of a few.

Posted by: LM in WI | December 4, 2006 4:45 PM

The funny thing about the military is that it allows both men and women to serve. And both can look hot in uniforms! If you were told that your soulmate was going to serve in the military for four years, would you still decide to look for another life companion? We both served. The reality for us is that it is far more dangerous to be commuting by car in the DC area on a daily basis than it was to serve in the military (this was before 9/11). For us, the military was a little lacking in VLI's, but great for the basics (housing, health care and loans). The education and benefits we received catapulted us far up the economic ladder relative to many of our peers, not that we really care much about those VLI's. The first five years of marriage were a little like camping for us!I would do it all again. Some people must be born knowing all there is about life and what to do. The rest of us poor schlubs have to work it out through experience. FWIW, I kind of like it that way.

Posted by: uyts | December 4, 2006 4:48 PM

"Soemthing tells me you get a lot of speeding tickets."

Haven't had one since 1986.

Posted by: Dubious | December 4, 2006 4:48 PM

To Baltimama: Your post shows that even a small act like inviting a child over to play can be a big help to a stressed out parent. You don't have to do something big and showy. I also like the idea a couple posters had of offering to pick-up items at the supermarket for your neighbor who may find it hard to get out with small children. It's the little every day kindness that make the most difference. Thanks

Posted by: melt | December 4, 2006 4:50 PM

"Women with PPD don't kill their children in the overwhelming majority of cases. Therefore, it's absurd to argue that the women who kill their kids are suffering from an extreme case."

Heh? Actually, that sounds about right. Just like those with mild depression are less likely to kill themselves than those with severe depression.

Do you believe that ppd exists? Do you believe there are levels of severity to ppd? Do you believe people can just "get over" depression? Have you ever known someone with a mental illness?

I had a very good friend of mine commit suicide who was severely clinically depressed. I will NEVER understand being that hopeless, but I know that's how he felt. I will NEVER understand thinking that killing your child is a good idea, but in her very sick mind it must have made sense.

I don't understand how only a "monster" can have a severe mental illness.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 4, 2006 4:51 PM

"Women with PPD don't kill their children in the overwhelming majority of cases. Therefore, it's absurd to argue that the women who kill their kids are suffering from an extreme case."

Chicken pox and the flu don't kill the vast majority of people who catch them. So why do we have vaccines for them? Because in extreme cases, they can be dangerous and even fatal.

Your analogy needs work, Cal. Rather than working on it, though, I suggest you stop trying to get everyone's dander up and focus the main point of this topic: if someone was there to keep an eye on these women - monsters or otherwise - maybe no one would have to die.

Posted by: p =/= q | December 4, 2006 5:02 PM

To the poster who keeps asking me to name my heroes --

Well, I won't name anyone contemporary, as that would only start a whole new battle here.

Among the historical figures I consider heroes, a couple names that come quickly to mind are Harriet Tubman and Oskar Schindler. They both risked their lives repeatedly, with no guns or back-up, to help people gain their freedom.

Posted by: Dubious | December 4, 2006 5:04 PM

NY, NY

absolutely beautiful!

Posted by: experienced mom | December 4, 2006 5:05 PM

"I will NEVER understand being that hopeless"

Let us hope you never do. But depression can strike at any time in life, so any one of us could experience what that hopelessness is like.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 4, 2006 5:07 PM

"Women with PPD don't kill their children in the overwhelming majority of cases. Therefore, it's absurd to argue that the women who kill their kids are suffering from an extreme case."

Cal, an explanation is not the same thing as an excuse. Saying that PPD contributed to this woman killing herself and her kids does not EXCUSE her acts--not by a long shot. But it does no good to just stamp the situation as "Monster!" and then walk away, when the fact that we know PPD contributed to the situation could help us prevent similar situations in the future.

No one is trying to get this woman off the hook because she had PPD. But by recognizing the fact that PPD was part of the picture, we can be more likely to prevent similar future tragedies.

Posted by: JS | December 4, 2006 5:08 PM

" Harriet Tubman and Oskar Schindler. They both risked their lives repeatedly, with no guns or back-up, to help people gain their freedom."

I agree these are great heroes. But wasn't your initial objection to describing those in uniform as heroes the fact that they chose their profession? Harriet Tubman and Oskar Schindler also chose to do what they did - so what's the real difference? That they didn't have back-up? I would think that choosing to put yourself into harms way to protect others (rather than being stuck there by circumstance) would be an aspect of heroism, not a detractor.

It's not that I think every police officer or soldier is a hero - I've met some pretty awful ones myself - but I don't understand why you would say they cannot be heroes because they chose their professions. It seems to me that many, if not most, are good people who chose that life for honorable reasons and that is worthy of respect.

Posted by: Megan | December 4, 2006 5:12 PM

"so what's the real difference?"

The differences are that:

neither Tubman nor Schindler signed on to a job with pay and benefits;

AND neither had any backup assistance from anyone;

AND they were impelled to do what they did purely from conscience;

AND they were both subject to spectacularly horrible deaths if apprehended;

AND, unlike cops and soldiers, who have detailed guidelines on when to pursue various courses of action (e.g., wait for backup, etc.), Tubman and Schindler had to simply forge ahead using their wits (as opposed to field guides) for help;

AND, they had no expectation of glory;

AND, they both succeeded in their missions.

I'm the first one to argue in favor of kids getting "A" for effort; adults, too, in many circumstances. But, to qualify as a hero, I think you have to succeed at whatever you set out to do.

This is not to say that cops, firefighters, and soldiers are not courageous. Of course they are! It's just that, being a soldier or a cop doesn't confer hero status.

Courage and heroism are two vastly different things.

Posted by: Dubious | December 4, 2006 5:25 PM

"Women with PPD don't kill their children in the overwhelming majority of cases. Therefore, it's absurd to argue that the women who kill their kids are suffering from an extreme case."

Why would that be absurd. Asn someone Most people don't die from chicken pox, but in some cases, an extreme case can kill someone. Same thing with myriad other illnesses that are generally mild, but can be severe. In addition, by catching and treating a case of ppd early, you could prevent it from escalating into a severe illness. Why is this so hard to understand?

Posted by: Emily | December 4, 2006 5:27 PM

Dubious, The following is dictionary.com's definition of a hero - so I guess they must be wrong because according to you courage doesn't equal heroism and their first definition is "a man of distinguised courage" You may not like how most of us are defining hero, but we are using the standard definition.

1.a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.
2. a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal: He was a local hero when he saved the drowning child.
3. the principal male character in a story, play, film, etc.
4. Classical Mythology. a. a being of godlike prowess and beneficence who often came to be honored as a divinity.
b. (in the Homeric period) a warrior-chieftain of special strength, courage, or ability.
c. (in later antiquity) an immortal being; demigod

Posted by: Anonymous | December 4, 2006 5:41 PM

Well, no, the Dictionary.com definition is, as you quote in full later,
1.a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.
This begs the question. Dubious, I think, is uncertain that it is appropriate to attribute nobility to all those in uniform. I side with Dubious. There are plenty of people who risk their lives every day and don't wear uniforms, and plenty of people in uniform who are cowards or motivated by less than noble principles(and who sometimes end up shooting innocent people rather than run even a small risk).
There are also a lot of people for whom being in uniform is a path to citizenship, out of poverty, etc. Need (and our government's exploitation of their plight) has much more to do with it than heroism.
Let's leave the generalizations aside, ok?

Posted by: to 5:41pm | December 4, 2006 5:51 PM

Dubious, I think that you've given a very thoughtful definition of a hero, and I understand your points. I guess my only disagreement is that I don't think the fact that someone is in a paid position automatically disqualifies someone from being a hero either. It seems to me that an officer or a soldier who goes above and beyond the call of duty deserves as much credit as a civilian who does something extraordinary - and I can only imagine that those situations arise more often for soldiers and police officers than for those of us whose lives revolve primarily around a desk and a computer.

Posted by: Megan | December 4, 2006 6:03 PM

"1.a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities."

Well, right off, you have a few problems (which is to be expected, I guess, when you get your dictionary definitions from the Internet):

1) This definition specifies "man," so apparently women can't qualify?

2) The word "distinguished" is the key here. Look it up, particularly as it relates to "Distinguised Service Medal" and "Distinguished Service Cross." (Hint: Ya gotta so something special to be recognized as a hero even in the military!) "Distinguished courage" isn't just any ol' courage.

3) Noble qualities. We'd probably better leave that one alone.

The second definition is better. But again it specifies accomplishing something. The man who saved the kid from drowning wouldn't be a hero is he dove in and drowned, himself.

You'd have spared your argument some real foolishness if you'd omitted definitions 3 and 4.

Posted by: Dubious | December 4, 2006 6:05 PM

"It seems to me that an officer or a soldier who goes above and beyond the call of duty deserves as much credit as a civilian who does something extraordinary"

Agree, Megan.

The important word here is "extraordinary." My point is that working in law enforcement or the military doesn't automatically make you a hero. The fact that you go out on the mean streets everyday IS part of your job. And, sadly, not every death in the line of duty is the result of heroic actions.

I'm simply opposed to the kneejerk tendency to call every dead soldier, cop, etc., a hero.

Posted by: Dubious | December 4, 2006 6:10 PM

I'm with you, Dubious.

On the male issue, I once had a professor who liked to stir things up by arguing that women could not be heroes because they were constitutionally incapable of experiencing courage. I kid you not. And yes, I completely took the bait on that and went to town on him. But I bet the dictionary defines a hero as a male because a female would be a heroine, yes?

Posted by: Megan | December 4, 2006 6:18 PM

Megan,

Boy, I remember profs like that. The ones who thought the easiest way to get a debate started in class was to throw out a gender-spiked issue. I really hated those guys.

As to the dictionaries, I have to conclude that they are simply sexist. :>)

Over and out.

Posted by: Dubious | December 4, 2006 6:28 PM

"when they're shot or killed, they're rarely the heroes the media make them out to be."

Dubious, For the sake of argument, let's assume that not every deceased soldier or police officer is appropriately labeled a hero merely on the basis of his or her profession. Even if that statement is true, your original comment that these persons are "rarely" heroes remains breathtaking in the scope of its intended insult. In your efforts not to label 100% of persons in uniform as "heroes", you carelessly denigrated the courageous actions of many men and women who nonetheless are heroes even under a more rigorous definition. I haven't heard you offer any principled basis for your initial comment.

I suggest that it is far better to recognize each fallen soldier or police officer as a hero, though his particular actions might be ordinary rather than extraordinary, than it is to fail to recognize such a fallen soldier or police officer as a hero in the event he merits it.

Finally, I'm baffled at your statement that the media, generally, is the source of positive recognition of the accomplishments of soldiers and police officers. Maybe they just have to die first, because IMHO, the media does all it can to emphasize dirty cops and bad soldiers to the detriment of the reputation of the heroic, the potentially heroic, and the just-plain-good-guys.

Posted by: NC lawyer | December 4, 2006 6:34 PM

Whether a police officer or firefighter or soldier is technically a hero seems kind of irrelevant.

I'm grateful to them nonetheless, even the ones who are doing their jobs at a non-heroic level.

The two Philadelphia police officers who showed up at my apartment after the last time my ex-husband beat me were responding to an absolutely routine call and not obviously heroic. But the advice they gave me -- to get a protective order, to hire a divorce lawyer, to watch out or I might be dead the next time -- saved my life.

And the ambulance driver who convinced me to go to Children's Hospital when my two-year-old was having seizures...And the Minneapolis firefighters who showed up on Christmas Eve when my friend's house caught fire with her two daughters upstairs in their cribs...And the rookie officers who took me to Mt Sinai when I was in the last stages of a very quick labor during the NYC marathon...

They were all just doing their jobs but none of us would sleep at night without knowing, in the back of our heads, that this country has a police force, ambulance drivers, firefighters and soldiers.

I think they all deserve our respect. And their families do too, for their unsung daily sacrifices. Whether you volunteer or not doesn't make a difference. It's what they do on the job every day that does.

Posted by: Leslie | December 4, 2006 6:49 PM

"No one is trying to get this woman off the hook because she had PPD. "

Really? Here's Leslie's post:

>I can only imagine the added pressures Faye Johnson Vick must have felt, knowing her husband was in danger every day -- and not knowing when or if he would be coming home. It must have been particularly hard during the holiday season, when everyone seems to be together with family

Sounds like an excuse to me.

Most sexual offenders are mentally ill. Certainly pedophiles are. So do you give a pedophile or a rapist the same sympathy that you do a woman with PPD who butchers her children?

Posted by: Cal | December 4, 2006 6:56 PM

Cal has no clue about depression or PPD. Yes, both can be mild, and sometimes they resolve without treatment. But they can also be disabling, treatment-resistant, and chronic. Treatment doesn't always work, and not everyone has access to it. As a single adult who has struggled against severe, treatment-resistant depression most of my life, I can't even imagine how difficult it must be to be severely depressed and to have the full responsibility for two small children. So buzz off, Cal.

The direct, person-to-person "take the baby, drop off dinner" suggestions that other posters have mentioned sound like great ways to help single parents, parents whose spouses are deployed in the military, or really any parents or non-parents who is going through a trying time w/o much support.

In addition to the contacts already provided, here are some suggestions for people who want to help military personnel and their families. Do copy and paste to other e-lists or blogs. At the site where I found this list, all the organization names were links. The links disappeared in this message, but all of the organizations are easy to find online.

10 WAYS TO SUPPORT THE TROOPS

1. Any Soldier
Any Soldier Inc. helps soldiers in all branches of the military, both active duty and reservists; it has become one of the leading efforts in making sure the men and women who have been deployed are cared for, via letters and packages from "home." AnySoldier.com provides addresses that you can use to send emails, letters, or more tangible support. The support could be in the form of a simple letter or package, or it could toiletries, clothing (e.g., socks and underwear), food (e.g., crackers, chips, candy, canned food), CDs, DVDs, or books, newspapers, and magazines.

Donors address their letters and packages to the name obtained from the AnySoldier.com web site, but also add the words "ATTN: Any Soldier" on the second line. The recipient shares the mail with fellow servicemen and women. If there is "Any Soldier" who is not receiving a lot of mail or packages from home, that soldier will be the first person to receive the letter or a portion of whatever is in the package.

2. Books for Soldiers
Books for Soldiers is a soldier support site that ships books, DVDs and supplies to deployed soldiers and soldiers in VA hospitals.

3. Adopt a Platoon
The AdoptaPlatoon Soldier Support EffortTM is a nonprofit 501C-3 organization managed nationwide by volunteer mothers to ensure that deployed United States Service members in all branches of the military are not forgotten by providing needed mail support.

4. Soldiers' Angels
Soldiers' Angels is dedicated to making sure no troop goes unloved. It was started by a mother whose son requested letters for fellow Soldiers while oversees. You adopt a Soldier, make personal visits, send needed items, or other needed things. The organization also provides support to families of military personnel who are oversees.

5. Operation Helmet
Operation Helmet provides helmet upgrade kits free of charge to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as to those ordered to deploy in the near future. In addition to providing enhanced blast protection, the helmet upgrades are much more comfortable and stable than the 'strap/sling' suspensions that generally come with standard helmets.

6. Operation Comfort
Operation Comfort's mission is to create a nationwide network of mental health providers and agencies to donate their services, free of charge, to family members who have a loved one serving in the Middle East.

7. Homes for Our Troops
Homes for Our Troops, Inc., is a Massachusetts nonprofit corporation that builds specially adapted homes for our disabled veterans of war.

8. Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund
More than half of the brave men and women who have given their lives in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere have left behind a spouse or children. These families must now face their future without a husband or wife or father or mother. In addition to their grief, many of them must also address the questions of finding work, where to live, how to raise their children, how to provide for their education, and even how to get food on the table.

9. Operation Uplink
Operation Uplink is a program that keeps military personnel and hospitalized veterans in touch with their families and loved ones by providing them with a free phone card. Operation Uplink uses contributions to purchase phone cards and distribute them to servicemen and women who are separated from those they care about.

10. Operation Homefront
Operation Homefront was created to channel volunteer support to help the families of deployed military personnel. With hundreds of thousands of service members deployed for war with Iraq, and countless others around the world fighting the war on terrorism, thousands of spouses and children are left behind, many in need. Operation Homefront is there to support military families while their loved ones are deployed.

And one more.

Fisher House
http://www.fisherhouse.org/
Provides free or low cost lodging to veterans and military families receiving treatment at military medical centers.

Posted by: THS | December 4, 2006 7:02 PM

Truly a sad story. I'd be interested in knowing what the physician's responsiblities are if someone is diagnosed with ppd. Since the patient is someone who has just given birth, there will be children involved. Is another adult notified that the mother has ppd, or is this protected by doctor/patient confidentiality? Maybe the village let these children down.

Although Cal offends people, I do think she has somewhat of a point regarding the children being in the mother's care. I don't believe that the children should be summarily removed from mothers who suffer from ppd, but their fathers should definitely be notified.

And while I also realize that failing to seek help is part of the illness, in this particular case there was a diagnosis, so a doctor must have been involved at some point.

Posted by: late to the party | December 4, 2006 8:27 PM

The more we can support each other, the better. It's often hard for women to reach out and say they need help. I know that's true for me. If you suspect a fellow mom needs something--just someone to talk to, a hug, or a helping hand--don't hesitate. It can't hurt to show you care.

Susan @ Working Moms Against Guilt
http://wmag.blogspot.com

Posted by: Susan | December 5, 2006 12:25 AM

This is ridiculously late, but I had to respond:

"Really? Here's Leslie's post:

>I can only imagine the added pressures Faye Johnson Vick must have felt, knowing her husband was in danger every day -- and not knowing when or if he would be coming home. It must have been particularly hard during the holiday season, when everyone seems to be together with family

Sounds like an excuse to me.

Most sexual offenders are mentally ill. Certainly pedophiles are. So do you give a pedophile or a rapist the same sympathy that you do a woman with PPD who butchers her children?"

No, Cal, to me, that sounds like an accurate description of the state of mind of a woman who committed an atrocious crime. I don't read that as an excuse at all.

As for your sexual offenders, yes, I'd feel bad for them if they were suffering from acute mental illnesses that contributed to their actions. Mental illnesses suck, and I would hope they would get treatment from behind bars, which is where they would belong if they were sane enough to tell right from wrong, and where this mother should be if she had survived.

Posted by: JS | December 5, 2006 11:17 AM

"I recall a few years back when my husband and I watched a newscast about a new mother harming her infant due to ppd. His repsonse was that she was a piece of ****.
I was appalled! I told him that ppd is serious and that she obviously needed help from her husband, her family, etc."

That's an insult to all the depressed people, including women with PPD, who do know the difference between right and wrong instead of hurting innocent people.

"No offense to single parents, I would never presume to know the struggles you have, but why does 'single parent' insist that she has it 'harder' than military wives? It shouldn't be a competition of whose life is more difficult."

Exactly. Besides, not all single parents have it equally hard and not all military spouses have it equally hard! Also, sometimes the same person has been in practically both roles. Imagine being a married mom or dad, then having your husband or wife deployed, then finding out your husband or wife was killed out there and you're now a widowed mom or dad (or would it be "widowered" for a dad? I don't know)...

"to So Very Sad. Not only is your comment sexist (is it alright on your planet for a man to get involved with a woman who has a military obligation?), it is an insult to every individual who serves in our military and their spouses and significant others."

It also ignores military *couples*. What about when two soldiers fall in love with each other (and if they want to have a child, make good childcare arrangements ahead of time with friends and/or family in case both are deployed at the same time)?

"If, on the other hand, PPD is equivalent to depression, then I disagree that we should blame her heinous acts on her relatively mild mental condition."

Isn't depression what the D in PPD stands for? Anyway, depression can be severe too (or by "relatively mild" were you counting even severe depression as milder than some other conditions?).

"Among the historical figures I consider heroes, a couple names that come quickly to mind are Harriet Tubman and Oskar Schindler. They both risked their lives repeatedly, with no guns or back-up, to help people gain their freedom."

According to http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p1535.html

"...Tubman returned to the South again and again. She devised clever techniques that helped make her 'forays' successful, including using the master's horse and buggy for the first leg of the journey; leaving on a Saturday night, since runaway notices couldn't be placed in newspapers until Monday morning; turning about and heading south if she encountered possible slave hunters; and carrying a drug to use on a baby if its crying might put the fugitives in danger. Tubman even carried a gun which she used to threaten the fugitives if they became too tired or decided to turn back, telling them, 'You'll be free or die.'..."

Heroic and gun-toting aren't mutually exclusive. ;)

Posted by: Maria | December 6, 2006 12:45 AM

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