Sunday, April 29, 2012
My Husband Takes a Turn
Nick recently had some training that hit a little close to home for us. We talked a lot during those two days and tried to keep each other in a "now" state of mind. I asked him if he would be open to writing a blog post for you all, just about his training and how he felt. I think it might be interesting to hear from his point of view. Below is his post, enjoy!
The Army sucks at establishing priorities! I am preparing to take command of a troop of soldiers and so the Army requires me to take a myriad of classes in preparation. There are tidbits of great information, some good and a lot of repeated, convoluted and useless information. This week I was sent to the casualty notification (CNO) and casualty assistance officer (CAO) course. This is a two day course that covers, as the name implies, how to notify the families of casualties of the death of their loved one, and how to assist the family with all the important tasks in the months thereafter. We were sent so that as commanders we would understand the process and also it is our unit’s turn for this very solemn duty.
I was deployed with Stacey’s previous fiancé. In fact, I served under Mike while he was an executive officer and acting commanding officer for about a month. I knew Mike, but not well. I wouldn’t even say I had the privilege of calling him a friend. I remember the night that Mike was killed. I was filling out a report on a computer in the troop command post. The computer was in the same room where we monitored the radios. All of a sudden someone called in a contact report (which means they had come under attack). As the details unfolded we realized Mike had been very close to the explosion and was seriously injured. I ran out to get the other three platoon leaders, the guys who could call Mike a friend, and told them that he had been hit. I remember looking up at the stars that night and thinking of Mike’s fiancé and how this would change her life. Mike was battling for his life at that moment, but I knew either way that across the world Stacey would either be receiving a call or a car would be pulling up to her door with the terrible news. The next day a car pulled up to Stacey’s door.
As I sat in class this past Wednesday it was very different than the other classes I have taken. This one was personal, and it was difficult. Everything we spoke about brought thoughts of this difficult time in my wife’s life. Stacey and I texted back and forth during our breaks, as we often do, and she reminded me that she is happy now and everything is ok. That helped. During our texts I got the idea that maybe Stacey could come in and share her story, and from her experience what helped her and what the Army did that she did not like. Like most things in the Army, training is very structured and usually with a lot of PowerPoint slides. As I said at the beginning, we also go through a lot of classes. So it is very easy for soldiers to just want to check the block on training and move on to the next item on their list. This training was too important! I remember a widow friend of Stacey’s who we got to spend some time with, Jayme. Jayme had an awful experience with her CAO. Her experience was so bad that she has done graduate work on how the Army trains our CNOs and CAOs. I thought that this was an opportunity to show at least my class of twenty-five soldiers that these are real people and that if we have to perform this duty we are changing their lives forever.
Stacey agreed and we scheduled a time for her to come in the next morning. She did an awesome job! I am so proud to have her as my wife. I took away a great deal from this course. I learned about the process and through reflection and conversation with Stacey I learned about the non-tangible aspects of the process, the emotions involved, what goes through the head of someone hearing the terrible news, the things that are difficult to put on a PowerPoint slide. I believe that Stacey was able to pass some of that on to the other soldiers in my class and it is my hope that if they are called to do this duty they will be able to do it with the reverence and honor that is required. Our unit’s roster has been turned in to do our duty. I hope I don’t receive a call to do it, but if I do I will be ready.