Moving is on the minds of many military families this time of year, and several readers said they could relate to the June 22 Spouse Calls about filling empty houses. Here’s one letter:
"I so enjoyed your article in Stars and Stripes. I, too, was an Army wife, as we used to say in the British Forces. That was over 40 years ago and I know the trauma of moving to house after house.
"We had four children — two boys and two girls. I went alone to Germany with two very young children — in those days by train, boat and train again in deep snow. My husband met us at the train station to tell us he was off on a training exercise for two weeks, leaving that night. Welcome to Germany.
"But we loved it. When we moved six years later we had two more children. I never wanted to move again, but there were many more moves to come. It did affect the children’s schooling, but my eldest daughter took it all in her stride and has ended up as head of a school here in England. You don’t know how much I missed the life when it was all over. My husband at 77 years still ‘lives Army.’
"I miss the moving, packing and repacking. Don’t worry about the children. They do adapt. All of ours have good careers but none wanted to follow their dad. Best wishes to all military wives. I wish it was me."
— Shelagh, England
Another reader wrote with her response to the July 6 column, which featured a letter from the wife of a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder.
"As a counselor for the Army having seen similar cases directly after Vietnam, it has been heart-wrenching to see the military reinvent the wheel for the treatment of war trauma.
"We have been here and seen this before, and it is to be expected by those with any breadth and depth. [The] appeal of patriotism and hero worship cloud the reality of war. Those who sign up walk into a reality they did not anticipate. War is truly hell and a shocking ordeal that few are emotionally prepared for. Few come back the same and family dynamics usually take a painful shift. Sadly, most counselors and therapists like myself see elements of what (this) couple is facing every day.
"For the men in my family who have suffered, they have coped by visualizing a box where they put the war experience. It is placed high on a shelf and brought down to examine only when necessary. They have told me they know they cannot forget, so they box it and get on with life.
"There are many techniques, and each soldier must find what works for him. I have suggested to many soldiers that the best way to honor the lost buddies, for instance, is to simply live and live well. Keep them alive in memory and honor them by the upward course of your life and determination to thrive in spite of war. Rational conversations only happen, though, after the dark night of chaos from a destructive path, like the soldier in your column.
"I hope your column reminds everyone to be kinder and gentler. We are walking among people who are wounded and for whom a kind gesture may have more meaning than we know. We need to be polite and civil in general but make the effort to be mindful to be more considerate."
— Sandra, Germany
Terri Barnes is a military wife and mother of three. She lives and writes in Germany. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org and see the Spouse Calls blog here.