News broke earlier this week that a military spouse shot and killed her child before turning the gun on herself, dying by suicide.
The news hit the community hard and military spouses are left wondering, where is her movement? Where is her foundation? Where are the bills being passed to help people like her? Silence. As America prides itself on patriotism and strength, we neglect to support the nurturers our foundation was built upon: the military spouse.
Tristen Watson and her son Christopher. Watson was also pregnant with her second child at the time of her suicide.
So many military spouses have silently struggled; myself included. Our community claims to be uplifting and empowering, but when do we really support us? After it's too late? Once the person is gone, then do we band together for support and strength?
It's time we put as much energy into someone's life as we do in mourning their deaths.
Up until recently, the Department of Defense did not keep track of the number of suicides committed by military spouses. Why? Because it wasn't important. We have always been an afterthought in this community. Our struggles have been minimized as we are called "dependa" and other derogatory slurs that paint an incorrect image of our lives.
According to the Department of Defenses' first ever study on dependent suicide, in 2017, nearly 200 military dependents committed suicide, that year. Of that, over 100 were military spouses. Knowing that these men and women were spouses of a military member and internally battled something we knew nothing about is not okay. Did they ask for help? Maybe. Our community is pretty tough and often times asking for help may result in actions that are not helpful at all, like bullying.
Our lives aren't easy. The images of military spouses you see on television aren't completely accurate. We hurt, too. We face mental health issues like every other human. Yes, we endure hardships within military life. We work, we go to school, we solo parent, we struggle with PTSD, and yet we still find the strength and courage to care for our service members. Many military spouses have college diplomas that are collecting dust, as our student loans collect interest, because we cannot obtain gainful employment. We are turned down by employers because of gaps in our resumes or lack of longevity.
New military spouses receive briefings from members of the Military and Family Readiness Center and Key Spouses during a spouse orientation seminar April 5, 2018, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.
We volunteer within the military community as Soldier and Family Readiness Group Leaders, Crisis Response team members, and so many other positions that help keep our military strong. We are a valuable asset to the military that is often overlooked and underserved. We deserve to have a voice. You need to hear our stories.
Remember, when you are sharing that meme and berating the struggles of our military spouses, you are contributing to the destruction of an already under supported community. Our stories matter. We matter. Let's spread this message of love and support to our sisters and brothers living their lives with wounds we cannot see. Be the voice of the silent. Speak up!
If you are a military spouse struggling, reach out. Know that your sisters and brothers love you and want you to be okay. We are a village. It's time to embrace one another and uplift each other during these tumultuous times.