Saturday, November 28, 2009

I want to know.

I had a friend in the National Guard in college. He deployed twice. He was at Fallujah and has pictures of him with Saddam Hussein's gold toilet. At a party once, he told me that he had shot and killed people downrange. I wasn't an Army wife then. The military wasn't even a blimp on my radar. We all felt bad for our military, but I had no idea what they really went through. I was a psych major. And one of the only females that hung out in the group. I considered myself very lucky that he felt comfortable enough with me to open up like that. He obviously needed to purge this thought. And the guys always gave him a hard time, telling him that they saw Jarhead, life downrange must be rough. And he played the big strong soldier. But I got to see the other side of him. It was so interesting to me. I tried not to pry. But I wanted him to know that he could tell me anything without me judging him or thinking poorly of him.

The night before I married Joe, I remember looking at him when I thought popped into my head. My husband could kill someone. How did I feel about that? I was so worried about him being killed, it never dawned on me that he might actually take another life. It was so strange to me. I shared the thought with Joe. He just looked at me funny, like I was really late to this party! Obviously, right! He's in the ARMY. What did I think he was going to do downrange? He noticed that the thought was new to me so we had a conversation about it. In my own sort of fuzzy morals, I managed to deal with this thought.

But now the chances of deployment are fairly high. And the thoughts come back to me. I allow myself to compartmentalize so much so I don't have to think about the thoughts of killing and death. When I open these boxes up, the worms just fly out! And my thoughts often return to that young National Guardsman that needed to tell someone what he had done. So I told Joe that I wanted to know if he had killed someone. He just laughs at me. But I have my reasons. I don't want to have to wonder if he's killed someone. But I also don't want him to think he has to hide that side of himself from me. I don't want that tension on our relationship. He already knows that I have fairly fuzzy morals about the world anyway. On a personal level, I'm a serious humanist, knowing that ALL people are equal human beings, no matter their race, gender, religion, or beliefs. We have many conversations about taking a life and why I'm not in the Army. I don't like the idea of being sent somewhere and ordered to kill someone I don't know over stupid political gains, money, or oil. But on the flip side, if someone broke into my house, I would be the first one to shoot them in the face (My husband likes that quote).

So Joe asked me again the other day if I would want to know if he killed someone. And again, I said yes. Thankfully, his job and MOS might not require him to be in much combat, if any at all. My grandpa was a mechanic in Vietnam. When he was asked if he killed anyone, he used to tell a story about being in the motor pool one evening when three enemies walked in. He says he fired at them, but doesn't know if he killed anyone. But now being an Army wife and not a granddaughter, it makes me wonder if it was just a story to keep us quiet. Surely he knew if he had killed someone. And of course he wouldn't tell his small grandchildren the whole story, but would he tell his wife?

I want Joe to be able to purge all he needs to. And my mother asks me, do you want to know when Joe has to kill that 9 year old holding a gun? But more than for my curiosity, I want Joe to be able to get it all off his chest without the guilt of thinking I'm going to label him a bad guy. This is war. He's in the Army. I knew this when I married him. So yes mom, when that 9 year old has a gun aimed at my husband, I want my husband to shoot back. And I want him to be able to tell me he survived another day because he did what he needed to do. I don't want him to think he has to bury that deep inside and live with that secret for the rest of his life.

What can I say... fuzzy morals.

I haven't expressed this thought to many people. I get two very different extreme reactions. Some people are quick to understand and see where I'm coming from. Others cant see the reasons I feel are very warranted and want to reprimand me for my ideas. I just wanted to send this out into the void. I don't know if these thoughts are normal for a woman married to an Army solider. I've been told I might be more open to the idea because of my background and psychology degree. But these are my thoughts. And I promised myself that I would be as honest as I could on this blog.

Would you want to know? Would you want your husband to be able to share that with you if he wanted to?


Anita Tedaldi said...

What a thoughtful post. I'm married to a special ops man in the Air Force and struggles with some of your same thoughts. Like you I would want to know and even more seflishly I would even want to know for me....
I think it's important to be honest and examine all of these feelings they're hard and sometimes contrasting.

Thank you for writing this!

Julie said...

I am married to an infantry man so the chances that he would have to kill someone is high. But after 2 tours in Iraq he hasn't had to which I really do consider a blessing. I want him to tell me if he did because our relationship is just open like that. And if he is carrying around something like that that bothers him I would want to know.

Anonymous said...

I think it is good that the two of you had the conversation, and I think it is different for every couple. For us, I would like him to be able to feel that he can talk to me about anything, but for him he needs me to be that "other" part of his life, the untainted part, the one where he can forget and be distracted by "normal life". He has buddies/padres/counselors he can talk to about the ugly bits. Sometimes things sneak out, but I know not to push for details, however much I want them.

TheAlbrechtSquad said...

My husband and I talk about EVERYTHING, this is something we have agreed on. Between him and being a support system for my best friend who is a war widow, I know more about one of my husband's tours then either of us might have ever imagined. Being a former Soldier as well who has deployed, my husband sometimes cannot separate me, his wife, from the Soldier he met so he feels very comfortable telling me the good, the bad and the ugly.

You have to do what is right for you and your marriage. I know many wives who have no desire to know anything and that is fine for them. Me, I need to know everything and my husband is okay with that.

*~Brittnee~* said...

Yes I would want my husband to be able to tell me anything. Espesilly if it is hurting him inside, I want no secrets between us when he comes home, but I don't want to know about it till he is home and safe. If he told me he had to kill someone who was going to kill him or one of his men I would worry more about him, but when he comes home and needs some one to talk to I want to be the one he talks to. It would not change the way I feel about him or the way I look at him. My husband is my rock and I understand that if he is forced to kill someone, it is becouse that person (man, woman, or child) posed a very real threat to his life or the life of his men. I would rather have my husband shoot someone and come home safe with all his men than to loose his life or the life of one of his men becouse he didn't want to kill some one. Not sure if this helps...

Megan said...

My husband just got back from Afghanistan. It's a hard issue to wrestle with, wanting to know whether or not your husband has killed someone or not. Most Army Wives (and military wives in general) don't want to know about whether their husband's have or not, so I applaud you for having the bravery to deal with that info so that your husband can get it off his chest. On a totally unrelated note, my hubby and I are from Arkansas (well he is, and I claim it as well). We lived in Bigelow, outside of Little Rock. LOVE Arkansas. Its sooo beautiful!

Sara said...

Thank you for everyone's thoughts. I appriciate the honesty and personal stories!

@Megan- Arkansas is beautiful! I agree. It's really pretty most of the time. I miss is on many occasions. Summer is NOT one of them! The summers there are just horrible!! Kansas has been a lot like Arkansas, just less humid... and far more flat! I dont know where Bigelow is, but I've heard of it before. My hometown is Paris, exactly midway between Ft. Smith and Russellville. It's tiny and not much fun at all.

HellcatBetty said...

What an interesting post! One of the things i love most about you and your blog is that you don't pull any punches... whatever you're thinking about is what comes out. It's refreshing.

I really struggled with this idea when I first started dating hubby. I hated the idea that this person that I loved could ultimately take another human life. Now, after some time to think and grow in our marriage, I have come to accept the idea. I will never love it, but I accept that this is his job and it is always a possibility. As for whether I would want to know, I don't think it's up to me. I want to know if he wants to tell me. We're open about everything, but if he wanted to keep that to himself I would understand completely. Hopefully I'll never have to encounter that situation.