The Wrong Door

Everyone knows that the worst day possible would be the fateful knock on the door.

But what would you do if it was the wrong door?

We've seen the scene on We Were Soldiers when the taxi driver scares the life out of Mrs. Moore, and we've all heard the urban legends, but it really happened last night.

Sis B got that knock at the door, and


My heart stopped just reading her post; I can't imagine living through it.

About the Author

Sarah has been married to her soldier for a bit more than 10 years. In the past decade, they've been at six different duty stations in four different branches of the Army. They've also endured three deployments, six miscarriages, and a failed IVF. Sarah's blogging focus has shifted some in the past five years, from common military issues to something more personal: the difficult intersection between the military and infertility. It's hard for some couples to start a family; it's even harder when one person spends a lot of time on the other side of the globe. But Sarah was lucky enough to declare Mission Accomplished when their daughter was born 10 days after her husband's return from Afghanistan. And she tries to remind herself how irreplaceable and cherished that daughter is now that she's entered the terrible two's. In her free time, Sarah is a pioneer housewife: knitting, crocheting, and cooking ... and sometimes even firing a weapon.
  • Even knowing it was the wrong house, my heart stopped while reading it. I cannot imagine.

  • I’ve read the headline several times now, and read Sis’ post, and it gets me a little upset every time. I can’t even imagine what sort of odd out-of-body experience that must have been.

  • SigGal

    Ugh. I want to say I’m incredulous. However, sadly, this does not surprise me. Shame on them all.
    If a Chaplain or Rear Detachment person has not called her to see what assistance she needs now due to being traumatized, they are continuing to be wrong.

  • Sarah

    SigGal — Sadly, I think most soldiers are oblivious to our anticipatory grief. I have had minor “scares” before where I’ve lovingly chided uniformed soldiers to get off my lawn because they are freaking me out. They looked at me like I was nutty and paranoid. I think they truly just don’t get how much we fear that knock and how anything that remotely reminds us of the knock is bad. I hope they’re checking on Sis B, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they blew it off. It wasn’t her husband, so she should be fine, right? Wrong, truly.

  • They were from a different unit. I asked for their phone numbers so I could provide them with the new address of the family they were looking for, and they refused to give them to me. I kind of wonder if they’re trying to stay out of trouble.
    I called my own Rear D commander after the team left, and the leadership of our unit is being very supportive. They found a friend who could come over within minutes of hearing the news, but I was already headed out to a different friend’s house for a few hours.
    So yes, I have had support. But not from the people who caused the trauma. I’m considering whether I should take any action, and if so, what action I should take.

  • joyce

    I am glad to hear that your own unit is being supportive, but this is SO wrong. Please speak up so that this does not happen to anyone else. Where was the breakdown? They need to LEARN from this mistake. Thank you for speaking up. And I am so sorry this happened. What a nightmare.

  • I spoke with a LTC in the unit today. He was appropriately apologetic and also quite pleased that I had called. He knew about the incident and wondered about how to get in touch with me (I’m guessing coming and reading my doorbell was not high on his list of options).
    We spoke about measures to ensure this never happens again. One of the issues is that addresses on post have had a minor change. Another was that my friend had not updated his DD93 since November and his family moved in December to another state. I let the LTC know that I understand that there are so many variables involved in these situations that mistakes are inevitable. I suggested that in the event that mistakes ARE made, that the unit reaches out to support the family that was affected by supplying a chaplain or getting in touch with the affected family’s FRG. I also suggested that they should follow up with the family and make sure they are doing alright and to offer official apologies for the scare. I let him know that I appreciated that the team asked my name before saying those awful words that they come to say, so that I didn’t have to wait for the part where they say your soldier’s name to realize they were at the wrong house.
    He appreciated my suggestions and will be speaking with the casualty assistance office on post so that the changes can be made post-wide rather than just in his unit.
    All in all, I know a lot of folks were angry on my behalf. But truly, I think casualty notification has to be one of the absolute worst duties in the military. True, they need to work to minimize mistakes and they need a caring response to families who are affected by mistakes. Being angry or playing a victim (see Andi’s awesome post from today) doesn’t protect other families from this kind of trauma. Seeing the problem, coming up with a solution and making sure the right people do what they should do to fix it is really the only way to deal with it.
    If my experience can keep other families from having to go through it, it was worth it. In a lot of ways I am glad it happened to me and not to any of the young girls in my FRG, because as the FRG leader I immediately knew my resources and drew upon them for support.
    All that being said, I am still fairly traumatized, have had nightmares and can hardly bear to imagine that I will one day hear my husband’s voice again. I am also grieving for my friend who gave his life in Iraq and for the family that he leaves behind. Theirs was the real tragedy. Mine was a minor inconvenience by comparison.
    (This comment has turned into a blog post of its own, sorry about that! I may post something similar on my own blog later.)

  • *that would be RINGING my doorbell, not reading it. because that would be silly.

  • Oh, and that was AFW who wrote that post today. I was tired and needed a nap when I commented earlier. :)