In the days since the killings of innocent Afghan citizens by an accused American soldier, I think heartbreak weighs heavily. The numbers are staggering: four men, three women, and nine children are dead. The pain and grief of their families is palpable in news broadcast after news broadcast. It is sickening to see families torn apart so senselessly. Their loss is utterly devastating.
Here, Americans are reeling as well. How did this happen? What did we miss? Did the soldier suffer from PTSD or a TBI or something to make sense of, though certainly not excuse, his unfathomable actions? Each question seems to raise more questions, yet they do little offer comfort or assuage the grief.
Part of this story, quietly added on to the end of many reports, is that this soldier has a wife and two sons. I have heard that they have been moved into on-base housing for their safety. I cannot imagine how devastating this tragedy is for his wife, and how confused and scared his children must be. It is hard enough to explain war, deployment, and military life to children. I have no idea how this spouse will make sense of this to her children, when I cannot make sense of it for myself.
It is my hope that her community will rally around her and her sons. I hope her sons will have the space to ask the questions they need to ask, and the friends to stand beside them while they try to find some sense of normalcy. I hope she is somehow able to pick up the pieces. Too often, when tragedies like this strike, we turn on the family members. We assign blame and ask how they didn’t know or why they didn’t do more, yet we are slow to offer even an ounce of support. I do not think offering support to his family does anything to take away from the families in Afghanistan who are grieving their loved ones. It just acknowledges the devastating impact of such a terrible tragedy on all the innocent people involved.