Questions Hard to Answer On Afghan Tragedy

afghan child_opt

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.

About the Author


Mollie has been a Navy Wife for just over two years, when she married the boy who was a blind date to her senior prom. Since then, they have moved four (going on five) times while her husband transitioned from ROTC to his training pipeline. She now knows that it is possible to fit over 700 pounds worth of stuff in a Nissan Versa, that it is important to know how to open the hood of your car before your drive your husband to work on base, and that finding a pen in the pocket of Summer Whites before they go into the washer earns you an ice cream date with the husband. She has yet to figure out what two-thirds of the three letter acronyms her husband speaks in mean, but she is debating making an app for that.

Mollie currently works as a part-time consultant writing reading passages for standardized tests, which isn't quite as boring as it sounds. Between wrangling their dog Finn and keeping up with her husband's ever changing schedule, Mollie enjoys writing, playing tourist in each new city they move to, and perpetually job hunting --ha. After this next move, she hopes to put her degree to use and finally land a job teaching writing courses.

  • Honestly, situations like this worried me just as the fear that he would be killed, captured or injured. I feared that he would break and do something to dishonor himself, our family, and our nation. I immediately thought of this family when the news broke, and I hope that they have a loving support system as they try to cope with what their soldier has done. There are systems in place to care for the rest of us, but there is nothing in place to help with something like this. I would love to be able to send personal words of encouragement to this wife.

  • Ellen

    I’ve been following this story with interest. It’s been noted in some articles that the Soldier had suffered a brain injury. In another article I read, it was suggested he had received some letters from his wife (marital trouble type) that made him upset.

    The book is still being written on what multiple deployments will do or can cause to happen in a person. How do you take a human being, make him into a fighting machine, and then ask him to forget all that he has seen and done when he comes home? Furthermore, I do not believe there is enough of a support system in place for families during deployment (sorry, but I don’t think the FRG makes as much a difference as people think – or wish – it does)

    We do not, by any means, do enough for Soldiers who come forward needing help. Though training is provided, it may not be enough and certainly, the stigma attached to mental health issues needs to be addressed as well. My husband suffered depression on his last deployment. Though he repeatedly told his chain of command he needed help, he was told to suck it up. It wasn’t until he threatened suicide (because yes, he was that desperate to get help) that something was finally done and only done after I got involved with the Rear D commander demanding to know what was being done (he had no idea any of this was going on). Truly, are there any clearer words in the English language than “I need help”? In 2009 (or so) General Chiarelli, who at the time was tasked with figuring out what was going on with the record number of suicides in the Army said, “We need to foster mental health the same way we foster physical fitness” Clearly, this has not been done. And judging by this latest incident, we have a long way to go still.

  • beingmade

    Ellen, I’m heartbroken reading stories like yours. And my heart broke in multiple ways over this horrific situation in Afghanistan. Like many of you, I immediately thought of his family. We are letting too many service members AND family members slip through the cracks and fight alone. I ache for these sweet children and their families, but I also ache for this soldier’s sweet children and family, and for him. The moment I read the headline… There’s just no way something like this could have happened outside of it being directly related to the mental wounds of war.

  • Bonnee

    This is why I love this community-more than anyone we know what the cost can be, and it isn’t just to the one wearing the uniform. I am glad to know this family has some protection and I pray that they are supported through this.