When a soldier is called upon to serve in a hostile country the specter of death begins to haunt their spouses and other family members.
But the odds are greater that one of these civilians will be killed in an automobile accident near home than that military personnel will die, according to Oregon National Guard Sergeant William Smith, who oversees the Family Support Program for the Gorge. “You and I would be safer in downtown Baghdad with the U.S. Army than walking in downtown Los Angeles or driving a car,” said Smith, who recently returned home from 12 months of active duty in the Middle East.
He said the percentage of soldiers actually being subjected to front line combat is very small, although that fact is rarely put into perspective in media broadcasts.
“Every time an American soldier dies they put it on the national news and flash it in front of the whole country and that creates a lot of stress for military families,” he said.
To help deal with that underlying sense of dread, Smith said the Guard has appointed personnel to respond to any civilian need a spouse or partner, whether its help with a household emergency or just dispensing some simple encouragement.
“We’re that caring hand, friendly face or voice in the dark when things are difficult,” Smith said. “We’re going to get someone out there to solve the problem with practical, tangible help.”
He said it is important that spouses and relatives of enlisted personnel take advantage of the support program because they need to develop an “emotional platform” to cope with the situation. He said the knowledge that all is well back home relieves guilt and stress for service men and women who are deployed at foreign duty stations.
“We help them to understand that they have a responsible to their soldier to be strong at heart while he/she is away taking care of the world’s business,” he said.