Top things not to say to an Army mom whose son is deployed
by Kelly Hutchinson, a proud Army Mom from Kansas
I have written this list in an effort to help my family and friends understand the emotional turmoil that comes with having my precious son half way across the world fighting in a war zone. Even as well-meaning friends and family have time and again said things that made my jaw drop, brought tears of pain or a desire to scream in frustration, I always have known that their intent was to show they care.
If sharing my experiences can help just one other person avoid saying something that is unintentionally hurtful or stressful to another military parent, then I have accomplished my goal.
10. Where is he? What is he doing? (The safety of our troops comes first. Even if I know where he is and what he is doing, which I probably don't, I cannot share specifics. I will not jeopardize the security of our armed forces. Google OPSEC if you're unsure why I'm so elusive about this!)
9. Any sentence that begins with "I saw/heard on the news today..." Do NOT do this to an Army mom. We are painfully aware of scary newscasts about what is happening where our son is deployed. We also are very aware that the media twists things and edits news to suit what will sell the most. Don't be stupid enough to remind us of this!
8. You must miss him. (Hmmm. Ya think?!)
7. Oh you poor thing..or you poor dear!? (Them's fightin' words to an Army Momma. I'm not a "poor thing". I'm a proud momma whose son is fighting for YOUR freedom. 'Nuff said!)
6. How are you? (Look, I know you care, but my answer may vary from moment to moment, and asking just creates pressure for me to respond. If you're a good friend, you won't need to ask "how" I am or "what's wrong". Just give me a hug or a smile instead!)
5. I"m sorry he's over there. (I'm not. He chose this. He knew what he was facing and he went in with his eyes wide open, because he knows he can make a difference.)
4. We shouldn't be over there. (We are. Deal with it. I have to. I'm as helpless as you to control the powers that be in Washington.)
3. I understand; or I know how you feel. (NO, YOU DON'T. Not unless you have had a child willingly join an all volunteer military in a time of war, knowing he is placing his life on the line for you and for me and for the freedom of strangers in a foreign land who may never understand or appreciate the cost.)
2. I hope he doesn't get hit by an IED or get shot at! (Well, duh!)
1. I thought of you so I'm forwarding this email. (HOLD IT RIGHT THERE. Is it sad, sappy, or otherwise a "downer"? Please skip it. I don't mind an uplifting inspirational note, but I don't need any well-meaning tear-jerker emails, with or without photos. Please. Especially if they are the tired old forwards that I've already seen before. I'd rather have an email FROM YOU and WRITTEN BY YOU. Even if you tell me how your dog barfed on the carpet and Jimmy got suspended from school again! Seriously...it's a nice distraction. Life doesn't revolve around me being an Army mom - I want to hear about you too!)
Top things you should say to an Army mom whose son is deployed
Contributed by Kelly Hutchinson, a proud Army Mom from Kansas
10. I hung a yellow ribbon. (God Bless you!)
9. I'm flying a flag in my yard. (We all should, THANK YOU!)
8. You must be very proud. (Oh, I am. Ask to see pictures and you will see me smile!)
7. I care and I'm here. (Thank you. These words mean so much and we never tire of hearing them!)
6. Please tell him "Thank You!" (I will. He's modest. He didn't do this for glory, but I know that it is important for him to hear that people back home appreciate what he is doing.)
5. Can I send him a letter, card or note? (Hell, yes. He'd love the support and if you are feeling generous, please tuck in an extra card or note for one of his platoon buddies who doesn't get much mail from home. You'll brighten both of their days. God bless you!)
4. Can he get packages? What does he need? (Absolutely. The guys LOVE to get care packages. What he needs may vary, so ask me. He may need baby wipes, foot powder, granola bars or beef jerky. Next week, he may need some clean Army issue socks. The next week, a magazine or newspapers from home or a deck of cards might mean a lot. It depends. God Bless you for helping our troops!)
3. Can I pass his name on to my prayer circle? (ABSOLUTELY. But please don't just pray for my son, please pray for ALL the sons and daughters, wives, mothers, husbands and fathers serving over there. They ALL need our prayers!)
2. How's your other son? (THANK YOU FOR ASKING! I am incredibly proud of both of my sons. This has been hard on him too. His brother is his best friend. It'd be great if you'd offer him some words of encouragement too!)
1. I will pray for him. I will keep him in my thoughts.
What not to say to military parents when a child deploys
Contributed by Kathy Guzzo, a Marine mom
- “It’s really no different than sending them off to college.” (Really, I sent 3 daughters to college in different states and none of them ever wore flack jackets or carried an M-16 24/7, they could come home for holidays and I could call them.)
- “I’m sure he’ll be fine.” (Unless you are God, there is no way to assure any family of this.)
- “At least they have Internet, think of the families in previous wars that had no contact at all and received letters months apart.” (Technology is wonderful, but it’s very intermittent at best and the fact is they are still in a war zone and it’s extremely stressful to hear bombs in the background when talking to them.)
- “Seven months or a year isn’t that long” (That may be true for some, but when each day seems like a month, it seems like eternity.)
- “Has he killed anyone?” (This is rude, crass, and shouldn’t need to be explained.)
- “Since this isn’t his first deployment, it will be easier since you know what to expect. (Each consecutive deployment gets worse, for that very reason!)
- “My nephew, neighbor, friend’s son, etc. was deployed and said it was no big deal.” (That’s great for them, but everyone’s deployment is different, and I would question if they were telling the truth or trying to protect their loved ones.)
- “No one forced him to sign on the dotted line.” (This is true and I’m proud of him/her for doing so. That dotted line was signed because of the desire to serve the greatest country in the world.)
- “If it were my child, I never would’ve let him enlist in the first place.” (That’s sad to hear. If a child feels called to the military and is enlisting for the right reasons, what right do parents have to dissuade him from that decision in order to keep themselves from having to deal with the emotions involved?
- “I couldn’t handle it if my child was a ‘casualty’ of war.” (Can anyone? This comment is just a reminder of the danger involved.)
- “They should bring them all home before any more are killed.” (Regardless of opinion, the fact is that right now they are there fulfilling the mission put before them and we need to support them in anyway we can.)
Oher parents say:
- Never start a sentence with "Gee, aren't you worried about (fill in the blank here: he will get shot, he will die, he'll have PTS when he gets home,he'll get hit by an IED and end up crippled, he'll suffer traumatic night terrors...etc). And for gosh sakes, don't launch right into a story you heard about some soldier's painful situation. We are MOMS. YES we worry! We are not going to share our deepest fears, it's not your business, we have a strong faith and a resounding pride and our sisters on the homefront to support us. Besides, it's just plain rude to ask something like that. It's similar to telling a young mom in her last trimester with first child "Oh, gosh, labor is SO painful" and then launching in to your childbirth horror story. That young mom did not need or WANT to hear negativity; neither do we.
- When our son deployed to a very dangerous battle zone, his brothers and I traveled to be with him and his wife before he left. I witnessed and experienced the RIPPING and TEARING apart of hundreds of families including my own. It was one of the hardest things I had ever had to do. The only time I had ever felt such pain was when my Mom died. When I returned to work the following week, a well-meaning colleague asked, “Did you have a wonderful weekend with your family?”"