I read an article this morning which compelled me to write about something I’ve never really discussed with anyone. It’s a tricky subject. I’ve wrestled with writing in detail about it for a couple of years but ultimately decided it was simply too hard to explain my raw feelings and inner turmoil. And quite honestly, I feared what others might think.
When my husband was deployed, I constantly thought about worst-case scenarios and how I would react to them if they were to become reality. I’m not ashamed of this, I think it’s a perfectly reasonable response to the perfectly strange existence of a wife whose husband is a zillion miles away in a combat zone.
There is a certain pragmatic streak in me, making me seem like a slow-moving train in the night. Our marriage has lasted at least 25 years, at times a careen through more drama than we prefer. Simply put, we have loved and fought. Anyone with a marriage as long or longer will have had times when words are barely spoken, when being together seems an impossible puzzle.
I slowed the pace, pulling the dog next to me. “I need you to know what I want you to do if I’m captured,” he said. Then he described what I was supposed to do, what would happen, and most of all, not to talk to the media.
This wasn’t what I expected. Being captured wasn’t what I wanted to hear or think about. I knew bad things happen. People are maimed, bent or never come back. Although I had assiduously avoided TV, the books on my nightstand were a model for intellectual self-flagellation. In other words, I read ridiculous amounts of analysis, reports and cultural history. Intellectualized to keep my fear at bay. While my head was stuffed with facts, it left me emotionally drained.
“The Army will take care of everything,” he said.
All I could manage was a feeble okay.
As I war-gamed various scenarios over and over and over again, there were days when I came to an unsettling conclusion about a scenario which I’ve rarely seen discussed in milspouse circles – having a spouse captured and Missing In Action. For better or worse, we’ve become accustomed to reports of injury and death. We know, all too well, that risks are associated with this profession. I believed I could deal with a severe injury, or even death.As much as I hoped and prayed our family would never face either situation, I also knew that if handed either fate, I would be facing a certain, concrete reality. The situation would be placed squarely in front of me and there would be no unknowns. These were situations which I could attack and exert some sort of control over. But the thought of my husband being captured, whereabouts unknown and being tortured by barbarians who would mutilate his body and inflict unimaginable pain on the man I love made me physically ill. Not only would I lose him in the end, but he would have been tortured to death. No, It was definitely the least acceptable scenario of all the vulgar scenarios which spilled out from the dark recesses of my mind when I allowed myself to open the most undesirable of undesirable vaults.
Or was it?
There were days when I would tell myself that I was being preposterous. Insane, even. On some days, this conclusion made perfect sense to me but on others, not so much. And it felt incrediblywrong to even think such a thing.I was having an internal struggle over which horrific scenario was worse. Not a productive or healthy use of time, I admit, but that’s how it went.
I wondered if other milspouses had nightmares about their loved ones being captured. If so, I wondered if this was one of those subjects that milspouses just don’t discuss because they fear that civilians, and even othermilspouses, would be appalled at this line of reasoning. How do you say, “Did you ever wonder if death would be preferable to a capture” and expect a lively, honest discussion to ensue? Talk about being the downer of the party….
And did I really believe death would be preferable to capture? I told myself that if someone is captured, at least there’s a glimmer of hope that he could be rescued, though I didn’t hold out much hope of a Jessica Lynch-style rescue. Round and round I went, but each time I landed on “captured,” I experienced a paralyzing fear which is difficult to describe. As irrational as it may seem, it affected me more negatively than anything else.
Those were not fun days. As prayers go, mine often went something like this, “Please God, Not That….”