As a Coast Guard spouse, we always have reasons to worry. This however is one of the big ones we rarely think about. It is hard for military spouses to not drive ourselves crazy with the worry, we all have our own tricks to do just that. But on days like today, it is a little bit harder. It is a reality check that it can happen anywhere. We have to trust in the training that our spouses are given, and trust those they serve with. We have to trust that God will protect them, we have no choice but to put so much trust into things that are out of our control. It is definitely one of the hardest parts of this life.
Part of being a military spouse is coming to grips with that worry and finding that way to not let it control your life. As a Coast Guard spouse, our worries tend to focus more on more natural things. We worry about them going out to rescue someone in a storm or responding to a boat fire and something happening to them. In some areas the human aspect comes into play more. In those areas our spouses are responding to drug trafficking and/or illegal immigrants. These are the times that the same human aspect of worry that other military spouses deal with on a daily basis comes into play.
When something like the attack at CG Station Grand Haven happens, it sends a ripple throughout the entire Coast Guard. It affects not only those members and their spouses at that unit, but every member and spouse throughout the entire CG. We have the initial reaction of fear, followed quickly by the relief that everyone was okay in this situation and more so, that it wasn’t our spouse that was there. The relief that it didn’t happen at our spouses unit is overwhelming. However, that is followed closely by feeling guilty for feeling that relief.
In the past few years, we have sat at home more than once and watched or read news stories on shootings and other incidents at military bases around the country. In these moments we have much the same reaction. However, the guilt side might be slightly less, because it happened to another branch, to a base that seems so far away from us. It almost doesn’t seem real. This could be because we feel the need to distance ourselves from the incident. We can’t let ourselves feel the reality of it. It is a wall we put up in order to protect ourselves from that worry that could leak in if we let it.
When something like this happens to our own branch, our own people and one of our stations – that reality hits home. It comes crashing through that wall like a wave. Every fear, every past incident, every piece of worry we have pushed down and hid behind that wall comes into focus. We can no longer ignore the reality. We can no longer pretend it won’t happen to us. Because it just did. It happened. One of our stations was attacked. In this instance everyone was fine, but what if it happens again? What if the next time everyone isn’t fine? How do we deal with that reality?
The truth is, we can’t control these things. We can’t hide in a bubble with our family, ignore the world, and keep them perfectly safe. Life doesn’t work that way. This new reality simply becomes one more piece of the worry puzzle we have to deal with. It becomes one more thing we have to push to the back of our minds and not let ourselves focus on. Because the truth is, if we allow ourselves to focus on any one of those pieces, we will drive ourselves insane and it will take over our lives. In the life we choose to live, worry cannot have a permanent place. It is impossible for us to live our lives if we allow the fear of something like Grand Haven to have any kind of permanence in our minds.
When I first read the story of this attack on Station Grand Haven, I went through those stages of fear, relief, and even guilt. Then I allowed myself to take a breath and remember that it is out my control. We have to push aside that fear and live our lives. We have to know the difference between being aware, and being paranoid. If we don’t, what kind of life are we living? We can’t live a life of fear because then these “terrorists” win. They thrive off of the fear, they want us to be afraid to live. We can’t let them have that satisfaction. We have to swallow it as another piece of our reality and move on.