- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 20, 2008

Dear Ms. Vicki: My husband just returned from a one-year deployment, his third since 2003. Now we have orders to move to a new base, where he has been told to get ready for another deployment. My husband says he won’t go again. He says he will go AWOL before he deploys again.

Ms. Vicki, my husband is not listening to reason. I told him we can make it through this, and that I understand he does not want to go back over there, but going AWOL would only make matters worse. God knows, I don’t know what I would do if my husband ended up arrested or worse. He is looking so sad and depressed. He says his luck is running out, and that if he goes back, he knows he won’t make it home. I’m so scared for him. He feels like nobody understands.

Ms. Vicki, who can I talk to about this? I’m not trying to turn my husband in or anything, but what should I do? - An Understanding Spouse

Dear Understanding Spouse:

Many service members have told me and other clinicians that they think their luck is running out every time they deploy. Moreover, they report feeling the same way every time they are downrange and travel beyond the wire. These are all symptoms of combat stress, and I think your husband has some of these symptoms.

I applaud your efforts to support him and challenge his faulty thinking. He appears to have some depression and anxiety, and I totally understand why. There is help out there for your husband; he must get connected to some services.

First, make him an appointment to see his primary care physician. They can discuss some of his symptoms, and the doctor can rule out any other medical conditions. From that point, the physician will refer him to other services, such as behavioral health and psychiatry services.

Second, this is a tough time for your husband. Please consider speaking to your clergyman, your parents or a trusted friend who could provide support.

My last suggestion is to search online for other means of support. For example, Military.com and MilitaryOneSource.com offer information and resources for family members.

Dear Ms. Vicki:

I’ve read your column in The Washington Times for the past couple of weeks, and I just want to say I think women like you are what’s wrong with our military spouses today, specifically officers’ spouses.

Officers’ wives are supposed to be a different breed because you are to stand out above everyone else. You need to be this way because you have to plan and host events, sponsor and be a part of foundations, and represent your military community and the surrounding community, too. To do this, you must be able to speak well, dress well and know how to socialize appropriately.

In one of your last columns, you advised the relative of a young officer to accept the woman he is going to marry. I totally disagree. His mother and his family should let him know unequivocally that they don’t support his decision to marry a woman who just won’t fit in among the officers’ ranks.

There was a time in my husband’s career when officers’ spouses wore white gloves to events. Once upon a time, you could tell when you were in the presence of an officer’s wife. Now they just blend in with everyone else, and your advice is helping this occur. A military spouse is not just a regular woman, especially not an officer’s wife.

To the young officers’ wives who may read my letter, I’m asking that you not become just regular women as Ms. Vicki advises, but stand out and above the rest like you are supposed to! - A Concerned Reader

Dear Concerned Reader:

Wow! Ma’am, thank you so much for your comments, and I’m glad to know you’re reading The Washington Times. I think you are giving me far too much credit for changing the way military spouses think, specifically officers’ wives.

I have to admit I’m not much of a conformer. However, if the white gloves work for you, then go for it. I have no interest in starting a group of nonconforming, obstinate military spouses, please believe me. I can only be myself, and yes, I encourage others to do the same.

Vicki Johnson, a licensed clinical social worker, military spouse and mother of three, has been counseling service members and their families for 15 years. Her column runs Thursdays and Sundays in The Washington Times. Contact her at [email protected]

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