- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dear Ms. Vicki,

Can you help me stop my daughter from leaving our granddaughter with her paternal grandparents while she is stationed in Korea? I think she is doing this just to spite us.

She says if she brings her child, she will have to do two years in Korea instead of one, and she does not want that.

But I think she wants to leave her child behind because she knows she will have to stop partying if she takes her with her. Plus, she knows if we keep her (which we wholeheartedly want to), then I will hold her accountable for financial support and that would affect her party money.

My husband and I don’t want our grandchild living with her other grandparents because they drink alcohol. We don’t trust that they won’t drink or get drunk in our grandchild’s presence. They do not live near us, so I can’t keep an eye on this issue.

What rights do I have? We are former military, although my husband did not retire. Do you think I should call legal services on base for some advice?

- Concerned for My Granddaughter

Dear Concerned,

I’m glad you are invested in the care of your granddaughter. This is great and I wish more grandparents would do the same. Conversely, I’m not sure why your daughter is not choosing to leave her child with you while she is stationed in Korea. It’s my guess that you can be somewhat of a micromanager in her life and patronizing, too. I feel that you don’t trust her or think she has the best interest of her child at heart.

You said the paternal grandparents drink alcohol. Do you think all people who drink alcohol are neglectful parents or alcoholic? This isn’t true. To the contrary, if you never consumed any alcohol, you could have an addictive personality just the same, but that’s another topic.

My advice would be for you to seek open access to your granddaughter so you can spend time with her. This means you should strive to have a good relationship with the paternal grandparents. The course you are currently taking will only lead to discord with them and your daughter.

Professionally speaking, I’m not hearing that you think your granddaughter is in danger. However, if you feel that she is, then go with your gut feeling and call Child Protective Services and report it. It will be up to those professionals to investigate your claim.

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I know I need help to deal with the demons of war, but I know it could affect my career. What repercussions do I face if my chain of command tries to cause problems for me?

- I Don’t Need Another Struggle

Dear Struggle,

I understand what you are going through on this concern. Many service members are facing the same. Your feelings are normal and I want you to know that you are not alone. From other letters I have received, service members have been ridiculed, mocked and called weak for seeking and receiving behavioral health services. I’ve even heard people report that having mental-health services on your record can, in fact, hurt your ability to keep or maintain security clearances. I regret this, and as a mental-health clinician, I work very hard to erase the stigma of seeking and receiving services. One should not reap reprisal for doing so.

However, here’s the deal. If you don’t start receiving services to help you “deal with the demons of war,” as you state it, it will surely affect you personally and professionally.

In my professional and personal opinion, you owe it to yourself and to your family to seek help. You have many people like myself behind you and we truly thank you for your sacrifice. I think you should start by reporting your symptoms to your primary doctor to rule out any other medical conditions. Your doctor will refer you to behavioral health and other resources. Most behavioral health clinics have walk-in services or you can call them directly for an appointment.

This is not your fault, but I encourage you take care of yourself. You deserve to live a rich, full life. Keep in touch when you can.

Reader response to a previous column:

I read your Jan. 22 column, which was written by the wife of a military officer who was passed over for promotion to lieutenant colonel. She spoke about his anger, that he is moody and agitated, and rhetorically asked if he hadn’t kissed enough you-know-what. She said she no longer wants to see people from his unit, that she has stopped volunteering and participating in unit events, and that other less-qualified officers were promoted.

Based on her husband’s behavior and her comments, it is apparent the board made the right decision. As long as the system worked to this couple’s benefit - at the expense of others - they were supportive team players. However, the moment they were adversely affected, bitterness and anger replaced support.

Everyone gets passed over for promotion. The key test of character is how we react to it. Perhaps “Coping With Non-Promotion” should look at what they have, versus what they do not. What her husband will have is a full military retirement and lifetime medical benefits after 20 years of service, then a civilian career beginning in his early forties. Almost anyone they meet would be thankful for that.

What is the frame of reference for my comments? I, too, was passed over for promotion to lieutenant colonel, so I know firsthand the pain and frustration of being left behind. Rather than being angry at my fellow officers and bitter at my service, however, I congratulated my peers - remember, they are not to blame.

I am very proud of my contribution. Indeed, the real beauty of our respective services is that each continues to soldier on as others render their last salute and depart the active ranks. I am content with myself having served to the best of my abilities and setting a positive example for my peers and subordinates when I was faced with personal adversity. Most importantly, I never confirmed the board’s decision by acting out in a negative way. Finally, I have had a very successful post-military career.

- Mr. Not Bitter at Non-Promotion

• Vicki Johnson is a licensed clinical social worker, military spouse and mother of three. Her Dear Ms. Vicki column runs in The Washington Times Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at [email protected] yahoo.com.

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