By Jordan ChapmanFebruary 26, 2011
The reaction to hearing that a loved one has lost their life while fighting for our freedom can range from detachment and denial to anger and hostility and knowing they're not alone is half the battle forward.
About 30 spouses of Soldiers in the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, completed and Advanced Care Training session Feb. 23 at the Army Community Service building. Those spouses will be ready to comfort and support should Families in the brigade have to face a severe loss.
Each of the attendees received Care Team bags filled with supplies they can use when visiting a home in duress -- boxes of Kleenex, coloring books and crayons for children, listings with important phone numbers and more.
The training began with a emotionally-charged video telling the stories of wives, husbands and parents who had lost their Soldiers and what kind of feelings they first felt and how they dealt with their loss.
The video also instructed attendees on how best to connect to a person that is detached, such as speaking quietly, making light contact or offering to get a glass of water.
The video didn't cover all, though. A question and answer session was hosted after the video, with Lt. Col. Christine Pacheco, Nolly Gibbs, wife to Brig. Gen. Ricky Gibbs, 1st Inf. Div. Commanding General for Maneuver, and Cynthia Wesley. Each of the panelists had experience in comforting grief-stricken Families, much of that coming from the losses experienced during the Iraq "surge" in 2003.
Their main advice' To become a great listener.
"Every situation is different ... and they're all complicated in their own way. Be a good listener, be flexible and be a good communicator with whatever reaction you get," Gibbs said. "That death is like turning the lights off in their world," she continued, though quick to point out that team members shouldn't feel like they have to go into a home and fix everything.
"We're really listening more than we are talking," Gibbs said. "My faith system to say, 'God takes the best to be with them' or 'there is a reason for everything' -- those aren't helpful. We're not here to make sense of this, it may never make sense, but you have to trust that they will find a way. The most we have to do is be present ... and to offer some comfort," she said, explaining that in her experience, many Families wanted to talk about their Soldier and tell stories, which lets those trying to help learn more about their relationship, which in turn can help everyone.
No one wants the task these women volunteered for and they all hope they never have to be called upon. However, thanks to the initiative of the 2nd BCT leadership and the hearts of the brigade's families, should the moment arise, no one will be alone and no one will be forgotten.