Life On the Front Lines, Back Home

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My heart sinks to my toes…my head spins with worries: is it someone I didn’t call back? Is it someone I couldn’t get onto my calendar for four weeks? Oh, God – please don’t let the name be familiar, please…

The last month in our community has been devastating. The rumors of suicides of Soldiers at Fort Campbell have come from every angle – I don’t know an official number; one is too many. There have been two homicides allegedly committed by Soldiers. Our community hurts for our Soldiers and their loved ones.

I can’t be in my office enough to offer a calm space for these heroes to emotionally purge. I can’t tell them, “No, I don’t have any appointments open.” Did they tell me “no” when they were told they would be leaving their loved ones and going into a bleak spot where there are no clear battle lines? No, they packed and left – with full confidence they would be cared for upon return.

They work non-stop during deployments – they keep going when they don’t think they can. They sacrifice the amenities of our entitled American lives to fight – to protect these very things.

My deployment cycle is opposite of our Soldiers – when they are deployed, I rest. When they come home, I deploy into hour after hour of being present for these heroes. I breathe between the sessions – I pray for guidance – I plea to be as stoic as each of them has become.

My life continues to be easy, even with 12 to 14-hour days. I sit in an office without concerns of insurgent attacks. I go home every night to my family. This life is easy. Their lives are not. The “sacrifices” I make are minimal compared to theirs and their loved ones.

Please don’t tell me to slow down – please don’t tell me to remember to take care of myself…what I want you to tell is that you, too, are making some type of sacrifice to help carry this heaviness our Warriors and their loved ones have endured for almost 11 years.

I am humbled to walk amongst our nation’s heroes every day. I am honored to give a little back to them. I am proud of each and every one of our Service Members and I want them to feel connected, important and appreciated. This is what every human needs and although, they complete super-human missions, our Soldiers are still human.

Townsend is a senior licensed psychological examiner and licensed professional counselor in Clarksville, Tennessee, close by Fort Campbell. She has been working in the field of mental health for more than 15 years. focusing on military mental health care since 2006. In 2007, she founded SAFE: Soldiers and Families Embraced,  a non-profit organization to help with the mental-health needs of active-duty, veterans and their family members.