Here's what she's going through in the wake of this horrific tragedy.
Melissa Burroughs-Karlberg: It's not that I don't love my family every day. I love them so intensely that it pains me on a regular basis to consider any bad fate that could come to them. But days like today make me hold them a little closer, hug them a little harder, and make sure there is no doubt in their minds how much I treasure them.
Yesterday's Fort Hood massacre just hit too close to home. My former home, Fort Hood. We recently left Fort Hood after four years to move to our new station in Fort Irwin, CA. Six weeks before we left TX, my husband returned from a 15-month Iraq tour to me and our 17-month-old son. It seems so long to be without a husband, especially raising a newborn. The time away was horrible, but (and most military wives will agree) the weeks leading up to the deployment are worse. The tension and anticipation of the countdown are unbearable as you ponder the tragic end that could result from the deployment. Every military wife has a vision of that unmarked car pulling up in her driveway to deliver the news. It's not something we talk about to our husbands or each other, but we all know the possibility is there. I think there is a defense mechanism that makes us prepare for the worst even though, logically, we know there is no preparation for something so awful. The time they are gone goes quicker than one might think. There are bad days -- there are cry-into-your-pillow-in-grief, punch-the-wall-in-anger, collapse-on-the-couch-in-defeat days along the way. But mostly you get into a routine until, finally, he returns. And the grief you felt as you released him from that final goodbye hug before deployment is replaced by, no other word can describe it -- relief. He made it home alive. You realize then that you really weren't as calm that past year as you led yourself to believe. Another defense mechanism. You had been holding your breath the entire time and now you can finally exhale.
The people who were massacred yesterday were either just about to deploy or just returning. Their families were experiencing that dreaded countdown or that overwhelming relief. For one group, their soldiers never got a chance to survive Iraq. They were so worried about a battle half a world away but were blindsided with a massacre right in their own backyard. The other group had already exhaled -- their soldier survived the deployment. Not that one can ever be prepared, but their guard was completely down. Those that are currently deployed, and their family members, are experiencing unexpected soldier deaths, which makes that breath-holding defense mechanism a little harder to maintain. Their routine has been shattered and they are forced to think about the reality of death.
Yes, tonight I will cuddle my boy a little closer and rock him a bit longer. I will wrap my arms around my husband, remind myself of that sense of relief when he stepped back onto US soil and tell him how much I love him instead of taking our time together for granted. We can't ever fully prepare for the shock and grief of losing a loved one, but if that tragedy should ever occur, the coping would be so much easier knowing our loved ones knew how we felt about them.