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To the Editor:

Once again, I am proud to be an AWHONN member! The call issued in the September/October editorial of JOGNN to “join forces” to support those who give their service for our country was timely and powerful. Not only were we as AWHONN members and nurses asked to provide support and care to those brave women and men who serve, but also we were reminded to support their families. As nurses, we are superb in our caring and give tirelessly to others. Of course, AWHONN nurses gladly will be part of the Joining Forces Initiative.

Suddenly, the reality of this editorial hit home. It is personal for me. My son and daughter-in-law are serving in Afghanistan. As a mother, there is not a day that I don't think of them, worry about their safety, and pray often. The first month my son was deployed, we got a message saying a helicopter had gone down (he and his wife are pilots), but that they were both safe. How could I rejoice in their safety while other mothers were greeting a military chaplain explaining to them that their child was killed in action? Our son recently wrote to tell us his college roommate was injured in action and lost both legs and one arm. My heart aches for his family, who until recently were like me: going to work, to church, spending time with friends and family, and praying a lot until that dreadful call came. Each newspaper article, each story on the Internet or TV, a flag flying at half-staff, a report from one of my children, makes me ache for another family while being grateful for the safety of my two children. And then I feel guilty. When my son's close friend committed suicide after returning from a deployment, I did not sleep for several nights. If depression hit this hero so quickly, it could happen to any soldier, airman, or sailor. As a nurse, I know this. I read the statistics. As a mother I am devastated.

We are nurses, but many of us are also parents, spouses, or siblings of those in the military. While our husbands, wives, or children may be safe or uninjured, and we are grateful for that, we live with the silent fear that the phone will ring or there will be a military chaplain at our doors. We cry when any soldier is injured or killed. To military nurses, thank you! When my son or daughter-in-law might need a nurse, I will want to be there, but you are the ones I trust to give the care that I cannot. To the many other nurses who are silently serving as wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, and partners of service members, I wish I could give you a hug and a chance to share the worries, fears, and maybe even some guilt you carry with you regularly. I can't. Instead, I ask all AWHONN members to look around at the nurses with whom you work. If you know a military family member, acknowledge the burden that your co-worker carries each day. After all, we are a large organization of nurses who care enough to “join forces” on a national level. Let's join our hearts on an individual level, something we all can do.

Yes, I am proud of my son and daughter-in-law and their service to our country. I am also very proud that AWHONN is an active participant in the Joining Forces Initiative.

Mary Ann Stark, PhD, RNC