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Where Everybody Knows Your Name: The Importance of Community for Military Families

Some years ago the theme song of the television show “Cheers!” struck a chord with people, because it expressed the desire of many people.

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?

We live in an increasingly disconnected world despite the proliferation of devices designed to make communication easier. Our dependence on these devices often serves to disconnect us from community because we use them to accomplish things without any human contact.  I mean really, what percentage of our Facebook “friends” really know us and how many can we go to when the chips are down.

We shop in massive stores, attend mega-churches, exist on fast food bought at a drive through and we don’t know our neighbors. To most organizations we are not real life human beings but statistics whose only value is in profit and market share.  And we wonder why so many people are depressed, lonely and even despair of life.

Sometimes you want to go, Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows Your name.

Having a place where people know you and care about you matters. It is important to us as individuals and it is important to the people that come to us for their medical care. Cheers was a neighborhood bar where people from all walks of life knew and cared for each other. We miss that a lot and we often suffer because of it, especially those that go to war and their families.

You wanna go where people know, people are all the same,
You wanna go where everybody knows your name.

In our military communities be they Army, Navy, Marine Corps or Air Force we have shared hardships and culture but even with that it is a difficult life. The military does its best to provide a multitude of support services including unit based Family Support Groups, family service centers as well as centers and associations for single servicemen and women.

But even still those support structures often are insufficient due to the transitory nature of military life, changing and sometimes uneven leadership of these organizations. Add to this the unrelenting demands of the wars and deployments and the wounds of war brought home which affect even the most resilient families.  PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, traumatic amputations, substance abuse, domestic violence, high divorce rates and suicide are everyday parts of the military family and community life.

One of the other aspects not directly attributable to the wars is how the communities around the bases treat the military.  In some major metropolitan areas the military simply blends in to the civilian community, even where there are large bases such as in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia.  In such places there may be a large military footprint but it is easy to blend in.  In other areas where the military installations are the sole reason that the areas have large populations such as Killeen Texas, the home of Fort Hood, Jacksonville North Carolina the home of Camp LeJeune and Fayetteville the home of Fort Bragg the military presence is loved and loathed. There are many retired military in these areas as well as many veterans and often they are supportive. However in each of these cities there exists a large contingent of individuals and businesses who take advantage of military personnel and their families and some of these are former military personnel. Sometimes people in these communities despite their outward show of support for the troops do all they can to make the military personnel unwelcome.  Now this is not helped by the bad behavior of some military personnel and their family members which is then used to discriminate against good and law abiding military personnel.

But there are good people, organizations and businesses which do their best to help make these “strangers in a strange land” welcome.  For me that welcome has been often linked to people that I know at minor league ballparks such as Harbor Park in Norfolk and Grainger Stadium in Kinston. There is a special church, Saint James Episcopal in Portsmouth Virginia that I enjoy on the rare times that I have to visit it is a place I can call home and my friends at the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant in Virginia Beach.

Community really matters because as Americans we are all in this together.  While I have focused on military communities large numbers of American cities and towns are enduring great hardship, and this disconnect between people, evidenced by the fact that we often don’t even know our neighbors has created a social isolation that only breeds hatred and discontent.  With this true lack of community we should be surprised with increasing crime, violence, discrimination and prejudice.

Community doesn’t happen overnight and sometimes illusion of perpetual prosperity only serves to drive us apart.  However, sometimes communities are reborn when facing crisis, people begin to look out for one another again and the welcome sign means that you really are.

But, what is neat is when we do find that special place for ourselves and when we can provide that kind of home to others we can really understand the last stanza of the song from Cheers which never aired on television.

Be glad there’s one place in the world
Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came;
You want to go where people know,
People are all the same;
You want to go where everybody knows your name.


Padre Steve+


Filed under Loose thoughts and musings, philosophy

Fort Hood Update II: The Shooter is Alive

At a news conference LTG Cone the Commander of III Corps and Fort Hood revealed that the shooter suspected in the killing of 12 soldiers and wounding of 31 others is alive and in stable condition and not dead as initially reported.  Major Malik Nidal Hasan a  psychiatrist was supposedly upset that he had orders to deploy to Iraq.

nidal hasanMajor Malik Nidal Hasan the Killer of 12 Soldiers

Once again I was correct in my suppositions about the suspect.  I was telling the Abbess at dinner that I believed that he was an American citizen who went through a commissioning program at a major university before attending medical school. Major Hasan was a graduate of Virginia Tech and its Army ROTC program before attending the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences.  He reportedly received a poor Officer Evaluation Report (OER) at Walter Reed before being assigned to Fort Hood.  There is speculation that the he viewed his deployment to Iraq as punishment.

If Major Hasan survives his wounds the truth may come out.  Thankfully he has not as yet taken his secrets to the grave. If there is a conspiracy or other possible terrorist involvement or even a psychiatric disorder we may find an answer to the carnage and terror that his actions have caused.  It is possible that he did this simply out of being pissed at the Army for his bad OER and deployment orders and taking it out on his fellow soldiers.  The worst scenario is if is a deliberate terrorist act committed by a man committed to a radical ideology.  That suggests if an officer is capable of such an act that others may be capable of the same.  If it is a case of a provider who has hit the wall in dealing with his patients trauma it is also frightening.  If it is a case of a man who is angry at the Army for real or perceived injustices it is another matter.  The only scenario that makes sense to me is in regard to the targets of his attack.  The choice of his fellow soldiers could be indicative of the terrorist motive.  The choice of victims could also be indicative of his motivations. There are reports that Major Hasan was strongly opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and also made internet postings about suicide bombings. While this is still not yet confirmed if it is true than it it could indicate terrorist involvement apart from Major Hasan.

Please pray for the victims and their friends and families.


Padre Steve+

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Filed under Military, PTSD, traumatic national events