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What's Going On Here?

By: Cass Kanevil

Date Posted: 2000-03-25

I haven't written for a few weeks. It's been a very LONG few weeks for me as I've been living one of the worst of all military spouses’ nightmares.

At 9:00 a.m. on a Thursday morning, I received a phone call from my husband. His unit had been deployed for about one month already before I received this phone call, so I was missing him and awaiting to see how he was doing. Unfortunately, this phone call wasn't just to chat about our 5-year-old’s Kindergarten happenings, how my column was doing, how the cars were holding up, whether or not I'd been able to get the dog spayed, if he'd been getting enough to eat, or to once again remind one another of our love and devotion across thousands of miles. It was solely to give me the news I never expected to hear about my own husband. As calmly and collectedly as he possibly could, he asked me to first sit down and then proceeded to explain to me that he was in a hospital recovering from general anesthesia after having undergone an emergency operation. He had been shot. In the head. And was about to lose one of his eyes.

Out of shock, my first question to him was if he was going to die. He told me no. He said that he was in great pain, physically and emotionally, but that this was not going to kill him.

Immediately, my husbands unit went through great lengths to prepare the way for my daughter and I to go to him. I was told to get my little one from school right away and that they’d be at my home very soon to pick us up. My mind was reeling with thoughts of how to explain to my daughter what was happening to her Daddy. For my daughter and I, this man that we love so much has always been indestructible, with a strength unmatchable; so we never really worried too much when he had to leave us for places unknown. Now, I was given the task of telling her that her Daddy was hurt.

In a wavering voice I'd never heard come out of me before, I sat in the school parking lot with her and explained what had happened. Her first words were to ask me if her Daddy was in Heaven. What a relief to only have to say, “Nope, he's not in Heaven. He's just been hurt real bad in the eye.” That put things into a better perspective for me. If I would have had to explain Heaven and Death in the same sentence as “Your Daddy's been shot”, well, that is too much to handle just thinking about it. Her face turned red and her eyes widened and I realized she just wanted to think about it for a while before she asked me anything else. We began our drive home and just before we got there, I heard from the back seat, “He should'a ducked.”

I don’t consider myself a weak woman. I've always been able to handle on my own whatever tough situations were thrown at me every time my husband has been deployed, and I take pride in not having to ask for help every time I run into stumbling blocks. However now I needed support. And despite all my misgivings about the military support system here on Okinawa, I was humbled with the care, speed, and efficiency at which my husband’s unit came to my rescue. Within hours, I had emergency funds in my hand and two round trip tickets out of here on the next available flight. My head was still spinning when I realized I was sitting at my husband’s hospital bedside, wondering how this could have all happened so fast.

The following days were spent in agony as my husband and I worried about our future, also coping with his enormous amounts of pain and the sadness and depression that came after the surgery that removed his eye and replaced it with a prosthetic. Fortunately, for us, that was all we had to worry about. The men in his unit were taking care of everything else for us, allowing us to concentrate on ourselves.

Now that the worst is over and all three of us are back home, it’s time for me to sit back and thank all those involved in helping making this tragedy manageable. I know that these honorable men would want to remain nameless, but they know who they are. So, from the bottom of my family’s heart... thank you.

I would also like to take a moment and take my hat off to all the military spouses on this island. We are the cream of the crop. Everyday we sacrifice so much of our family and relationships for the good of our country. Always, in the back of our minds, we realize the possibility of having to sacrifice more. Our spouses are called upon to serve our country in all environments, in all situations around the world. Anyone of us could receive that dreaded, life-changing phone call that I received... or worse. We all pray to God that we never will, but the possibility still remains.

To all of us, I offer these words of solace that I have come to realize over the past few weeks:

- First, that we can be proud of ourselves and our spouses for the sacrifices that we make, and are willing to make daily, for our country. The price of freedom is never cheap, and we pay that debt on a daily basis. My husband has proudly served for many years and, God willing, will be able to continue to serve his country for many more. I will continue to support him in any way I can.

- Second, that in the case of an emergency such as this, you can count on people you’ve never met, and a system (that doesn’t ALWAYS work to our convenience) to come through and give whatever support is needed. A system driven by fellow spouses and military personnel who realize the price we all pay. A community of strong military families here for one another in times of need.

For all the times you feel unrecognized, overburdened, and that life has dealt you an unfair hand, remember that it is the very act of service that you do everyday that makes our country what it is. To all of us, I say good job and thank you.

Although my outlook on life has changed a bit from this tragedy, I have not turned “mushy” and I expect to be in full force next week to offer my opinions about life here on island. Please, feel free to offer yours as well by emailing me at ckanevil@hotmail.com or update@japanupdate.com. I appreciate all suggestions and comments and want us all to benefit from this column, which is geared towards bettering our military communities here in Okinawa.

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