Lessons from the Front Line
I sat glued to the news conference as three wounded soldiers – Marine Lance Corporal Joshua Menard, Army Staff Sergeant James Villafane, and Army Sergeant Charles Horgan – recalled their experiences of coming under fire from Iraqi troops in civil dress at the city of Nassiriya. Villafane and Horgan told about being stuck by an incoming missile.
As I watched, I, too, was stuck … by the similarities between their experiences on the battlefield and those of stressed-out families, "under fire." Listen and learn from their experiences.
Lesson 1: DO NOT BE CAUGHT OFF-GUARD; PREPARE.
Menard said, "We were very surprised." We were told that when we were going through Nassiriya that we would see little to no resistance. "They were not rolling over like we thought they would."
Realistically expect and prepare for the inevitable challenges your family will face. "Prepare for the worst," while guarding the positive attitudes that "create the best."
Lesson 2: YOUR GOOD INTENTIONS CAN BE MISUNDERSTOOD.
Villafane commented, "The amount of resistance, some of it I do not understand. I mean, we're there to help them to get them out of the statute." It was a shock that they would actually do that, given the treatment We try to give them. We try to treat them fairly. "
Know this! You can be misunderstood by family members, even when you have the best of intentions and are trying your best. Parents, it takes courage to make wise, yet unpopular decisions.
On the other hand, "meaning well" can not substitute for "doing well." Check your actions, being willing to openly consider what it's like to be on the other side of you.
Lesson 3: DO NOT MAKE MISTAKES ABOUT WHO YOUR ENEMY IS.
A group of Iraqi soldiers dressed in the civil robes of nomad Bedoins opened fire on Menard as he and six other Marines approached them on a bridge in Nassiriya. Military enemies, pretending to be harmless.
Even more appalling was the account of the American soldier who allegedly pulled the grenade that killed and injured people in his own troop. Yet, we've lost our sensitivity to the shock of similar responsibilities in our own families … daily "grenades" of hurtful words and destructive actions.
"Out there", there are so many enemies to the wellbeing of family members. How can we hope to combat those if we spend our time fighting within our own ranks? What can you do today to mend family rifts?
Lesson 4: DO NOT PANIC WHEN TROUBLES COME.
Sergeant Horgan told about how he worked to stay calm, though he had just been wounded by the enemy missile. He said that he was grateful that "training kicks in" and that he was able not to panic. "My foot may be gone, but I gotta move."
When you are faced with an unexpected and disturbing challenge in your family, do not panic, reacting impulsively. Seek help if necessary. Do not say or do things that make the situation worse in the long run.
Stop … think … plan … then act.
Lesson 5: PROTECT YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS, NOT JUST YOURSELF.
The way these well-trained, courageous soldiers behaved under fire is, to me, the greatest of our lessons in family teamwork. Listen in, and examine your own habits and actions.
Horgan, whose right leg and foot were ripped open when he was blown from his gunning position, described his thoughts when he saw the incoming miss: "Oh, my God, I'm gonna die." I gotta warn my buddies. "
Villafane quipped, "It's not being shot at that bad. It's being shot that really sucks!" (Can you refer to that?) Despite the horror of what they had experienced, the three wounded men all said that they felt a sense of guilt about leaving friends behind in Iraq. Horgan told reporters, "I'm relieved that I'm out … Nobody can be shot and say, 'Wow, I really want to go back out there. But I'm kind of sad that I'm not with the guys who protected me. My friends protected me when I needed them. I joined to serve my country. But when I was there, I was fighting to protect my friends.