The Loss of Chief Petty Officer Kent – Guest post by Denise Williams

| February 12, 2019 | 64 Comments

Denise Williams is one of our Gold Star Moms.  One of the privileges I get to enjoy from being part of TAH is the friendships that are developed.   I admire Denise most for her intestinal fortitude and unimaginable ability to see beyond her own grief.   She sends us this post:

I need to preface everything else with my deepest condolences for the family of CPO Shannon Kent.Nothing, ever, will equal the pain they feel today. It doesn’t go away, it doesn’t really get easier, but it does get softer and the jagged edges of your heart become less sharp in time.

Grief is a tsunami that obliterates the ground beneath your feet. Like a tsunami, even if you survive the initial onslaught, the very landscape of your world is gone, drowned beneath the waves and unrecognizable even after it recedes. Like a tsunami, it is not one wave, but repeats seemingly endlessly. When the ground is finally dry, when the ocean calms, you’re surprised to find some of those jaggededges of your broken heart have been worn smooth by the same force that shattered it.  It becomes bearable.

Nothing you do right now can make it better.  All you can do is hold on to whatever lifeline you can grasp. But there are some things that can make it worse later. I’ll get back to that in a moment.

I understand the pain, frustration and normal human reaction of wanting someone to blame, of looking to hold someone responsible, of crying out “It wasn’t supposed to happen this way”.

The one and only reason I never succumbed to this line of thinking is just what others have pointed out…If it weren’t my loss, it would be someone else’s.

Who am I to say that mine didn’t deserve to die, but someone else’s did?  Mine was the most incredible, wonderful, loved creature ever put on this earth. He had a future, a bright, fantastic future and if only…what? How is that any different than every other mother feels about their own child? Should some other mother’s heart be irreparably shattered, and that would somehow be just or fair? I don’t want this, so how could I wish it on another?

I understand, truly, the pain. But I also understand a few other things the family of CPO Kent can’t. Who is this family? Her father is a high-ranking New York State police o8cer. Her husband is a retired special forces soldier of 20 years. They both should understand a few things, but I know that when the pain is this raw it is very hard, and to most people it is forgivable they don’t understand or rather, forget what they know.

As a 20-year combat veteran, it’s nearly a guarantee that Joe Kent lost men, and s$ll grieves brothers in arms. The same is probably true of a ranking police officer. When those losses are because of bad policy or command decisions, the loss turns to rage.

It’s certain they have knocked back a few over the years thinking of the waste due to stupid rules of engagement seemingly designed to get good people killed by bureaucrats with no front-line experience. Inevitably, by the time they sip the last drops from the glass, the thought that is a comfort only those who have been there, done that, understand is said with both resignation and admiration, “Yeah, but they knew what they risked, and did it anyway. Until Valhalla”.

In the immediate aftermath of an operation gone bad, good commanders both police and military, set about the most important task of examining what happened, what went wrong, and what can be done to prevent it from happening again. Sometimes, too often, everything went right but the wrong thing still happened. Someone died. The task of every mission and objective, even if not overtly stated, is always the same…get the job done and bring everyone home. If every other part of the mission was completed and the objective reached, the mission may be a technical success but is still ultimately a fail, because that most important component was not achieved. Everyone knew the risks, everyone understands that no ma+er how well planned and executed, it is possible not everyone will come home. Yet, they do it anyway.

Those who bear the loss are consoled by these words. They are bracketed and held upright by the honor and respect shown their loved one by their brothers and sisters. That support will be there for them as long as the memory of their loved one’s loss haunts those who served with them. In other words, forever. But, they may not see or feel that support in the future because of what they did or said while in the grip of the pain and rage of their loss. No one holds it against the mother who screams at those tasked to deliver the words, “Ma’am, it is my sad duty to inform you…”. No one faults her if she pushes them o5 her porch, launches herself at them or slams the door in their faces, as if she can make the words and their presence not real. There is less grace given, however, when says, “It should have been you”, or “It is your fault”. When those statements are made, or ac$ons are taken weeks, months or years later, it is no longer something said in the shock of grief, it is a character statement. And it is remembered.

Now, that loved one won’t feel the support of the honor and respect carried in the hearts of those who served alongside the one they lost. The brothers and sisters who want to share the load the family carries can’t go to them to remind them their loved one is remembered, because they are being blamed both for that family’s pain as well as their own. They too are grieving, and the ones with whom they most need to share, the ones who will benefit most from that sharing, have rejected them. As the years unfurl, knowing others share your loss, feeling that bond with others, is what soothes those jagged edges of the broken heart like nothing else. It literally is the lifeline you will come to rely on when the unexpected rogue wave of grief washes over you and threatens to tear you from your moorings.

It is sadly too common that when one service member dies in battle, they are not the only casualty. When one family’s loss is trumpeted in the media, when one family’s loss is the lead story on every newscast, the impact on the other families can’t be described. Not only is one family saying it shouldn’t have been their loved one, the implicit message is the other family’s loss is deserved. Their loved one is just as dead. Their grief is just as raw. And there loved one doesn’t even matter enough to be named. They are just one of the “others who died”. If not for the title of this piece, without looking it up or scanning to the end, could you name the “other” service member? How about the DoD civilian or the private contractor? It is almost understandable that you can’t name the Syrian civilians killed, but it is to our collective shame and the shame of the media their names aren’t at least mentioned.

I am sad over the future lack of support I fear the family of CPO Shannon Kent will experience in the future. They truly cannot even begin to grasp the magnitude of what they will experience. While that breaks my heart, I am more sad and heartbroken over the apparent lack of support for the families of Army CWO2 Jonathan R. Farmer, DoD civilian Scott A. Wirtz and the civilian contractor whose name I haven’t been able to find anywhere. Please know, it shouldn’t have been your loved one either. It shouldn’t have been anyone. But it is war, and people die in war. Please be comforted in the knowledge they are remembered, they are honored, they knew what they were doing and did it anyway. It is a cold, hard comfort but your loved one’s legacy will not be a+ached to a change in policy that makes some losses greater than others.

Category: Guest Post

Comments (64)

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  1. BlueCord Dad says:

    Damn, it’s really dusty in the warehouse today….

  2. Sparks says:

    Lost for words, except, thank you.

  3. Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

    Well said, you are right when you said it shouldn’t have been any of them.

    We should not be in Syria, there is nothing there worth the lives of those who were serving there. No matter what is said by our government Syria is not where we should be, Obama made a huge mistake putting troops there and Trump has yet to correct that mistake.

    Anger should not be directed at the military and its decision making process, it should be directed at our weak will Congressmen and women and our weak willed president who hasn’t ended any of the wars he claimed he was against.

    There is no one in Syria worth saving at the cost of a single American. If you told me the entire country would be saved if five Americans were to die there tomorrow I’d vote to let the entire country die.

    But I’m a heartless curmudgeon that way.

    Excellent post, hope to read more from you in the future.

    • Hate_me says:

      I hear what you’re saying, and I agree on most of it… I don’t disagree with the assessment of our politicians or the degree of our involvement in the country.

      However, I’ve fought beside the Kurds in Iraq and, while I don’t agree with or support all of their disparate factions, I am more than willing to stand beside their brothers and sisters in Syria. I’d rather not die in the process, but there are still some things there worth the risk.

      • Slow Joe says:

        The Kurds are not worth our blood or treasure. All the ones I ever met were Stalin loving communists.

        Yeah, they can fight, at least by middle eastern standards, so what.

        They can pound sand.

        • Hate-me says:

          There is more to the Kurdish people than the Marxist/Leninist stance of the PKK.

          Socialism is a rampant philosophy among the Kurdish people, and I understand if that is all you’ve seen – but your experience is limited by your own experience, and, I assure you, that is not the definition of “Kurd.” I will grant, however, that it is the single greatest reason why they don’t yet deserve their own nation.

          I’ve known Kurds who bled for me. I can’t say if they’re worthy your blood, or that of my brother or fellow countryman – but they’re worthy of mine. I’m not draping myself with the flag and saying it should be our nation’s burden, but I am saying the Kurdish ideal is something worth fighting for.

          I don’t think that Ghadir Taher was of Kurdish decent (please correct me if I’m wrong), but she was a fellow American who believed there are people there worth fighting for. I’m not saying our policies are right or perfect in Syria, but it’s more than a worthless piece of desert.

      • Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

        I won’t hate you for voicing your opinion, I in fact welcome it. None of us learn or expand our world view without being challenged in our thought processes.

        Those who live in echo chambers neither learn nor grow.

        One of the best things about blogging here is the constant challenge to one’s opinions offered by others who neither hold such opinions or care much for those opinions.

        I understand what you are saying and I certainly respect your opinion, I will tell you however that I don’t share it.

        The world without Kurds, without Islam in general would be a quieter place. Islam has become a weaponized tool of the ignorant to incite violence without end for a goal that can’t be achieved. A world without Islam would be a world without female genital mutilation, without beheading over being gay without honor killing for loving someone other than whom your parents dictate. It would be a world without women being killed for being rape victims.

        There is nothing good about Islam in this world, whatever good there may have been has long since dissipated with the repressive, disgusting practices currently in place in the name of their pedophile prophet.

        I’m not a Christian, so don’t think that’s my base of opinion. I just don’t worry about my Christian neighbors blowing me up or beheading me on my way to work.

        • Hate_me says:

          Awesome, I love spirited discussion!

          While many Kurds are Sunni Muslim, they practice a different school than Arab or Turk Sunnis and tend to be much less strict in their devotion. Also, though the majority are Muslim, a great many other religions are practiced among the ethnic group. It is simply wrong to group the Kurdish people, collectively, under the umbrella of Islam.

          I do agree that Islam has thus far shown itself to be a cultural net-negative, and it has promulgated those evils you mention (FGM and other forms of sexual discrimination, honor killings, beheadings of those one disagrees with…), but it did not create such practices. The absence of Islam may lessen their occurrence (depending on what system moved in to fill that void), but those evils would not vanish with it.

          I would also argue that Islam is used in those cases as a tool of the political, rather than as the actual religious source of the evil. Bear in mind, while we don’t worry about our Christian neighbors acting violently against those who disagree with their beliefs, that hasn’t always been the case in the long history of the church and it’s various incarnations as a state religion.

  4. HMC Ret says:

    The whole country isn’t worth a flesh wound on any U.S. Trooper. WTF is our plan?

  5. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    Denise purposely omitted her son’s name. He was a new 21-year old when he was killed in Khandahar, Afghanistan on 1 November 2010. His name was Andy.

    Most of us strive never to forget, both those we knew personally and those we did not. It is not a task. It is not a duty. It is an honor.

  6. SFC D says:

    Thank you Miss Denise, you have a perspective on this and many things that we all appreciate.
    Something wrong with my eyes…

  7. 26Limabeans says:

    Thank you Denise for sharing your personal thoughts on the loss of CPO Kent.
    Every loss reminds us of our own and to speak about it helps soften those edges for others as well.

  8. Poetrooper says:

    “Sometimes, too often, everything went right but the wrong thing still happened. Someone died. The task of every mission and objective, even if not overtly stated, is always the same…get the job done and bring everyone home.”

    Very well stated, Denise–one of those truths about military operations that too few civilians understand–no matter how well planned, supported and executed, random, unforeseeable deaths can occur that change the lives of families forever.

    Thank you for Andy’s service and sacrifice. The TAH community is blessed to have someone with your exceptional insight as a contributor.

  9. HMCS(FMF) ret says:

    Well stated, Denise… thanks for your post.

  10. AnotherPat says:

    Denise:

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and insight on this tragic event.

    The fourth Civilian contractor who was killed that day was
    Ghadir Taher, 27, of East Point, GA, who immigrated with her family to America from Syria. She was a Tri Cities High School graduate who was employed as an Arabic Interpreter by Valiant Integrated Services, a Defense Contractor.

    “Born and raised in Damascus, Ghadir Taher became a naturalized U.S. citizen after immigrating to America with her brother, Ali, in 2001. Driven and independent-minded, she started working when she turned 17, at one point holding two jobs. She made friends easily, dreamed about traveling around the world and studied international business at Georgia State University before going to work for Valiant, drawn by the opportunity to help people, her brother said. In Syria, she interpreted for U.S. troops and cooked meals for them, using local ingredients. She was there for less than a year before the suicide bomber struck.”

    She would had been 28 on 3 February 2019.

    Rest in Peace, Miss Taher. May your family find comfort during this difficult time:

    “East Point Woman Among 19 Killed In Suicide Bombing In Syria”:

    https://www.ajc.com/news/breaking-news/east-point-woman-among-killed-suicide-bombing-syria/auRc0Q17iiIeFYDfpU3kdK/

    • Denise Williams says:

      AP-
      thank you. I was counting on someone here finding this. I add my condolences to the family of Ghadir Taher, and my thanks for her support and care of our troops in harm’s way. She sounds like a remarkable person.

      • 5th/77th FA says:

        Thanks AP, hadn’t seen this; We knew you’d come up with something for us. It’s what you do and you do it so well.

        The Taher Family is typical of the type of immigrants that this country has always welcomed. People that came here to become Americans and pursue the American Dream. I’d venture to say that she probably referred to herself as just an American, not hyphenated. We Honor your service Miss Ghadir Taher and extend our sympathies to your Family.

        Thank you again, Denise…We are here for you in anything we can do. Good to have you drop by. Irrigating eye balls from the inside is supposed to be good for us.

  11. AW1Ed says:

    No words, Denise, except thank you.

  12. Lurker Curt says:

    Denise…I have no words, I just can’t…too blurry…

    Thank you.

  13. Wilted Willy says:

    Denise, you have my heartfelt thanks and sympathy for your loss. May God bless you and your family.

  14. Denise Williams says:

    The downside of posting my thoughts here, as I’ve explained to Dave, is your comments invite the onion-chopping ninjas into my house. Thank you, all of you.

    • NEC338x says:

      Thank you Denise for your thoughtful post, especially knowing the ninjas that would sneak in. Blessing to the families of those involved.

    • e.conboy says:

      Thank you Denise for your great kindness in reaching out to the families of the recently loss warriors and contractors in sharing your experiences following the loss of your brave son.Your kindness is like a candle flickering, burning, until at last it illuminates the darkness through which families of the beloved troops struggling to cope with the loss of such a treasured member of the family.
      That your own son Andy has paid the ultimate price is chilling to me
      and I grieve with you and other parents everywhere who have such
      a terrible loss.
      Do keep your light shining!

      • e.conboy says:

        re: to unfinished sentence (telephone interrupted) …..may have light unto their path to receive assistance in whatever way they need. Remove obstacles! Eliminate gobbledygook! Simplify! Wouldn’t this be a great start for the DOD and V.A. and our
        President to make America even greater?
        Got bless America and all our courageous service men and
        women and their waiting families at home.

  15. sbalm says:

    You’ve lost a son, Denise, but you’ve gained so many more as a result of his sacrifice and what you’ve gone through. I hope you know that.

  16. Chief Petty Officer, United States Navy says:

    Denise,
    I wish you had taken the time to speak directly with Senior Chief Kent’s family, or taken the time to realize that there is bias in even news stories from reputable sources. There is way more to what has been reported.

    Personally, I find the tone and context (as well as the spelling and grammatical mistakes) offensive. I can also say that you have offended others, who brought this blog to my attention. If you aren’t personally involved in a situation, best not to insert your opinion.

    Senior Chief Kent’s family, from her husband all the way down, will always have the full support of me and my Chiefs Mess.

    • Dave Hardin says:

      For the record Chief, Denise is welcomed to insert her opinion at this blog anytime and anywhere she wants to.

      I would expect the family of Chief Kent to get nothing less than your support.

      If spelling and grammatical mistakes are enough to trigger you into an offended state…try getting out of the Old Goats Locker more often.

      Share my heartfelt wish that the “others” who were offended…learn to suck it up.

    • OldManchu says:

      I wish you would take the time to go fuck yourself you dumbass. Can you not see past the end of your nose you numb nuts?!

      fuk yu!

    • HMCS(FMF) ret says:

      Damn, just gave the Mess a black eye…

      Next time, think before you type…

      • 2/17 Air Cav says:

        HMCS(FMF). It’s okay. All services have their jerks and knuckleheads. Thankfully, they are not representative of their rank but are the exception. BTW, I thought it was the Chief’s Mess, not the Chiefs Mess. As for Denise’s writing, she writes with a clarity and excellence that makes me terribly envious. As for her spelling, it is obvious to everyone but the knucklehead who claims to be a “Chief Petty Officer” that text characters such a $ and # often appear in text transferred from, say, a pdf file to a docx.

    • Eo says:

      How did she in any way mistreat Senior Chief Kent’s family or her memory? How was she offensive? She’s sharing her perspective as a Gold Star parent, and someone who has had to deal with loss.

      Anger and denial are part of the grieving process, and the experiences of people who have been there are helpful to those who have recently lost loved ones.

    • 2/17 Air Cav says:

      Dear Chief Petty Officer, United States Navy,

      Congratulations. Your comment has been selected for inclusion in this blog’s annual “Worst Comments of the Year” competition. What’s more, it has qualified in multiple categories, which is quite unusual. Your ill-conceived post is entered in the “Vile and Disgusting Comment” category, as well as the “Most Mistaken Reply.” Again, congratulations! I’m pulling for you.

    • OWB says:

      Your offense offends me. So what?

      Ain’t it great that offensive stuff gets to hang out there for all to see? Only in America.

      Oh, and thanks so much for pointing out the obvious. Not that we really needed schooling on it. Most, if not all, of us have known about media incompetence for a while. If your reading comprehension was better, you might have picked up on that being part of the problem Denise was writing about.

      But thanks ever so much for playing. Raw grief makes people say and do really stupid things. Maybe that includes you? If so, get a grip. We expect more from you than what your comment displays.

      • 5th/77th FA says:

        To Chief Petty Officer, United States Navy:

        Dahell & daphuque are you coming from? Glad I missed this excuse of a comment on evening last. I’d of probably spent most of the night tracking you down so I could see in person just how big of a stupid dickhead you are.

        You would really rather try to sandpaper a wildcats ass in a telephone booth than to disparage against Denise Williams. You may have noticed by now that she is kinda sorta special to us miscreants here at TAH. I’d even venture to say that the kicker for Navy has put your picture on the ball he uses to practice.

        I’ll just leave this here; phuque off dip sh*t!

        Go Army, Beat Navy, ‘specially Chief Petty Officer, United States Navy (here’s you a bag of di@ks)

    • NHSparky says:

      All those flavors, and you had to choose salty.

      GFY, E-7. You’re no Chief in my book.

    • STGCS Ret says:

      Very disappointed in your post Chief… I don’t understand the need to attack someone who was just sharing to help others and who has suffered combat action loss first hand. Hopefully you can grow from your snap to judgement here and employ that learning in the execution of your role as the Chief. Oh BTW your life as the Chief will end and you will be mortal once again in the Civlant. Prepare yourself to be humbled because this attitude will get you eaten alive in the corporate world.

    • Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

      If you aren’t personally involved in a situation, best not to insert your opinion.

      That’s the kind of free speech infringement suggestion we expect from collectivist assholes, not from serving members of our military.

      If you are offended by someone exercising their first amendment rights I suggest you’re probably not ready for civilian employment anytime soon.

      Those of us in the private sector who pay for everything the government does can and will tell you whatever’s on our mind whenever we want to, your sense of offense or outrage bears no relationship to our right to speak as we will. As someone sworn to uphold the Constitution I thought you’d have been required to be aware of that before we let you be in charge of anything.

      Maybe you’re not a CPO, maybe you’re just another stolen valor faker like so many other assclowns who’ve inserted themselves into the mix here in the past.

      Maybe you are what you say you are, in any event our rights to free speech neither require consideration of or care your sense of offense.

      You’re not in your Chief’s Mess here, you’re in a free speech free fire zone. We who’ve been here a while have quickly come to realize that free speech and criticism isn’t for everyone. Your comment pissing and moaning about your tender sensibilities makes it rather clear it might not be for you either.

      While you are welcome to voice your opinion be advised the tone of response is directly proportionate to the tone you brought into the room.

    • SFC D says:

      Personally, I find you to be a rather large pussy, and an embarrassment to your profession. You are what we in the Army would refer to as a SP7. That’s Specialist, Seventh class for you naval types. An E7 with no leadership authority, and in your obvious example, no leadership skills. You found your way in, no kindly find your way out. We shall sing you a hymn of farewell as you depart.

    • Ex-PH2 says:

      You’re a “Chief Petty Officer”? Of what?

      You certainly are petty. What you posted is graceless, and without any understanding.

      I found nothing in Mrs. Williams’ article that could offend anyone, except a self-important twit like you.

    • streetsweeper says:

      In parts of Texas, there is a little used bit of phraseology that is reserved for characters and situations such as yourself. Goat rope comes to mind.
      Welcome to TAH, rub some burn cream on your offended burning, ass.

      • Claw says:

        “rub some burn cream”

        6505-01-491-7003 Sulfamylon Cream, 20 oz Tube
        6510-00-159-4883 Field Dressing, 4″ x 7″
        No NSN Available for Offended, Burning Ass

        Some Assembly Required./s

        • Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

          Dude I absolutely love these supply side responses…as young, often lost trooper I learned quickly to work hard whenever detailed to the kitchen or the supply room.

          It was my experience that doing what was asked quickly, efficiently and as directed often led to those in the kitchen and supply room actually liking you and consequently far more willing to help you when you were not quite clear on the current regs or requirements.

          The cooks often found a way to get me an extra sandwich, often warm in the field as a way of rewarding me for not being a fuck up, and the supply sergeant was (like you) more than happy to get my paperwork squared away with friendly advice/reminders as to how to fill it out.

          A lesson not lost on me after separating from the service and working in the civilian world. A little hard work and human decency has gone a long into making my career and life far more enjoyable.

    • Hondo says:

      If you aren’t personally involved in a situation, best not to insert your opinion.

      Take your own advice, E7. You were neither personally involved in writing the above article nor in the decision to publish same.

      And, for what it’s worth: IMO it takes a special kind of tone-deaf jackass to criticize a Gold Star Mother for giving advice on how to cope to another Gold Star family. You owe Ms. Williams an apology.

    • thebesig says:

      Originally posted by Chief Petty Officer, United States Navy:

      Denise,
      I wish you had taken the time to speak directly with Senior Chief Kent’s family, or taken the time to realize that there is bias in even news stories from reputable sources. There is way more to what has been reported.

      Personally, I find the tone and context (as well as the spelling and grammatical mistakes) offensive. I can also say that you have offended others, who brought this blog to my attention. If you aren’t personally involved in a situation, best not to insert your opinion.

      “Senior Chief Kent’s family, from her husband all the way down, will always have the full support of me and my Chiefs Mess.

      Like the others that responded to you, I don’t see how Denise Williams showed carelessness, disregard, poor tone, etc., that you insinuate above. The grammar issues, typos and misspelled words are trivial to me, as I understood what she was getting at. This isn’t an academic paper that’s being turned in.

      You also would’ve understood what she was getting at if you didn’t get wrapped around the axle with what you thought she said and meant… highlighted in blue bold above.

      First, she didn’t mean that you guys weren’t there to support the deceased family. Like most who have lost someone, she experienced support to help her with her loss, and she understood that Senior Chief Kent’s family had the support of the immediate and extended communities that they’re a part of.

      She was talking about others forgetting about these losses, or disregarding them.

      Second, you mention about her tone and context, to include spelling and grammatical mistakes. The reality is that she spoke the way we expect someone, grieving, would speak. Many of us here lost someone close to us among our family and friends. Even this community, with the passing of Jonn. We understand the grief that she’s going through. You, having lost someone, should’ve also understood where she was coming from.

      However, you overlooked that and attacked her based on your misunderstanding of what she said, taking it personal.

      In my experiences debating with others over the past years, people with a combination of control issues, anger issues, narcissistic issues, etc., zero in on grammar and spelling errors. It’s a way for them to “regain control”. They tend to read someone’s post while they’re consumed with emotion, driven by anger, sensitivity, and the need for control… That they lose sight of what the person is saying. They interpret what their emotions interpret rather than understand what the other person is saying.

      You’re no exception. Denise isn’t the one that took actions that were offensive. Judging by the replies that you’ve already received here, you’re the one that took offensive actions.

      It’s best to read what the other person said in context, sans raging emotions, before inserting one’s opinion.

    • Denise Williams says:

      Chief Petty Officer, United States Navy,

      I was not going to respond, both because in general I choose not to engage those who insult rather than converse and because it is possible CPO USN is personally connected to CPO Kent and people do and say things out of character in the grips of grief. First, one must choose to be insulted and I choose not to be, and second, the comment elucidates the point of the post.

      Choosing to use your rank as your handle is a fallacious argument known as appeal to authority. In addition, stating you’re speaking for others to support your authority is indicative of someone who is accustomed to having their words go unchallenged, no matter how misguided or inappropriate. Since the piece was ostensibly shared with you by others, I hope you will return the favor and share this with them. Whether or not you do is a tells us if granting you grace for your gracelessness because of grief is warranted.

      There is one point raised in your comment, however, that does deserve to be addressed no matter how artlessly it was delivered. It is true that I did not speak to the family of CPO Kent, and while I don’t know them personally, I do know what the future will hold for them. If you, Chief Petty Officer, United States Navy do know them, or any of the families of the fallen, if you are honest with yourself you know the future as well.

      People do and say things in grief wholly out of character, things they would never otherwise do and in time come to deeply regret. When we, the families of the fallen who have gone before, hear another has joined the ranks of our loved ones, we swoop into action. There are thankfully fewer of us than during any previous conflict but because of modern communications are more immediately connected over a larger geography than during any previous conflict. Many of us are also connected to various branch’s Survivor Outreach Services and Casualty Assistance. Often, we are unofficially contacted to fulfill needs the DoD can’t or doesn’t, and just as often officially contacted.

      One example is to participate in training of Casualty Notification and Assistance. We voluntarily share the best, and worst, of the hardest days of our lives so the next family’s experience may be a little easier. We recount every moment, from the knock on the door to the reading of the autopsy (and choose whether or not to view the autopsy photos), whether or not to open the casket, read the AAR and final determination composed and delivered months later. Every one of us will say those individuals who volunteer for this duty have the hardest job in the military, and part of the motivation to participate in those trainings is to support them. We not only know what the families will face, we know what those fine young men and women who carry out this duty will as well.

      The DoD cannot tell CAO’s to not allow the family to speak to the media, or to block access to the family from those other public vultures, politicians, unless or until the family makes this request. But, we can and do make this recommendation. Emphatically. In the strongest possible terms, we advise to have the family appoint a single spokesperson and direct all media inquiries to that individual, beginning on day one. That spokesperson has a horrendous job too as they are also grieving, so we remind Casualty Assistance that person may need support too.

      We recommend that one person, preferably not an immediate family member, step in and become an ad hoc personal secretary for the family. The whirlwind the family is about to experience, the dizzying array of details to attend to, the lack of sleep and raw shock often leave loved ones barely able to dress themselves, and because this is news of national import, it all happens in the glare of a media spotlight most are unaccustomed to navigating. The job of Casualty Assistance is to attend to all the details over which the military has control, but the family is almost always civilian and not subject to orders. Someone needs to attend to the mundane while the insane is raging. And, it’s busy.

      Within 24 hours of notification a family is standing on the tarmac at Dover for the Dignified Transfer of their loved one. The family then goes home to wait for the final return of their loved one, which can take 7-10 days. A million things are happening around them, much of which they are unaware because of the presence and competence of their Casualty Assistance Officer. Even if they are aware, even if they are present, even if they are former or active military themselves, they are still a family experiencing the deepest grief imaginable. Both history and science tell us that in a brain in grief, the frontal cortex is not fully functional. In other words, they are neither thinking clearly nor are they capable of processing as they normally would.

      So, we give advice. Do not talk to the media too much, if at all. Do not make any decisions or statements or take any actions that are irrevocable. Understand that no matter how intelligent, professional and competent you may normally be, in this moment you are not normal. We hope and pray and do what we can to ensure the family is bracketed and buffered from those who would take advantage of their raw state for their own selfish, short-sighted purposes. In the case of the media, it is ratings. In the case of politicians, it is virtue signaling. We know the news cycle will spin and they will be mercifully left alone soon. We also know neither the media nor the politicians have the family’s best interest at heart. We do.

      When the glare of the spotlight is gone, and that virtuous politician has moved on to the next piece of carrion, we are here. Months and years later, we are here. We see the wreckage of those words, statements or actions play out in lives already destroyed by grief. We know what quiets the pain. We know not just from our personal experience but because we have watched it played out in those we now call family. We also know the unique, indescribable pain of regret those who weren’t sufficiently bracketed and buffered experience years later. We know the lifelong misery of isolation, even if they do not understand the source of that ache, that comes from not being able to share the grief, the future hope and joy and love, of those who served alongside our loved one because someone wasn’t there to or able to stop us from ill-considered or maybe even merely ill-timed words, statements or actions.

      Time and again I cry, not just in sadness at the news that another has cashed that blank check they all sign but in rage over the spectacle being made of the family’s grief in service to another’s agenda. My community comes together in those moments and the sentiment is, that poor family has no idea how this is going to hurt them in the long run. We reach out to each other, discuss who is close enough or capable of going to the services, of connecting to the family, of letting them know they are not alone. It is all we can do in the moment, and then we wait.

      Months or even many years later, chances are high some of us will meet that family. We will hold them and comfort them, and our hearts will break a little more when they can’t relate to our stories of connecting with and sharing with our loved one’s brothers and sisters. Certainly, there will be a few who stand by them, no matter what and we thank God for that, but they don’t know the immeasurable comfort and peace we receive from our loved one’s military family. They don’t know the bittersweet honor of being asked to attend a wedding, being told someone is remembering our loved one by naming their child for them, of asking for a special photo or memento that will be carried in a marathon, at a celebration, or reverently placed in a shadow box.

      I made a conscious decision to write both what I did and when I did. I chose my words carefully, not for the family of CPO Shannon Kent necessarily, but for those around them. I wrote for all those who have or may yet lose a brother or sister. I wrote with a fragile, futile hope that some politician or media talking head may in the future, not parasitically suck the future honor, respect and support from a family to feed ratings or ad a line to future campaign slogans. I wrote to let those who care know the future pain of the family is in some ways worse than what they are experiencing now, to implore them to protect the family from those carrion-feeders as well as from themselves.

      So, Chief Petty Officer, United States Navy, I have not spoken to and do not know the family of CPO Kent. Yet. But be assured, I or someone like me will be there for them in the future, trying to help them heal from the part of the pain they did not have to experience, if only someone, say a Chief Petty Officer were around them then and put their long-term best interests first.

      • AnotherPat says:

        Denise,

        From the bottom of my heart: Thank You so much for sharing your words of wisdom.

      • SFC D says:

        Thank you, Miss Denise. We are all better people for having you around. Once again, you are the adult in the room, and we all thank you for sharing your experience.

      • Chief Petty Officer says:

        Denise,

        I read your post several times before commenting, and your response several more.

        Perhaps I misunderstood the point of your post. My interpretation of your post wa that the family would lose support and be alienated because of their statements (here we agree that they were most likely made out of a place of grief and rage) about she shouldn’t have been there, but due to a policy. Regardless of any comments that any grieving person made, makes or will make, I would hope that the people around them,and supporting them, would understand and continue to support them. Not just in this case, but all cases.

        If your post was meant more towards policy makers and politicians, that wasn’t what was conveyed to me. The problem with written communication is that every reader is often going to have a slightly different interpretation of them.

        The policy in this situation disqualified enlisted members who are fit for full duty and deployable by the Navy from gaining commission because of medical issues that had been resolved (such as her cancer) on active duty. Did her death make it a more hot button topic and cause the policy change to happen? I don’t think anyone can say for sure. Was there already movement towards changing that policy? Yes there was, and honestly it just makes sense that if you are fit enough for a combat deployment, then you shouldn’t be unfit for commission.

        I used my title not out of narcissism nor to imply authority, but for context of where I am coming from in my response.

        I appreciate your response to my comment, and your personal incite into the aftermath. I’m sorry for your loss, and for all the losses experienced by gold star families, which I have seen far too many.

        I responded because my interpretation was that the family was going to lose support or be shunned because of the media surrounding what was probably one statement about how she should have been in post-graduate school, getting her Ph.D in psychology to help service members, instead of on deployment. That statement was mostly like made in grief, picked up by the media, and resulted in repeated reporting of it. But that statement the media coverage did help change a policy that is going to open doors for enlisted military wishing to serve in greater capacity. Anyone who gets spun up by that statement, or interprets it to mean it should have been someone else, that would be a misunderstanding and worth talking about.

        • OWB says:

          You still need to apologize to Denise for your overreaction to what you obviously do/did not understand. Until you do that, it will be unlikely, if not impossible, for any of us to respect your opinion about anything.

          We here discussed ad nauseum everything you pointed out. You would know that if you had bothered to take a few minutes to discover who we are around here. Instead, you elected to attack one of us. Not a smart maneuver.

          No one, much less Denise, suggested the family had anything other than the full support of all of us. Acknowledging that through no fault of their own that they may have made our support more difficult to give and/or receive is hardly damn worthy.

          Get over yourself, E7. You are being a jerk and in doing so unnecessarily adding another obstacle into the mix.

          • HMCS(FMF) ret says:

            Well stated OWB… he/she went into E-7 territory with their statements.

            • OWB says:

              What this one fails to understand is that there are a bunch of us here who attained that rank and more. If it wishes to pull rank, that is yet another potential failure.

              Meanwhile, perhaps I am not alone when I consider that a Gold Star Mother pretty much outranks all of us. Simple reason is that she represents all that we served to protect.

  17. Duane says:

    Denise, as not only a retired service member but also a Gold Star family member myself, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

  18. Hate_me says:

    First, thank you to to Ms. Williams for a beautiful statement. I promise, I didn’t cry, but that’s only because I’m too proud to admit it. You, ma’am, stated what so many of us think on the matter, with a gravitas that (thankfully) few of us can match. I am eternally sorry for your loss, but infinitely thankful for the grace with which you’ve born it. Madam, you epitomize every reason for which we fight, and – though I never met him – I’m sure your son is proud of how you are addressing his loss.

    Beyond that, for the administrators of the site, I have lurked here for years and commented a few times under various names, but I’ve a piece I wrote about a year ago that I’d like to submit but have been struggling to find the right venue. It’s nowhere near as compelling as what Ms. Williams has written here, but I believe it’s worth a casual read… I’ve looked through the various FAQs et al on the site, but I can’t find a way to submit it. Please help.

  19. NHSparky says:

    Thanks for your perspective and enlightenment, Denise.

  20. OWB says:

    Other stuff got in the way and I almost forgot to thank Denise for sharing her perspective with us. Always good to hear. Unfortunately, hers in not an entirely unique perspective, but does serve to remind us that while we may be at different stages that we are all on the same journey of grief and grieving for someone lost from our lives.

    Some folks get support by having public displays while others do not. With or without specific names to utter, we are all on this path together and are rarely truly alone. That is the best message I have for the family of CPO Kent and every other family who lost someone that and every other day. We are with you.

    Thanks, Denise, for reminding us of several important aspects of the grieving process.

  21. CDR_D says:

    Ms. Williams, your comments are spot on. I say that as a Gold Star son from the Korean War. A long time ago, to be sure. But for a little boy of seven who adored his father, it shapes the rest of your life.

    Thanks for posting.

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