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Chris Allen
May 03, 2011

Delayed Grief

As I sit here at Fort Benning completing my last day of our processing , I’m realizing that a lot has happened lately within our country with regard to Osama Bin Laden’s death, friends I’ve left behind, and the wife and girls I will see tomorrow evening when I fly home. Needless to say, while waiting in line for dental checks, shots, and exams, I’ve had some time to think about the past year and some time to think about what I wanted to write about in this latest blog entry.

Because of technical issues, I’m not writing about V&B this week. Basically, I can’t find a computer that will allow me to plug a thumb drive in. Anyways, I’ve had some time to think.

Over the past couple days, my thoughts have returned to a friend of mine that was killed in a helicopter crash a little less than two weeks ago. I can’t talk specifics, but Terry was a Chief Warrant Officer and flew Kiowa Scout Helicopters. Terry was a husband, father of a young daughter, and father to a daughter who is about to be born next month. He was an Industrial Psychologist prior to entering the Army. He was very funny and helped everyone he met.

I attended Terry’s memorial ceremony the day I flew out of Afghanistan. That Chapel at Bagram Airfield was packed with many people who knew Terry much better than I did. His ceremony began with everyone singing our National Anthem and included a speech given by his Battalion Commander. There was even a slide show of Terry’s life in the background. There were several speeches given this evening, but the Battalion Commander’s speech stuck with me the most. His words were kind, encouraging, and what one would expect given the circumstances and the fact that Terry was truly a great and respected person.

Most of his Battalion Commander’s speech encouraged the Soldiers within his Command to grieve but to move on. Basically, don’t spend too much time thinking about the loss of such a great comrade and friend.

I get it though. As pilots, these guys can’t be distracted by grief and really don’t have the time to process the loss suffered. Processing is distracting and potentially deadly. Terry’s friends were not just simple co-workers. They lived with him, ate all of their meals with him, and their families were neighbors.

If you were counseling Terry’s friends while deployed or when they return to home station, what do you think that some of the biggest problems might be? I’m not asking a rhetorical question here. I’d like to know for myself so that I can be a better Counselor and friend. For the VA Counselors that read this, have you encountered people like Terry’s friends?

Chris Allen is an Army Officer currently serving in Afghanistan who counsels Soldiers on a volunteer basis and will pursue licensure upon his return. He is passionate about developing counseling practices that best address Veterans and their families. Blog comments are not representative of the Army or Department of Defense.

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