With soldiers on extended deployments and families back home struggling to cope, military divorce rates are up — and so are the letters seeking help from Ms. Vicki.
Vicki Johnson is an officer's wife at Fort Campbell, Ky. The military puts a lot of resources into mental health counseling. But servicemen and women often are hesitant to officially seek help for fear it may end up in their record and cost them a promotion. So, they anonymously turn to Ms. Vicki, who write a column which can be found on the Fort Campbell Courier Web site. She receives e-mails now from military families across the country.
"Sometimes, when you have nowhere else to go," Charlene Daschle, a solder's wife who writes to Ms. Vicki told Early Show national correspondent Hattie Kauffman. "Ms. Vicki and her advice that she gives out is very useful for families that basically don't have a lot of family to talk to."
Some of the letters she gets are heartbreaking.
"Last week I had a miscarriage," one woman wrote. "It was very hard to tell my husband when he called."
Some writers simply want to vent.
"I am getting really sick of people labeling military wives," another woman wrote.
Others seek practical advice.
"I'm doing everything I know to do to support him now, but is there anything more I can do once he leaves for Afghanistan?" a woman asked.
"Marriage and infidelity — I get a lot of questions about that. Combat stress — 'my husband's changed since he's been back from Iraq. My wife has changed since she's come back from Iraq. She can't eat, she can't sleep. She's having nightmares,'" Johnson said.
But sometimes, Johnson said she wishes she could reach out and hug the writer — especially one solider who arrived home from war to find his wife left him.
"He's stepping off the plane to flags waving, and banners 'welcome home our heroes' and he doesn't see his wife there," she said. "So he goes, he goes inside the hangar, you know, and watches the different reunions and he goes home to an empty house. Well, she's left."
She counseled that soldier to keep his anger and hurt in check. There's something about Ms. Vicki that just makes people open up: even Kauffman.
"I'm a military mom," Kauffman told Johnson. "My son's been to Iraq twice. My son's a staff sergeant."
In the age of 24-hour news channels that let you know of every bomb blast or casualty almost instantly, Johnson says important let your feelings out.
"I don't have to be this super-woman who, you know, has to hold everything in or have to put up this front like everything's OK when it's not," Johnson said. "I can cry, too, and I have cried many times."
With sailors, soldiers and Marines continuing to face long deployments, their families may need Ms. Vicki more than ever.
"When I got home from Iraq, I really didn't know what to do, or how to deal or cope with, you know, my family," Daschle said. "Basically I didn't know how to be a mom because I was so busy being a soldier, and it kind of helped me to teach me to be more of a mom."
For more on Ms. Vicki, visit the Fort Campbell Courier Web site.
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