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How Do You Talk To Kids About Hard Things?

You may see this picture of the squadron patch on Facebook to honor those who lost their lives today.  To those we lost, a toast...
This is a picture of the patch from the squadron that lost 6 of their own today with the black stripe in memorial.

I really do mean that as a question because I don’t know the answer.

In case you were wondering what brought on this somber topic, let me tell you.  I have no idea how much coverage it is getting in the states right now, but a C-130J crashed in Afghanistan this morning near the city of Jalalabad.  Many of the details are unclear at this time but it seems pretty clear from the reports that the entire crew of 6 lost their lives in the crash.

Now this would make me pause no matter what as every life that is lost in the defense of our country is special to me, but this one really strikes a lot closer to home for a number of reasons.  The most obvious reason is that I fly on the C-130, though an older model, and it is likely that I either know some of the crew, or at least have close friends that do.  The second reason is that I have been to the place where this happened multiple times while I was deployed.

Maybe the biggest reason this is striking me so hard is that this was the first time I have had to explain something like this to my kids, and I have no idea how to do it.  My wife actually told them about it before I got home, and who really knows how much they understand, but it is just something that I am finding challenging to think about, let alone explain to my kids.  They know that I fly airplanes and even that it is the C-130, which makes me super proud that they know what it is, and they even understand that it can be dangerous if I’m not careful.

When I deployed we were very clear with them about how daddy need to go away from home for a little while to try and help people who needed it.  It was hard on them but they were pretty tough most of the time.  Even with all of that, how do you explain to them that some other kids will never see their daddy again because of an accident doing the same job that you do every day?

Just to be clear I think it is important to talk about things like this because it is reality.  The nature of my work is a dangerous one, and there are inherent risks.  We do an amazing job mitigating those risks, but tragedies like this still happen.  If we allow our kids to live in a bubble where they think everything is flowers and fairies then I don’t think they will be able to deal with the tragedies that ultimately do happen.  On the other hand, we also don’t want to scare them to the point that they never want to take risks or make mistakes because then we are only selling them short of their full potential.

The more I think about this I don’t think there really is a good answer because every kid and every situation is different.  But what I do think is important is to talk to our kids when tragedies happen so that they aren’t just left to wonder.  It is not easy to deal with tragedy, but learning to cope is an essential life skill that can easily get overlooked if we don’t do our jobs as parents.

In closing I would ask you to take a moment to think about those who lost their lives today in defense of our freedoms.  If you are a religious person I am sure their families can use all of the prayers you can spare.  If you aren’t, take an extra moment to hug your family today because your ability to do so is exactly why so many of us do what we do.

To those we lost, a toast…

By Crash Uncle

Crash Uncle is father to three amazing kids, a C-130 Navigator in the USAF, and Crash Dad's favorite brother.

4 replies on “How Do You Talk To Kids About Hard Things?”

I lost my cousin in a C-130 who had two very small children too young to understand 31 years ago. We never forget and talk to the children with stories of their father so they learn who he was as a person. Even this weekend in Abilene at one child’s wedding, I gave a gift of cufflinks with a C-130 flying in the clouds. Life goes on but the love for this soldier is left behind as well as memories. My own husband flew the C-130 and when deploying to OEF and OIF we had young children. We sat them down and explained the possibility of never coming back. My husband explained his faith and expectations of them and wrote letters to each child for them to read in case of the worst event imaginable, only to be opened upon the loss of his life. However putting into perspective, we explained none of us have any guarantee for another day. It could be a car accident or such and that we have to live each day to the fullest. Don’t ever go to sleep angry and be willing to forgive others even when not solicited. Being a believer in Jesus our Messiah and the hope of things not seen provided us with great peace and comfort for what ever was to happen.

Incredibly well said. We also try to be very upfront with our kids even though they are still pretty small. It is nice to see them step up when I have to leave for extended periods of time. I try not to think about the worst happening, but it is important to prepare just in case, because, as you said, there is no guarantee of a tomorrow. Faith also makes a huge difference when it comes to managing tragedies like this. It gives the whole thing a different perspective and can provide a peace that is available in no other way. Thank you for sharing.

My heart goes out to the families of those who perished in the crash. The shock of it all with the families I know is over whelming. When my cousin died, my sister happened to be working in Frankfurt and it was a really good thing to have family there to help with the children. The AF was great in dealing with moving etc. They packed out the house while the wife and children flew home. My father, a retired Army aviator, met the body in Delaware and had to view the remains to verify that it was indeed who they had marked. After the funeral his wife received a package in the mail of his scarf, ring, watch (which was smashed on impact.).

When my husband was doing night training, I used to lay in bed at night listening for the C130 to land. It was then I could go to sleep. I knew things can happen even on a training mission. When he was deployed I prayed every night for God to put a shield of protection around him and those with him and to guide his every step and decision. That’s all I could do and make sure the home front was taken care of.

When my father in law passed recently, my husband and his brother found a letter their father, a green beret, had written to them in case of his death. How thankful they were they didn’t have to read it sooner! He lived a great life, just not long enough. I suppose it never is long enough though.

In all my husband’s deployments, we lost one PJ at home and two wives and a daughter from the wing. All the deployed soldiers thankfully made it home! I think any time discussing death with children is t easy but it’s reality and they need to know that no matter what happens, everything will be alright. They need to know they will be taken care of and feel secure.

Have you seen the video “Angel Flight?” I heard the song driving in the dark pouring rain one day going to pick up my husband and I just cried my eyes out. A touching tribute. Thank you for your service and for being brave!

I can’t even imagine how the families must be feeling right now as I think it would be totally surreal. From what I have seen in the C-130 community they should be well taken care of and get the support they need. It is funny that you mentioned not being able to fall asleep until your husband landed. When I flew last night I got a text from my wife within minutes of landing saying she was going to sleep, almost like she knew I had landed and was safe.

I have seen the video Angel Flight and it is incredibly moving. I am actually glad it was not made more popular or mainstream because it is a special message that it shares. A friend of mine wrote about his experience with just such a flight as a captain for the airlines that I also found moving: http://www.nycaviation.com/2014/05/flying-fallen-hero/#.VhRo-SvcDnc

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