Ottawa Citizen

Breakup letter to soldier could jeopardize comrades in arms

- DEAR ABBY

DEAR READERS: Yesterday I printed some of the feedback regarding my answer to “ Feeling Guilty, Memphis, Tennessee” after I urged her to wait until her serviceman fiancé returned from Iraq before breaking their engagement. Today I share more of them. Read on: DEAR ABBY: I am a psychologi­st and served in Iraq running a combat stresscont­rol clinic. I couldn’t agree more with the answer you gave that young woman, and have wished for a forum in which to provide that exact advice.

Many of the soldiers we saw had exactly this problem — Dear John letters, e- mails or phone conversati­ons. I can’t tell you how distractin­g the informatio­n was to them. In addition to placing their own lives in jeopardy, their inattentiv­eness jeopardize­d the lives of soldiers around them.

Ladies ( and gentlemen), listen up! Do not communicat­e this type of informatio­n until the soldier returns. It’ll be easier to deal with complaints of deceit than with the guilt of possibly having caused physical harm to someone else. In this particular case, ignorance is bliss.

TOM ANDERSON, South Carolina DEAR ABBY: My husband, and every soldier around who was discussing your column, disagreed with your reply. They all said they would rather be given the bad news while deployed. They said they have lots of people around to support them. This will give the soldier time to heal and close a chapter of his life. If she’s worried about his reaction, it might be better to send a letter to someone in his chain of command, perhaps with a sealed letter to him to ensure he gets any help he might need. She also needs to do the right thing and return any money or gifts he’s given her.

SOLDIER’S WIFE, West Virginia DEAR ABBY: As a retired air force director of safety, I can attest that the probabilit­y of an accident or possible suicide among young people increases markedly following a traumatic emotional situation such as divorce, breakup ( receipt of a Dear John letter), court- martial, etc. If “ Feeling Guilty” values her friend’s life at all, she should definitely wait until he has returned. Then she would probably be doing him a favour by breaking up, because she’s not in love, she’s in “ lust.”

ALFRED J. D’AMARIO, Lt.- Col., USAF ( ret.) DEAR ABBY: I cried when I read your response to “ Feeling Guilty.” I was a marine serving in Chu Lai, South Vietnam, in 1965, when a close friend got a “ Dear John” from his wife. He died that same night as a result of an “ accident” involving a hand grenade. I pray she has the heart to wait until her fiancé returns to safe soil. ALWAYS A MARINE IN MY HEART,

Englewood, Florida DEAR ABBY: When I was a company commander in Vietnam, Dear John letters were my biggest personnel problem. Soldiers in harm’s way cling desperatel­y to girlfriend­s and wives. I had one soldier commit suicide over a Dear John letter. We learned to put soldiers under a suicide watch for a few days after such a letter. Family members and friends who write to “ tattle” do the soldier no favour. Let the soldier get home with support from family and friends before dropping the news. Letters and e- mails should be overwhelmi­ngly positive. Our military people deserve that much.

RON K., Rogersvill­e, Tennessee

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