With his wife and child close at hand, Army Maj. Chad Wriglesworth battled skin cancer for more than a year before dying at age 37.
“It was long and painful and awful,” said Aimee Wriglesworth, who believes the cancer resulted from exposure to toxic fumes in Iraq. Yet the 28-year-old widow from Bristow, Va., seized a chance to recount the ordeal and its aftermath to a researcher, hoping that input from her and her 6-year-old daughter might be useful to other grieving military families.
“To be able to study what we felt and what we’re going through — maybe this will help people down the line,” Wriglesworth said.
By the hundreds, other widows, widowers, parents, siblings and children are sharing accounts of their grief as part of the largest study ever of America’s military families as they go through bereavement. About 2,000 people have participated over the past three years, and one-on-one interviews will continue through February.
We’re generally not a fan of the soft social sciences. Having said that, we do think that we as a nation owe more to the families of those who died in the service of their nation than a flag and a check. Ultimately, the goal has to be that the families can cope sufficiently to return to being productive, functioning members of society. And most families probably can do that with the existing structure. But can we do more at reasonable cost? And is there a population that isn’t being sufficiently cared for? Maybe. This is a good first step to finding out.
When we risk our lives for our nation, there is a tacit agreement that in return, our families will receive consideration.