What a wingman means to me

  • Published
  • By Linda Ambard
  • Youth Center director
I recently read an article in the Hansconian about being a good wingman. As a civilian employee, I understand the need for a wingman and how to be a good wingman more than most.

My life imploded in a blink of an eye on April 27, 2011, when my husband was killed in Afghanistan. Everything I knew and all the moorings I had for 23 years was instantly gone; my sense of home, sense of belonging and knowing my role--poof.

Some people stepped up and some did not. Many people did not know what to do or what to say, so they did or said nothing. In my most paralyzing pain, I felt the most alone. People, some I had never even met, and none that I had been close to before that day, stepped up and carried me. They did not worry about it being someone else's job. They just were the hands that reached out to a broken girl who did not know what to ask for.

Holidays are often hard for those who are hurting. While people rush past, caught up in the melee of living, aching hearts stand paralyzed with what was lost or with what never was. Never are people more invisible than when a person is caught up in their own happiness, business or their own people. The single moms struggling to provide the basics to her children and deal with the loneliness, the elderly widow lost and adrift after many years of companionship, the hospitalized patients afraid and hurting, the homeless needing and wanting--many are pushed to the side and largely forgotten. It is easy to write a check or send a package, but the gift of time is harder to give. People don't ask for companionship or time, but often those gifts are the most valuable of all.

The military has a program that encourages civilians and military members to be good "wingmen." The idea is to watch out for our brothers and sisters and to be a good friend. In essence, the idea is to help our friends out so that they are not lost to suicide or risky behaviors. The concept is good, but truly few reach out to others outside of work. People rarely see behind the masks that people wear.

Speaking for myself, I am guilty--guilty of wearing masks and guilty of not seeing or wanting to see behind another's mask. It takes work and time. I often find myself thinking others are closer to that person or that my efforts would be rebuffed. When I had Phil and the kids, I was caught up in my own life. Yes, I get it, but I see a whole new paradigm.

In my want and need, I retreat into a quiet solitude. I am incapable of asking for companionship or seeking it out. I have noticed that many others are the same. We walk about with the painted on smiles that mask the weeping heart and nobody cares to know if the bright red smiles are that of a circus clown.

This week, I spoke with a lady who, after many years of marriage, watched it implode. Her feelings of helplessness, battered self-worth and loneliness mask mine. I also saw it in the young single person living far from home. Yet people assume that all is well and that people are providing what is needed for the aching heart. A good wingman would make sure that a person is with someone else on these days. Holidays hurt.

My local wingman is someone I don't even work with. She is persistent and she is diligent to make sure that I am wrapped in her family. It is not convenient for her. I don't have my car yet and she has three young children, but she gets it. She steps up and she stands with me. Others say that they get it, but when was the last time they made the effort of time?

I write about this because so many people need someone today and during this time. I urge you to invite the often overlooked people to dinner, or take the time to visit with them today. Being a good wingman is about more than words. It is actions that compel us to be the reaching hands and the feet that go.