|The True Heroes|
|By Corporal William Young|
If you are familiar with my work, if you have read anything that I have ever written, you know that I spend a lot of time talking and writing about the difficulties of being a Correctional Officer, the things that cause us stress, and the challenges that we face when we’re outside in the real world. You also should know that in my very modest and humble opinion, I consider Correctional Officers heroes. They are heroes for the job that they do day in and day out, without proper acknowledgement or public recognition. But today I’d like to recognize another group of individuals, another group of unsung heroes. I want to use my soapbox to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of our spouses.
I’ve been with my wife for almost twenty years, long before I pinned on the badge and started my correctional career. During that time she has watched me change. She has witnessed firsthand what a constant stream of stress and trauma can do to a person. She has watched this job darken my worldview, making me cynical and angry and less trusting of people.
See, I am a jerk—A LOT. I am tired—A LOT. I am worn out—A LOT. And some days, simple decisions and discussions about dinner and the weekend and what color should we paint the house are too much for me to participate in because I’ve been answering questions all day, because I’ve been solving everybody’s problems all day, and I no longer want to participate in anything that requires me to make a decision of any kind.
See, my wife takes care of everything when I’m inside the walls. And while I work hundreds and hundreds of hours of overtime, she is at home for hundreds and hundreds of hours by herself, raising the kids, helping with the homework, planning vacations, and paying the bills. How unfair is it for her to not have a husband or a partner to share those kinds of things with?
My wife has always been a strong and independent woman, but she has had to become even more so because I’m not there. Not because I don’t want to be there, but because I’m in jail. I’m not there because I am working sixty or seventy hours a week and then when I get home I have to jump right in the bed because I have report back to the facility in less than seven hours.
And I think that she understands, but it does come up, her frustration does surface. And then we argue because the truth hurts. It hurts that she has had to learn to live without me. And it hurts that she doesn’t need me around anymore. And it hurts and there is some guilt, because I’m guessing that when she was little and she was imagining what her life would be like and she was daydreaming about her knight in shining armor, I’m guessing that she wasn’t daydreaming about marrying a Correctional Officer that would never be home. I’m guessing that she didn’t foresee dating some mildly handsome super funny guy that would eventually become an angry, irritable recluse.
It takes a special kind of woman, a strong, tough, determined woman to support a mess of a human being like myself. And I think a mistake that we often make as Officers is we isolate ourselves from our support network. We shut down and we don’t talk and share the things that bother us. And we do it all in the name of protecting them.
And I think what happens in a lot of relationships is people get upset and they don’t talk about it. I was upset when my wife told me that she doesn’t need me there anymore, that she doesn’t need me to do the things that normal husbands do because she’s had to learn to do them on her own because I’m never home. Hearing that was like a punch in the gut. But she’s right. I know that she’s right. And I had a choice, I could’ve gotten mad and upset and thrown my hands up and said, “Fine, find somebody that will help you do those things.” I could have thrown myself a pity party and said something silly like, “What am I supposed to do? I work all the time.” But I didn’t. I listened to her and it hurt and it stung and it still stings because she’s right. She doesn’t need me but she does WANT me to be there, she wants me to be there and to participate. She’s committed and dedicated as am I to our relationship and whatever happens, come hell or high water, we will figure this thing out together. I’m lucky in that aspect; I’m blessed to have her.
Over the years we’ve watched several relationships around us crumble and yet here we are and that has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with her and her patience and her dedication and her understanding.
Look, being a correctional officer is tough, it’s very mentally and emotionally taxing, but being the spouse of a correctional officer is even tougher.
I sometimes tease my wife because she doesn’t read my articles but the other day I asked her why. I asked her and she said that she doesn’t read them because she is already worried about me, she is already nervous and anxious, and she said that if she read my articles and saw my feelings in print, it would be too much. She told me that she couldn’t shoulder that weight and it made me think.
And it’s crazy because this conversation made me realize that in the past when I’d get into my routine, when I’d be putting on my boots and my belt and my badge, preparing myself emotionally and mentally for the day, I never once thought about her and the fact that every time I leave the house she worries about me. Looking back, I guess I never thought about it because I couldn’t afford to think about it. (I will think about it now though.)
So, this week, I want you to take a minute, and I want you to talk to your spouse or your partner or your significant other and I want you to give them a great big hug and tell them that you appreciate their love and their support and that if it wasn’t for them you would’ve given up a long time ago.
Hug them and tell them that you love them and that they are your hero.
This article has been reprinted with permission from the August 2019 Issue of Correctional Oasis, a monthly e-publication of "Desert Waters Correctional Outreach".
Corporal William Young has worked as a Correctional Officer in the state of Nebraska since March of 2005. He has worked throughout his facility in various areas ranging from Sanitation to Segregation and is currently assigned to Community Corrections. Corporal Young is a member of the Crisis Intervention Team and the Crisis Negotiation Team. He is a certified Emergency Preparedness (LETRA) instructor and also teaches Motivational Interviewing and the award winning course “From Corrections Fatigue to Fulfillment” (CF2F).
If you have any questions, comments, or feedback that you would like to share, please contact William at Justcorrections@gmail.com or www.facebook.com/wllmyoung/.
The agency for which he works is not in any way responsible for the content or accuracy of this material, and the views are those of the author and not necessarily those of the agency.
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