military casualty crosses

The Word “Casualty” in the Military World

I think to most in the civilian world, the word “casualty” means death. However, in the military world, it can also mean wounded.

Let the wife who doesn’t know that get a phone call about multiple casualties in her husband’s unit and you will surely be on the other end of a complete melt-down.

I remember the very first phone call I received about casualties. Not knowing better, I also assumed that this meant someone had been killed.

As she said the words, my heart dropped and I felt that pit in my stomach. It wasn’t my husband but it was someone else’s.

My mind immediately went in a million different directions as I attempted to make sense of the news.

It wasn’t until several hours later when I was finally able to talk to my key caller for a few minutes that I understood the difference. And breathed a sigh of relief as crazy as that sounds. There were serious injuries but at least it wasn’t a KIA.

The next three Fridays in a row, I received a very similar call alerting me to casualties in the unit. Luckily, none of these incidents ended in death but it was unnerving, to say the least.

Enough so that a meeting was called for the spouses to meet with the leadership who was still stateside so they could attempt to provide some sense of calm and reassurance.

Here’s my advice on how to do that – change the word usage. Why can’t the military just be simple and not use that word when it is about an injury?

Aren’t we stressed enough without having confusing definitions for the same word?

I suppose after you have been around the military for a while, you begin to get more immune to the word itself and learn not to jump to conclusions.

But I must admit, even now, years after my first official encounter with the word, my first thought is still “death”.

It seems the Army could lead the way in introducing a new word to identify those who are wounded. Or why don’t we just say that someone was wounded? How about make it so there is no room for confusion or doubt over the information?

A simple change that would ease a lot of minds when they get that phone call or email from the FRG. Seeing a list of names with the term casualty is enough to make anyone’s heart skip a beat, even if your soldier’s name isn’t on the list.

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Stacey Abler
Stacey's husband joined the Army in 2003 and was medically retired after four deployments. She enjoys sharing her experiences and expertise around Army life while continuing to support Army spouses and families in their military journey.

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