Monday, September 3, 2012

In the News...

I'm taking a break from posting about Childhood Cancer tonight. I'll get back to that, but I want to talk about something else for a few minutes.

There's an article that has been circulating Facebook, especially among my military circles. A 21 year old Air Force wife, Tiffany Klapheke, was facing her first deployment. Her husband Thomas just left 2 months ago.  She had her hands full with 3 young daughters - Taberlee, 3 years, Tamryn, 22 months and Tatum, 6 months old. No doubt some days had to be overwhelming for the young mother.


Last Tuesday afternoon, Tiffany called 911. Her middle child, 22 month old Tamryn, was not breathing. What happened next was the unfolding of a nightmare. When the first responders arrived at the home, they could not revive Tamryn. She was transported to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead. Weighing in at only 17 pounds, she showed signs of malnutrition and lack of basic care. She was also covered in chemical burns from laying in her own waste for an extended period of time. The other two girls, Taberlee and Tatum, were alive, but not much better off. They were transported to ICU and thankfully responded to care immediately. 

And now? Thomas is on his way home from... wherever he is... Tiffany is in jail... the kids are in foster care and Tiffany is blaming deployment. Really?! She was so depressed because of Thomas' deployment that she just... stopped living. She later told a news station in an interview that she should have been a good mother and taken them to the doctor, but 'I didn't put them first anymore.' She said that she was so impatient about Tamryn's potty training, that she left her in her crib in her own urine for nearly a week. There are also reports that two weeks before Tamryn died, a friend walked in on Tiffany about to commit suicide and stopped her... but they never told anyone or got Tiffany help. 

I read these articles in awe. I have read my friend's comments over the last two days. Some of them have been angry and disgusted. Some of them have been sad... for Thomas and for the girls... even for Tiffany. She's going to have to live with this for the rest of her life. I've been thinking A LOT about it and I did some digging, because that's what I do. 

Here's what I know. Tiffany was adopted when she was 8 years old. Before that she had been in at least 5 different foster placements... some were abusive and all were unable to care for her unsafe behavior and aggression resulting from an extensive abuse and neglect history. Then, her adoptive father plead guilty to molesting a minor, and though Tiffany was not named, her adoptive parents divorced. Her adoptive mother remarried and they seem to have a good relationship with Tiffany now... they are completely devastated that this has happened and said it would have taken one phone call and they would have been there to help. 

Her mother is there at the hospital with her granddaughters now. She says that they are doing well but Taberlee is scared. And rightfully so. I'm sure it will be a little better when their daddy gets home, but nothing for these two girls, will ever be quite right again. 

So... Now I'm left with all these thoughts, all these questions... the first time I read this article, the VERY first thing I thought was, "WHERE the HECK was her FRG?!" An FRG is a lifeline for a military spouse during a deployment. They are supposed to check in on you from time to time, be your lifeline to all things military and help if you need it. They are your family when your real family is far away. I've had some good FRGs and some not so good FRGs. When Kennedy was born they loved our family wholly and completely. When she was going through chemo, they loved us again. They took care of us and let us know they were there. I'll never forget that. Of course playing the devil's advocate, if Tiffany's FRG didn't KNOW she needed help, there was nothing they could do, but from reading these articles, it sounds like you couldn't SEE her without knowing something was wrong. 

WHY didn't Tiffany pick up a phone and call her parents? Why didn't she say, "I just need help." I can't imagine what it's like battling full blown depression and she says in one of the articles that she just didn't know her daughter was that sick. I want to believe that. But she HAD to know that leaving her daughter in a urine soaked crib for a week, was NOT okay. One phone call home, to a friend, to her FRG, to ANYONE and maybe Tamryn would still be alive today. 

Did her husband, Thomas, know how bad it was? There's an unwritten rule among military wives - "Don't tell your husband how bad it gets at home... they don't need the stress." I've always found this interesting because I don't hide things well. Frank can tell when something is wrong with me as soon as I answer the phone. If I *don't* tell him, he just worries more. He'd rather know, even though he can't fix it, just so he doesn't feel out of the loop. And I'm not blaming Thomas AT ALL, but did he know?? 

What part does Tiffany's childhood play in all this? Will she use it in her court case? Will she get off on an insanity plea for post-partum depression? Will there be a new precedent set for deployed spouse depression or something like that? Somehow, I just feel like she's going to get a really light sentence for this. So many questions... 

At the end of the day Thomas is coming home after 2 months of deployment to one beautiful little girl who is gone and two more beautiful little girls whose lives have forever changed. HIS life has forever changed. The whole thing is just... sad. 


Rest in Peace, Tamryn. You'll never be hungry or wet again. 

13 comments :

Monicas Mom Musings said...

Well gee someone knew. The friend who caught her about to commit suicide knew. It's so hard to know what to do in these instances and really if you're that deep in depression you just aren't thinking clearly. What seems so obvious to us that she should have done isn't. And yeah, that's why temporary insanity is a defense. Because you just really can get to the point that you're just not thinking right. People need to stop being afraid to get involved. Afraid to call for help. Because clearly someone saw and for whatever reason didn't get her help. How do you walk into a house, stop someone from committing suicide, see those babies malnourished and covered in sores and not do anything? It's gotta be either fear or simply not knowing what to do. I have to say I do hope the community doesn't react too harshly against her. And I don't know do they make you go through any sort of mental tests before they deploy your spouse? Perhaps that needs to be a part of deployment. Figure out who has a propensity for depression and making sure that those are set up with a therapist who can closely monitor that situation.

Lynn said...

I just don't have words...
Praying right now!
Psalms 31:1-3 In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness. Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock, for an house of defence to save me. For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name's sake lead me, and guide me.
My email address

skeleigh said...

As an Air Force wife, I want to say that there should have been a Key Spouse checking in on this young wife, but I have seen how broken the AF's Key Spouse program is. We are currently stationed in Japan and my husband is currently deployed, but I can't really judge the squadron on how many times they've checked in on me (which, for the record, is twice in four months) because I am 46-years-old and have been living this military life long enough for them all to know that I can handle myself.

But there was another wife in our squadron who committed suicide last Fall, leaving behind two children aged 1 and 4. I know for a fact that there were other spouses who knew she had considered suicide, but I only know that because I was told so AFTER she jumped off a cliff. Too little, too late.

People are so afraid of confrontation anymore, and they don't want to "get in anyone's business", so they don't say anything. It's sad.

I can't wrap my mind around this story at all. I can't imagine being a mother at 21, let alone the mother of three small children. But I see it all the time in the military. It's tragic really, but you can't stop it from happening. Sad.

Holly Aytes said...

How horrible for everyone, there are no words other than that. I will be praying for the whole family.

~just me~ said...

I am very sadden for ALL involved in this horrific story. I may come across a bit 'harsh' but I spent 20 years as a Navy wife suffering from depression with a child, far away from any family and few friends. We didn't live on base, we didn't go to church until years later, we didn't have an FRG (we had ombudsmen but never once did one check on me during a deployment). I didn't make it through because I'm so strong or super human...but because I had to, in spite of the depression and in spite of my health issues. It was hard, extremely hard at times. But there are too many resources available for help for something like this to happen ESP if there is family close by and friends that KNOW something is wrong. I will be praying for all.

The McCammons said...

We can't judge, and honestly don't know what she was thinking or feeling, but growing up a military child with an evil step mother myself, I know that there is always help out there. Not just for the parents but for the children also. All she had to do was pick up the phone, her family wouldv'e been there, someone on base I'm sure would have been there, and the friend that knew she had attempted suicide should have said something if not for the friends sake then the sake of the childrens lives. Now, one is sadly not here anymore (however now she will no longer be in pain) but her sisters and daddy are for ever changed. It's sad, praying for the whole family.

Anne B. said...

This breaks my heart....how can we as human beings with intelligence and compassionate hearts allow this to happen in 2012? I pray for this family...all of them. And I pray that this will open many eyes and ears so that stories like this (and I am sure there are many that we do not hear) never come to pass again. We are such a broken society. When will we learn to love one another again? So so sad. (((HUGS))) Renee and thanks for sharing. I admire your own strength in living with frequent deployment. I think you are bringing the difficulties to light and I thank you and Frank for your service and comittment!

Leah S. said...

My guess is she had RAD. Think about it: She was an older adoptee, first abused then separated, then bounced around again and again. Adopted then abused. Then went through the divorce of her adoptive parents (and likely abuse AGAIN!) and separation from her adoptive father. She likely doesn't attach to people well, and probably didn't attach to her own children. She was more concerned about the work created by soiled sheets than the wellbeing of her children. Her survival skills were well developed long before she became a mother, and those survivor instincts tell her to take care of HERSELF first. I'm not saying any of this to make excuses for her behavior, because frankly it sickens me. I wouldn't be at all surprised if it comes up in the court case that she needs serious help. That she isn't mentally well, because of course she's not. A parent who is mentally well doesn't do this stuff. She still has to face consequences, but my guess is she could care less about them. Her survivor instincts would have her more concerned with the fact she's being punished than the fact she killed and neglected her children.

Stephanie said...

I'm guessing she also had RAD and abandoment issues.. neither are excuses for what happen but she was obviously a broken child... you dont make it through all that unharmed mentally or emotionally. I cant believe no one knew what was going on. And I don't think that she didnt realize what she was doing. She may have not cared about what she was doing but she KNEW she left the baby in a crim for a week and that it was WRONG.

Notsopc said...

How sad... How very sad...

Jen T. said...

So very sad...it blows my mind that it is harder to get a driver's license, a mortgage, etc. in this country but anyone can become a parent with no training whatsoever.

Three kids, ages 3 and under, by age 21? I'm sure there are parents out there who are successful, but I can't even imagine how stressful that must have been for her. And trying to potty train a 22 month old? Again, I'm sure it's been done successfully, but here's a great example of where some training or education would be helpful.

Heartbreaking...for all involved.

Carla said...

Sadly, I have never seen the AF as involved in famliy as the Army! We have lived here for 5 years, countless sugeries for my kids and have never been contacted by anyone!! Same when my husband has been deployed! I have been contacted 1 time in 20 years! It is a sad, sad situation!!

Jordan Kirby said...

I work closely with Thomas's mom and from my understanding no one saw this coming b/c Tiffany painted the picture that everything was fine. They were there in March visiting and everyone was happy and healthy. From my understanding this all started after the suicide threat and has not been an ongoing issue. They went in the home this week and had to throw everything out it was so bad. Please pray for this family.