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.