Claim: A soldier returning from deployment discovers his wife has died during his absence, and their children have starved to death.
[Collected via e-mail, September 2010]
The story supposedly happened in the years before the internet and email.
A serviceman who was deployed overseas left behind his wife and small children. The family lived off of the base. The wife had an undiagnosed heart condition and died.
The children starved to death while locked in the home with the mothers corpse.
The deaths were not discovered until the father returned home from his deployment and found the bodies.
[Collected via e-mail, June 2006]
I heard several of my friends talking about a really sad story the other day.
They talked about a man that went on tour in Iraq, leaving his wife and
At home, the woman had put her infant son and daughter in a playpen, when she suffered a heart attack and died.
The husband found his dead wife and children several months later.
Origins: This harrowing tale of a father’s anguished discovery travels in military circles, where it serves to express one of the greatest fears experienced by those separated from their loved ones by postings to distant lands. The dread of all parents that they might not be present when their children need them most is given voice in this legend about a serviceman’s horrifying homecoming from an absence that inadvertently escalated a tragedy and provided a cause for lifelong guilt.
In the most common form of legend, a hitherto undiagnosed medical infirmity (heart condition, asthma) or accident is responsible for the wife’s passing, while it’s the serviceman’s absence that proves fatal to the children. Invariably, there are two kids (always described as babies or small children), they die of starvation, and their father is the one to
discover their bodies.
Although we don’t know whether the incident was the basis for commonly circulated form of this legend, it is true that 24-year-old
No one noticed the absence of
The story contains elements of two venerable urban legends: In the “Baby high chair death” tale, parents who’ve entrusted their child to a sitter while on vacation return home to find their now-dead infant still strapped in his chair where they’d left him because the sitter hadn’t shown up and the child starved. In the “Climax of Horrors” legend, a man’s homecoming is marred by the discovery of the many calamities that have taken place in his absence.
As a military legend, the story speaks to the sacrifices those serving their country are called upon to make. Theirs are lives of continual absences from home, often including lengthy periods when they are unable to be in touch with spouses and children. But in a larger sense the legend showcases the fear family members in any line of work have when away from home for extended amounts of time. During their absences, bad things may be taking place, and it is this awareness that fuels a lurking sense of
Barbara “guilt edged” Mikkelson
Last updated: 30 March 2014
Geisler-Jones, Amy. “Airman’s Dead Spouse Was to Visit Her Father.” Stars and Stripes. 3 July 1991 (p. 3). Weale, Sally. “Children ‘Starved to Death’ When Mother Died.” Press Association. 2 July 1991. Associated Press. “Returning Air Force Sergeant Finds Family Dead.” 1 July 1991.