Karilyn Bales — wife of the Army staff sergeant accused of murdering 17 Afghan civilians — says it’s hard for her to believe her husband could have committed the killings. She also says she didn’t notice behavior indicating that he could be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“This is not him. It’s not him,” she told NBC’s “Today” show in an interview near her home in Washington state. She described the 38-year-old soldier as a man who loved children and who wanted to avoid further combat deployments in order to spend more time with his own two kids.
“He’s like a big kid himself,” she said.
Bales, a veteran of three deployments to Iraq, was on his fourth assignment, this time in Afghanistan, when the shootings occurred during the pre-dawn hours of March 11 near a small Army outpost in Kandahar province.
Five of the dead were women; nine were children.
Bales said her husband had not appeared to be suffering ill effects from his previous deployments, and had not even mentioned a head injury he suffered in Iraq until he returned.
“Not until he came back and said that he, you know, had been blown up. He shielded me from a lot of what he went through. He’s a very tough guy,” she said. “He kept a lot from me.”
She said Bales never seemed to exhibit classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, an affliction that haunts many veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I don’t know a lot about the symptoms of PTSD, so I wouldn’t know,” she said. “He doesn’t have nightmares, you know, things like that. No dreams.”
Karilyn Bales kept blogs over the past several years that described what looked to be a typical military family life. She cared for their children, ages 3 and 5, and hoped that her sniper-trained husband could get an assignment, perhaps as a military recruiter, that would allow him to be home more.
Instead, she got a version of the phone call military spouses dread most.
“I was actually at the grocery store that morning, and [got] a phone call from my parents, and they said, ‘Well, it looks like … some Afghan civilians were killed by a U.S. soldier,” she said. “I saw 38-year-old staff sergeant, and I don’t think there are very many of those, and I probably prayed and prayed that my husband wasn’t involved. And then I received a phone call from the Army saying that they would like to come out and talk to me.”
She was relieved. A phone call meant he wasn’t dead.