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Military wives rally around Karilyn Bales

Women are going online to show their compassion for the wife of the Army staff sergeant who has been charged with 17 counts of murder. NBC's Miguel Almaguer reports.

By Miguel Almaguer and Vivian Kim
NBC News

 RIDGEFIELD -- After her children fell asleep, Lori Volkman crept into her basement office, turned on her computer, and wept as she began to write.

“Dear Kari,” she typed from her home in Ridgefield, Wash.  “I can’t imagine the thud you felt in your heart and the ice that coursed in your veins when you heard a knock and saw a uniform standing at your front door. I can't fully imagine the fear and shock ..."

Volkman's message began as an open letter to Karilyn Bales, the wife of Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales who has been charged with murdering 17 civilians in Afghanistan. Volkman wrote, "I don't condemn you for being married to a man who has been accused."

After all, the two women shared a lot in common. Both had husbands who served multiple deployments, and two young children they raised for months at a time alone. Both women had also written blogs about their time at home during their husband's deployments.


"The one thing I really learned when my husband came home from his last mobilization was coming to grips with the fact that unless I had experienced it, I might never understand. And I think there are a lot of people filling in blanks and assuming things and I wanted her to know that we didn't associate her with all of these events and what happened that we were gonna stand by her as military spouses and let her know that we knew she was going through a difficult time right now," Volkman told NBC News.  "And I think that's what military spouses do, they rally around each other especially in difficult times."

Volkman, the deputy prosecuting attorney in Washington State, started writing in September 2010 when her husband was deployed to the Middle East. Her web audience is typically pretty small -- normally she gets just a few hundred hits -- but a few hours after her emotional letter, Volkman’s blog, wittylittlesecret.com, was flooded with comments and received more than 10,000 hits in three days. Many of the comments were from military wives, and nearly all of them were overwhelmingly positive.

"The spouses are here for you," one read.  "We have your back," said another. A third wrote, "There are many of us out here ... praying for her and her family."

When Volkman first heard about Robert Bales' story, she and her mother, who is also a military wife, talked about Bales' wife Karilyn.

"We cried," Volkman said. "I didn't know that that would be the common experience until I wrote it and saw the comments."

Volkman was surprised by the sheer volume of web traffic, but she was also shocked when women who said they were friends of Karilyn Bales commented that the staff sergeant’s wife had read the letter and comments too.

"I received emails from a couple of different friends [of Karilyn Bales]" said Volkman. "And [Karilyn] asked them to relay to me that she felt the outpouring of support and she was grateful for it, and that she cried."

NBC News attempted to contact Karilyn Bales, but she was not available for comment. 

Earlier this week Volkman posted the messages from the women who claimed to be Karilyn Bales' friends. One of them read, “She’s just so grateful to you all … She really doesn’t know what will happen next; she is safe on base, but she doesn’t know when and if she’ll see Bob, or what will happen with regard to anything.  To that end she’s just going to keep her nose to the grindstone and concentrate on the kids.”

Volkman's words seemed to have struck a chord with military wives all across the country. And of the hundreds of responses Volkman received, only a few were negative.  

“The overwhelmingly positive response has blown me away,” Volkman wrote on her blog. “And yes, I’ve been posting every single comment.”

Military spouses often become surrogate families for one another, she said, driven by the uncertainty of war. 

"I can't imagine what it must have been like for [Karilyn]," she said.  "Her life will have changed forever at that moment, and that, as a military spouse, you can relate to. There are things that happen in our lives that change us forever. And that was that moment for her."