Sunday, May 11, 2008

Change -- Iraq to America

"Are you nervous about going home?" a Staff Sergeant who'd been in the military since the early nineties asked me a couple days ago.

I hadn't thought much about it or expressed my feelings or thoughts on the subject before he asked me. Yes, I suppose I am. For one thing, I don't have an income to support my family. Since I had started working full-time for myself a few months prior to this involuntary military deployment with the Reserves, I lost everything. I had secured an income that would have yielded a six-figure income for many years to come just prior to getting called up. Now there's nothing, nil, nada.

The other thing is I started working for myself because what I had secured would have allowed me to stay at home more and have evenings and weekends off. As an air marshal, and prior to that, a security contractor, I was gone all the time. I've been away from home more often than not for FIVE YEARS! I am ready to stay home with my wife and children forever.

Since I've been gone so often, and now a year away here in the desert (I'm in Kuwait now), there will be some adjustments and re-acquaintance with being with my wife and family.

The NCO who posed the question then said that he was divorced. He said that when he came back from a deployment many years ago, he was easily provoked to anger and took it out on his family. Since he felt he was the threat, he wanted to eliminate the threat like he'd been taught. Yes, he said he had such a difficult time readjusting that he wanted to take his own life. He sought out a VA psychotherapist for help.

One of the other things he told me was that when he went home on leave a few months ago, when his sister picked him up from the airport, a suspicious looking car driving erratically drove near them. He hollered without thinking, "hit the [expletive]!" That's what he'd been doing in convoys in Iraq for months. Almost immediately afterwords, he realized his mistake.

I chuckled because I remembered that one of my buddies did just that when he came back from Iraq. A car was swerving into him and driving erratically on the first day he was driving back in America. He rammed into the car just a little, like he had done for many months in Iraq. Oops! He felt terrible. His automatic response needed to be changed to suit the social norms in the U.S.

He drove up beside the older gentleman driving the car and urged him to pull over. Walking up to his car, the man refused to roll down his window more than an inch. Considering all the 'road rage' incidents in America, my friend told me that the man whom he ran into on purpose and then forced to pull over on the side of the roadway looked terrified. "I'm so sorry about that," my friend started. "I just came back from Iraq and..." After saying the word 'Iraq', the man's face became even more pale with fear.

My buddy slipped a piece of paper through the man's slightly opened window with his name, address, phone number and insurance information on it, but the man drove off and never contacted him or his insurance.

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