For soldiers, coming home can be as hard as leaving

Going off to war is hard. All too often, so is coming home.

The total number of American troops deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq has finally started to come down. But from on-base counseling offices to the White House, the realization is growing that the strain on military families does not end when the warriors come home. Problems as severe as post-traumatic stress disorder and as mundane as who pays the bills can make reintegration after the deployment as difficult as the separation during it.

Matthew McCollum's brother, a marine, died in Afghanistan. When Matthew, an Army major, later deployed to the Afghan war, his wife, Angel, held herself and their two sons together during the year apart. "I kept saying, 'Your Uncle Dan is your Daddy's angel; he'll watch over him, I promise,' " she told National Journal. She even managed to move the family from one base to another in anticipation of her husband's transfer to a new unit. Finally, in the first days after Matthew's return to the United States, while he was still at his old base dealing with post-deployment paperwork, the dam broke.

"I called him one evening and it was, like, 9:30 to 10:00 at night, [and] he didn't answer, and I immediately got panicked," Angel said. "I kept on calling and calling.... By 11:30, I was ready to call the front desk to have them key into his room to make sure he wasn't dead." When Matthew finally got in and called his wife, he chided her for overreacting. Angel's response could serve as a credo for those whose war is on the home front:

"Did you pray for me every single night that you were gone that somebody wouldn't shoot me or blow me up or kill me or drag my body through the streets?... Did you pray for me every night that I wouldn't have a heart attack from the stress?" she asked her husband. "Matt, I have been holding your vigil.... Until you've rocked your sons to sleep and assured them as they were crying that Daddy would be OK and things were going to be all right, you have no right to tell me I've overreacted.

"And that's the only argument we had," Angel finished with a laugh.

The McCollums talked it through and stayed together -- and he stayed in the Army. But not every military family makes it.

In the most recent issue of National Journal, Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. looks at the challenge of coming home after war.

Click here to read the full story.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.