For soldiers, coming home can be as hard as leaving

Eric S. Swist/AP

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.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

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

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

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