Thursday, April 21, 2011

Walking on Eggshells, Part One

I received an email from Mrs. S who is going to share her story and experiences in a series. Stay tuned for more from Mrs. S in the near future! 

During the summer of 2006, the kids and I started planning our move to his permanent duty station in Georgia.  He had spent the last year stationed in South Korea and 7-months prior to that in boot camp and schooling in Kentucky.  We hadn’t lived together for almost 20 months.  He left for boot camp when our daughter was four and our son was only 5-weeks old so we were very excited to live together again.  He arranged for his friends wife to drive with us from California to Georgia. It was a five day drive.  I couldn’t help but to cry halfway through our trip.  The highways were different, the scenery was strange and I realized that I would be living a very different life. 

It was quite a change to go from living on a military base with people I couldn’t seem to relate with to my husband, who I hadn’t lived with in almost two years, but I did the best I could. Our daughter started struggling in school and I started getting really sick.  We all seemed stressed so we sought family counseling, which didn’t last long because he received his orders for his deployment to Iraq shortly after we started.  We had not even gotten to live together this time for over 5 months before having to prepare for his deployment.  I decided that the kids and I should move back to California where we were from.  I was scared to death that something horrible would happen to him during his 15-month deployment and if it did, I wanted to live closer to our families and support system.

During his deployment we rarely spoke and I did the best I could to have a normal life for the kids.  I couldn’t let myself think about what he might be going through over there.  I couldn’t watch the news or read the newspaper without feeling overcome with anxiety.  Our daughter started doing better in school, but seemed to be angry and withdrawn.  I found her a counselor and got her enrolled in martial arts….this helped her a lot.  Our son stopped napping and became quite hyper.  I enrolled him in preschool in hopes that it would bring him some normalcy.  Instead I would receive a call from 3-10 times a month to pick him up from school for unacceptable behavior.  I felt everything would be better once Daddy was home and done with his tour and military term.

I knew how much danger he was in while he was deployed.  He was part of the surge and often didn’t even have a FOB.  His orders were just for southern Baghdad, Iraq. His unit was responsible for clearing out the enemy and taking over their terrorist training camps.  At one point while his team was on patrol with the mission to take over a palace where terrorists were being trained.  They moved forward to clear another sector and set up another observation post but because of the surrounding danger they had to stay put.  They didn’t even have enough food or water.  They had to filter water out of the Tigris River and hunt chickens and goats for food.  When black hawks were able to drop food in, they dropped it in body bags.

At another point in his deployment he called to tell me that he should have died.  He explained that he was supposed to go out on a mission but was replaced at the last moment.  Everyone on that mission was blown up and most died.  He felt that he was to blame.  I couldn’t express my gratitude enough that I was so glad he was alive and he must be meant for bigger and better things.  He didn’t believe me.  He was so used to death and despair at this point and knowing that someone gave their life for his triggered deep guilt.  This was the last time he told me about anything that was going on ‘over there’. 

He became completely agitated anytime we spoke on the phone or instant message from then on.  Communication was next to none for the rest of his deployment, except for him declaring how much he couldn’t wait until he could get home.  He was sent back to Georgia in August 2008 after 15-months in Iraq.  He would call more but was still extremely irritable.  He said he wanted to re-enlist to be Special Forces.  I couldn’t go through this all over again and told him so.  I couldn’t stand to loose him, especially to a war he had already put so much into.  Arguments over this became very intense.  I told him to do what makes him happy but we would not be going with him.  He then said he wanted a divorce.  I was completely devastated.  I couldn’t believe that he’d rather ‘play army’ and risk his life instead of being a father.  I couldn’t believe we waited all this time for him and how much he said he wanted to be home to just have him leave again. 

He flew home for his scheduled leave to see the kids.    He went back to Georgia and pursued Special Forces again.  He mentioned that he saw a doctor there that told him he might be experiencing mild PTSD and told him that maybe he should get a dog to help him out. We already had a dog at home and I recently found out that I was extremely allergic to them, amongst other things so I told him that he shouldn’t get another one for me to take care of while he was away.  He got a dog anyway.  He said she helped him a lot…alerting him before anyone would approach him and offered him a lot of comfort.  I couldn’t argue with that.  I then found out I was pregnant and told him.  He told me that he no longer wanted to re-enlist and would come home as soon as his four-years was up, which was less than two months. 

He came home in October. He was different… a little slower with things, seemed to have a hard time keeping up with conversations.  He was very jumpy and constantly checking locks and perimeters.  He’d get debilitating headaches, couldn’t stand being in any crowds, despised talking on the phone, and often wanted to be left alone.  I have never known him to ever want to be alone until this point.  I figured he was stressed about what the future would hold for him.  He struggled to decide on a career.  He constantly changed his mind about what he wanted to do.  The economy was horrible and he couldn’t find a job.  I hadn’t worked since before we moved to Georgia and couldn’t due to my health.  So he started to receive unemployment. 

We argued often.  If my full undivided attention was on him when he spoke…he felt that I was being disrespectful.  He also seemed mean to the kids…treating them like soldiers.  He’d make them do push ups or stand on their tippy toes if he felt they were getting out of hand.  Our son became robotic…saying “Yes, Daddy” with a blank stare every time he spoke to him.  Our daughter began locking doors and double checking them just like he did…even locking us out accidentally a few times. The kids and I became very jumpy as a result to everything.  

We began to walk on eggshells.....

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