The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.

COPING WITH HOMECOMING |

June 01, 2007

COPING WITH HOMECOMING
Name: Tadpole
Posting date: 6/1/07
Returned from
: Afghanistan
Milblog url: armysailor.com

This may sound silly, in fact at first it may make you think I am crazy, but the fact is that for the last few weeks I have really missed Afghanistan. I have given this a lot of thought, and I have discussed it with a few people, including some veterans, and I have realized that perhaps it is not as crazy as it may initially seem. You see I have realized that it's not Afghanistan that I miss. I don't miss the crappy living conditions, I don't miss being shot at, and I don't miss carrying a weapon everywhere. What I do miss is the camaraderie that I shared while I was there. In a mere 18 months I built the kind of friendships that usually take years or even a lifetime to forge.

Don't get me wrong. I have plenty of friends here at home, but it is different. I like the people I work with here at the NAVICP as well, but our relationships can never be as tight as those I have with people who I went to hell and back with. While I was in Afghanistan I formed bonds that crossed rank structures and services. A Lieutenant Commander was my brother. I had the privilege of being mentored by two great Master Sergeants, an amazing Senior Chief, and no less than six Chief Petty Officers. I learned how to mentor numerous Sergeants, Petty Officers, Airmen, Corporals and Privates. At the end of the day each one was family.

The support structure that you form while in a combat zone is one that can not be adequately described in words. Being separated from all of that, as quickly as I was, turned out to be difficult to handle.

This deployment was unusual because I was not deployed with my permanent unit, so when we came home we scattered to the winds. Normally you come home from a deployment and your shipmates are home with you, but now I don't get to see any of them. The Lieutenant Commander who I love like a brother is in South Carolina, I have a Master Sergeant in Utah and one in New York, my Senior Chief is in San Diego, and the Chiefs I served with are in Nevada, California, Florida, Virginia, and other locations. I know that if I ever truly need any help I can call on any of them at any time; after all, that's what brotherhood is about, but it is still a bit hard being home.

Don't get me wrong, I am so happy to be home I can't express it. I love my family and my friends. But it is very difficult to feel fulfilled in my current job as a desk jockey. It's hard to feel sympathetic when my friends complain about something from their jobs or lives, and I haven't experienced anything I would consider exciting in the least since I have been home. It's an odd feeling, and I hope that it will soon pass.

I am told this is all normal, so I would want others returning home to know what to expect, and to also know that these feelings are normal. I would also encourage those coming home from a deployment to discuss their feelings in-depth with family and friends, and other veterans. It can help your family and friends to better understand what you've gone through and what you are feeling, and it can help you regain a feeling of being normal again.

Comments

We hear you, man. Thanks.

Having served my enlistment during peacetime at Rothwesten DU I can understand only to a very small degree the bonds you describe. Relative to your contribution I feel that mine was virtually nothing. I admire you and your comrades-in-arms.

Excellent post relating to the subject of "lessons learned" (see recent This American Life, http://www.thislife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?episode=333 - very informative).

I hope your homecoming continues to improve, and thank you so much for your service to America - and to your buddies.

I am grateful you are home and safe and I thank-you for all that you experienced and sacrificed during your service to our nation.

I can understand in a small way what you are feeling because as an ICU nurse in prior days, we developed on occasion very close attachments borne of the experiences shared and the mutual struggle against the enemy: death. Eventually people would leave and it was never the same and it hurt.

Given the much more acute nature of the circumstances under which your friendships grew and were tempered, I can see that the missing would be painful for a while. Stay in touch with these good people and see them for reunions from time to time. Short of a repeat of this same type of experience, there will never be brothers closer than these. God bless you all.

I am grateful you are home and safe and I thank-you for all that you experienced and sacrificed during your service to our nation.

I can understand in a small way what you are feeling because as an ICU nurse in prior days, we developed on occasion very close attachments borne of the experiences shared and the mutual struggle against the enemy: death. Eventually people would leave and it was never the same and it hurt.

Given the much more acute nature of the circumstances under which your friendships grew and were tempered, I can see that the missing would be painful for a while. Stay in touch with these good people and see them for reunions from time to time. Short of a repeat of this same type of experience, there will never be brothers closer than these. God bless you all.

Dear Tadpole,

You'll never make better, deeper friendships than those you have with your comrades. You're experiencing something I experienced when I came home from Vietnam. There's is nothing stronger than the bond we feel during a war.

I've alway felt on the day I pass from this earth, the first faces I'll see on that other plane will be those brothers I lost in Vietnam and wherever they are, heaven or hell, I want to be there too.

God bless you for your service. It's especially hard when we're in an unpopular war, but as you know--all politics goes out the door when the first round is fired and it's just you and those brothers who will live in your heart til the day you die.

I can appreciate how tight you can get with your shipmates. I served in the SECGRU Det on USS FORRESTAL in the early 1970s and from the LCDR and Leading Chief on down we conducted outselves as a Detachment and did everything together. Marine or Sailor, we were one big bickering family. Unfortunately, my family wasn't too interested in hearing my stories and when I got stuck on shore duty, I found the non-sea going sailors couldn't relate to those of us who'd been to sea. I got lucky in early 1975 wgeb U left the Navy and went to Oregon State University. I lived in the over 21 dorm and had people I could then exchange stories with. Being on ship wasn't all that great but it was the folks I was with that made it memorable; I remember the names of those Sailors and Marines after 30 some years...

Dear tadpole, welcome home and hope you are healthy.You will never have a realationship like you had with your friends during your time in service and deployment. But you can continue with the same sharing of feelings that you have now. Just checkout the 411 on the Vet Centers. You might be surprised that there is a safe and caring place for veterans to maintain the bond. I was a vet center counselor for 20 years and helped provide many vets that closeness that only those who have made the walk will ever know. The services are free, the coffee is strong and very bad, but the men and women who have checked the centers out are better and happy to find that they are not alone. pax mentis and semper fi bro, take care.

My husband had the same type of feelings when he got home from Iraq. He seems to think that life in garrison lacks purpose the way life on deployment does. He's easily irritated by the mundane, since everything was so much more important when life was on the line. Over time his feelings have lessened, but he's still searching for a way to deploy again, to recapture that feeling of purpose.

It's been sixteen years since I was in Desert Storm and eleven years since I left active service and I can tell you from experience it never goes completely away. There will always be part of you that yearns for that kind of esprit de corps and that kind of committment from your co-workers. Every Memorial Day and every Veterans Day will be a battle against the melancholy you'll want to indulge while your friends and family want to crank up the grill and drink a few brews. The good news is you'll always know what's really important - it's hard to be too intimidated by a deadline-obsessed boss whose only threat is to fire you when you've survived a war zone. It's really easy to keep your family first when you know how you could have lost them. And there's a weird sense of security knowing that even if you accomplish nothing else of merit for the remainder of your life, for a short period of time you made a difference in the world and your life meant something. You stood up to be counted when most people didn't and still don't. You are a Hero. No one can ever take that away from you.

It gets better, but it never goes away. It's part of the price you pay for serving your country, and it's a feeling only other veterans understand and can appreciate - that puts you in a very select and special class of people. Welcome home, welcome to the club, and God bless you and your family for your service.

I remember coming home from Vietnam in "68" and being outraged that people were not interested in what was happening in the war, and being concerned about petty, ridiculous issues. I could not believe what people were expressing concern about when people overseas were dying. They only cared about their own small little world. I recently talked with an Iraq vet who felt the same way. We instantly connected. I like to think I use this as a lesson to teach others what is really important in life. And not to stress about the "little" things. Good luck to you and best wishes.

Coming back is so much different than coming home. Good luck on the journey. While the path is well worn, it is fraught with forks and u-turns.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c5f3053ef00d83580086f69e2

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference COPING WITH HOMECOMING:

« Previous Article | Main | Next Article »




Search Doonesbury Sandbox Blog

LINKS



About

My Photo

FEATURED BOOK