Military stories from past to present, both wars.

Your Military Transition experiences needed…

August 24th, 2011 Posted in The SandGram v1.0

 

This email came to me from Judy over at http://www.justmilitaryloans.com/  asking for your experiences coming home from the war.  Below are some of her questions followed by my short thoughts.  I encourage all you Vets out there to drop her a line with your stories and it may help someone out, so send it here blog@justmilitaryloans.com

Hi Taco,
That’s great – we’re so excited at Just Military Loans that you’ll be working with us to get articles out there for military families. I know these will be both a comfort and a great resource to those experiencing transition from deployment.
Below are the questions we will be using to help us compile the information and advice to assist and strengthen military families and service men and women.
What were your experiences upon returning home?  You might include what was most difficult and what was most rewarding in your transition, what was it like to reunite with family and friends, were you able to settle back in to “life as normal” quickly or did it take a period of time?

What types of resources would be (were) most beneficial to you as you transition? (Financial counseling/loans, assistance in job search, professional counseling for you/your family, support groups, relocation assistance, etc.)

What advice or tips would you share with someone new to having to make this transition from deployment? Perhaps something you wish had been shared with you.

We’d love to have you expound further on anything you feel would be of interest to our readers. Even if it’s not directly related to this Transition subject, we’d love to hear what you have to share, and possibly use it in other articles down the road.  Thank you for your time and your help. And mostly, thank you for the sacrifices you’ve made for our country! 

Judy

My name is “Taco” Bell, currently I serve as a LtCol in the Marine Corps Reserves and have deployed over to Iraq once in Aug 2005 to Feb 2006 and then over to Kabul Afghanistan in March of 2008 to Oct of that year followed by a shorter three week tour in June of 09 to tour the prison systems in Afghanistan.

The first time home, I was struck by the silence as my wife and I snuggled in our BOQ room at Cherry Point NC.  I had the windows cracked to get some fresh air and it was very difficult to sleep those first couple of nights.  You are so accustomed to the sounds of war on base, the constant throbbing of generators running everywhere you go.  Heavy trucks driving by your spaces and helicopters flying over head, that sort of thing is the norm for you.  It’s the “white noise” of war that helps you go to bed and you miss that when you return.  I had to laugh once when I was watching “My Cousin Vinny” where the only sleep he was able to get was inside of a noisy prison because he was from NYC and was use to the outside white noise.

My kids were young and my wife very resourceful.  I had a bit of depression that first week or two home.  I wasn’t in charge anymore like I was “over there” and my wife had managed to maintain control of our house, raise the kids all without my help.  I had to learn my children again and control my sense of wanting to change things right away.  Mom had been running the house for the last eight months I was gone and you stand a good chance of driving your kids away from you if you come on too strong.  You have to readjust and come at them slowly allowing them to get to know you better.  I discovered they were use to Mommy being the end all be all for them in their lives.  The same thing happened to my father when he came off a seven month deployment on his ship as a kid and I took some of those buried lessons to heart.

All and all, it was easier to transition back from Iraq to home for me although we experienced more death and destruction there on a daily basis.  There were numerous times that myself or one of my Marines would be waiting at the hospital next door to our office to help out with a mass causality arrivals so that we could better determine how many helicopters we needed to spool up for the Medivac to Balad.  The near walking dead, severely burned, carrying off stretchers on slick blood covered metal floors of helicopters were almost a daily event back then.  

Afghanistan, I traveled daily around Kabul by myself and we made many trips around the system to evaluate the training of the Afghan National Police.  I never experienced death there like I did in Iraq but for some reason the tensions of IED’s and SVBIED’s on a constant daily basis would give me nightmares at night.  That’s funny to me, because as a staff guy, I’m not kicking in doors and walking patrols everyday like the young troops, so I can’t even imagine what is going through their minds having pulled the trigger in anger or surviving an IED.  Coming home from Afghanistan, I would get upset if we were stuck in traffic and my mind was constantly looking for escape routes incase of an IED.  This agitation was very noticeable to my wife and family.  It’s hard to turn off that “War” mind switch when you get home but once you figure out that no is trying to kill you at home, life becomes much better.

Upon return from Afghanistan, I would wake up at 3am and not be able to go back to sleep.  After tossing and turning, I would go down and sit on the computer where I would often put thoughts to paper which was good therapy for me.  This went on for about a year and a half where I would be up at 3am on the dot four nights a week on average.  I didn’t know what to attribute to this and never sought help.  In talking with another buddy, I found out that he was going through the same things and his counselor had diagnosed this as PTSD.  For me, it seemed to work itself out of my system over the years.  I bottled up a lot of stuff and it wasn’t until I was a having a deep conversation with a buddy one night that all these emotions poured out.  I cried hard for the first time that night and was a bit embarrassed the next day at the thought of the Marine breaking down but it truly helped me out.   

There are many different resources out there to help you upon your return but I found the Warrior Gateway to the best site I’ve seen yet (http://www.warriorgateway.org/) where you can find just about whatever you need.  I have been lucky to have a job to return to, so the job search isn’t a factor in my life.  The average guy coming home and getting out is subjected to mind numbing classes that they must attend called “TAPS” (Transition Assistance Program) in which they pour a fire hose down your throat and you are only thinking about getting home so most of it gets put in the recycle bin of your brain.  The Warrior gateway is the perfect place to start looking at things again to refresh what you might have dumped at “TAPS” class.  I highly suggest this to be your starting point when you get home.

For those of you Vets reading this, thank you for your service!  Judy is always looking for your points of view and if you have stories or tips on what helped you out the most, please don’t hesitate to drop her a line at blog@justmilitaryloans.com  because your experiences may be the tipping point to helping out another “Brother from a different mother” as I call my friends in the military who make up the fabric of freedom of our great nation.

Take care and Semper Fi,

“Taco”

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