Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Coming home for the vet ain't easy

Coming home for the vet ain't easy.

Has my family changed? Will the kids know who I am? Does my wife still love me? Nothing's the same. And I don't feel like I belong. Why am I biting everyone's head off?

Last weekend I had my first assignment to meet with and provide information to vets and their families. These returned vets have been back from Iraq for about three months. They were gathered at a two day meeting called a reunion during which they attended required briefings. These briefings were designed to assist them in the transition to civilian life. Family members were also invited so there were partners, a few children and parents all in attendance.

One of the encounters that touched me the most was with the mother of a vet who had been taking care of his children. She talked about the little things that had happened in her home since he returned and described some of the challenges she faced. "It's tough getting him to just sit. He's always wanting to make changes" and then she described a situation with his car.

His car had been sitting for over a year; it had been started regularly but that's not the same as being used everyday. She said he insisted he could fix the problem. It wouldn't start.

After spending two full days working on the car he agreed to take it to the shop. She talked about how hard it was to persuade him to take the car in for repairs. "He used to listen to my advice. Now he ignores me. Now he just doesn't talk."

After listening to her and understanding the challenges she is facing, I knew I could give her a little relief. There are many resources available for vets and their families. My job is to help her feel okay about reaching out to these resources. "Thanks for this number. I'll call them when I get a chance," she told me.

"Why not give them a call on Monday?" She smiled shyly and nodded as she walked away and I felt optimistic that this family would accept the support they deserve.

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