Monday, March 10, 2008

Rebuilding Their Lives

This one is part 2 (title should be linked- above)- I touched on part 1 yesterday (or this morning, depending on your time zone).

Another good article, looking forward to the rest of the series.

It isn't easy to come home- on either side.

I have access to AFN- Armed Forces Network, the military's TV channels available by satellite. For the most part I watch sports events from time to time, and news. But one characteristic many U.S. military personnel know about AFN is that these channels play farcically idiotic commercials about various things about which they want to warn the 2-yr old they assume the soldier to be. Observe operational security, be careful with identity information, wear your seatbelt in the car after doing a thorough walk around inspection of your vehicle, wear reflective gear and a helmet when you're riding a motorcycle, avoid debt, brush your teeth, wear clean underwear, I think you get the point.

But in fairness, the commercials aren't all completely without worth (beyond their laughable entertainment value). There are a series of commercials about the reintegration process that comes with redeployment- when we come home we've changed, our families have changed, and so on. This article covers that well. But what it doesn't cover as well is that for Reservists and their families, there is next to no support network such as those found in the Active or Guard units. We deployed from all over the U.S., most of us not knowing each other, our units aren't deployed with us, and for the most part drop all contact with us. Our families don't have a military extended family to link up with- they are on their own as well. And we don't watch AFN at home- so our spouses won't see those infomercials about how to deal with a husband or wife who is distant, might be experiencing various stress or medical conditions, etc.

And for those who like to trumpet the Family Support Groups, I've not seen a functional one in 17 years in the Reserve. There are 1 or 2 full-time personnel that worked with our Division on the topic before we deployed, and frankly the one I worked with created more of a burden than she was a support for me or my family- dropped a lot of requirements and briefings on us, but in the same breath listed all the things that she would not do. Her style was such that I didn't want her near my family- she'd more likely make my wife cry than provide solace or support.

But I can't say I expected any different. I've relied on friends and family, and encouraged Christine to do the same. Even out here, I don't look for much support from higher command- it is the individuals to my right and left, and my family and friends from afar who provide the support that I feel I need.

A brief note- my higher command lost an airman this past week- a public affairs non-commissioned officer died when the Iraqi aircraft he was in crashed, killing him and the 7 Iraqis on board. They had a ceremony, addressed in at least one blog- and I thought again of Hurstie, JJ, and Umran. Two of them got a roll call, and one got a Shi'ia style prayer. And the training center continued on, leaving us all to experience the grieving in our own ways. I didn't know the PAO NCO- I don't know most of the folks up at my higher headquarters. But I know many of them are feeling loss and confusion this week, as their surreal experience gets even more so.

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