31 de mayo de 2011

Las Madres contra la Guerra presentamos este excelente artículo acerca de las vicisitudes de nuestros familiares militares a su regreso de las guerras. Hemos vivido en carne propia estas vivencias:

May 28, 2011
After Combat, the Unexpected Perils of Coming Home
By James Dao
Capt. Adrian Bonenberger made plans for his final patrol to Imam Sahib. But inside, he was sweating the details of a different mission: going home. Which soldiers would drive drunk, get into fights or struggle with emotional demons, he wondered. What would it take to keep them safe in America?
Sgt. Brian Keith boarded the plane home feeling a strange dread. His wife wanted a divorce and had moved away, taking their son and most of their bank account with her. At the end of his flight lay an empty apartment and the blank slate of a new life.
“A lot of people were excited about coming home,” Sergeant Keith said. “Me, I just sat there and I wondered: What am I coming back to?”
For a year, they had navigated minefields and ducked bullets, endured tedium inside barbed-wired outposts and stitched together the frayed seams of long-distance relationships. One would think that going home would be the easiest thing troops could do.
But it is not so simple. The final weeks in a war zone are often the most dangerous, as weary troops get sloppy or unfocused. Once they arrive home, alcohol abuse, traffic accidents and other measures of mayhem typically rise as they blow off steam.
Weeks later, as the joy of return subsides, deep-seated emotional or psychological problems can begin to show. The sleeplessness, anxiety and irritability of post-traumatic stress disorder, for instance, often take months to emerge as combat veterans confront the tensions of home and the recurring memories of war.
In their new normal, troops must reconnect with children, adjust to more independent spouses and dial back the hypervigilance that served them well in combat — but that can alienate them from civilians.
“The hardest part for me is, I guess, not being on edge,” said Staff Sgt. Francisco Narewski, a father of three who just completed his second deployment. “I feel like I need to do something, like I need to go on mission or I need to check my soldiers. And I’m not.”
For the First Battalion, 87th Infantry out of Fort Drum, N.Y., which recently finished a yearlong tour, leaving Afghanistan proved as deadly as fighting in Afghanistan. In the first 11 months of deployment, the battalion lost two soldiers, both to roadside bombs. During the next month, it lost two more, neither in combat.
Journey Home
Specialist Billy Moody, 26, wondered whether he could ever talk openly to friends about the close calls he had seen: rocket-propelled grenades that just missed, accurate mortar rounds that somehow failed to explode.
He detailed those experiences in a notebook that he planned to share with his wife and family, but no one else.
“Some stuff, people just don’t — they wouldn’t really believe or appreciate,” he said. “I hope people don’t ask me that kind of stuff, and then after I tell it to them, they think I’m exaggerating.”
His deployment had been a mixed bag. After getting into an argument with a higher-ranking soldier, whom he half-heartedly threatened to kill, he lost a rank. But he had also performed well under pressure.
While driving his platoon leader on a mission last fall, his truck hit a powerful mine that blew off its rear end and flipped it over. Private Stevenson was the first out and helped the three other passengers, including his lieutenant, escape. He earned a Purple Heart after sustaining a back injury and a possible concussion in the explosion.
As the plane approached New York, he was thinking about his next big challenge. His fiancée was pregnant, and he was so excited by the prospect that he planned to buy baby furniture and diapers as soon as he got home. More than ever, he thought he should get out of the Army and try college.
He had never known his own father and had lived on the streets of Port Arthur, Tex., as a teenager after his mother died of AIDS. “I know I’m not ready” to be a father, he mused. But he wanted badly to try.
“I want to be there for my kid’s first steps; I want to be there for his first bicycle accident,” he said. “I kind of think the Army is not for me, family-wise.”...
For Sgt. Tamara Sullivan, 32, there was nothing about Afghanistan she would miss. For days after arriving in Kunduz a year ago, she cried at the thought of not seeing her children, ages 4 and 2. The experience taught her a lesson about emotions, one she learned to apply with iron discipline.
“It’s something that you just have to learn how to turn off and on, like a light switch,” she said. “I don’t feel like it made me less of a mother because I learned how to shut it off. I think it made me a better soldier.”
Now she was finally home, looking lost as she searched the crowd for her husband, Tim, who had come without the children from North Carolina, where the couple have a home. Suddenly he appeared, and they embraced awkwardly before rushing to find her bags.
She had been thinking for days about how this deployment might change their family dynamic. Tim had learned to be a single parent and was so comfortable in the job that she wondered whether he was prepared to give it up.
“I’m ready to come back home and jump back in, you know, where I left it, do my mommy role,” she said before leaving Afghanistan. “Just shoo him out of the way. I’m pretty sure he’ll be a little, you know, like, ‘Wait a minute, I used to do it this way.’ ”
But she would have to wait to test those waters. She was scheduled to transfer to Fort Gordon, Ga., in October, but until then, Tim and the children would remain in North Carolina. Except for occasional weekends, they would be apart for another six months.
Still in her uniform, she took Tim to the airport and then went shopping at Wal-Mart. On a 3-by-5 card, she had neatly listed items she needed for her new apartment near Fort Drum: linens, a frying pan, food for one. She filled two carts and headed home.
In her second-floor home, she began unpacking boxes of paperback books, unused uniforms and crayon drawings from her children. Without the children, it had been a subdued, almost joyless homecoming. But she seemed content in her solitude. The Army is her career, and a good one, she told herself. She just needed to be patient.
“As long as my children are happy, as long as I know their education is set for, then I’m good,” she said. “I’ll just keep doing this as long as I have to.”
Sergeant Keith’s homecoming was surprisingly boisterous, even without his wife and son. His parents, grandfather, brother, nieces and nephews greeted him at the gymnasium, then accompanied him to a new apartment they had found and furnished for him.
But when they left, he was by himself for the first time in practically a year. He took a shower, the longest and hottest in months, then crawled into a bed that felt as large as a swimming pool. “I never felt more alone any time ever in my life,” he recalled.
The deployment, his third in six years, had been great, and not because of the adrenaline rush of combat — he saw none of that. A fuel specialist, Sergeant Keith, 29, was responsible for making sure gas tanks were full and generators were running.
The deployment had clearly been hard on his wife and made him almost a stranger to his 18-month-old son. “I got to work my way back into his life again,” he said.
And yet, almost to his surprise, he felt a sense of lightness and liberation now that his wife had left him. He went drinking at the American Legion with friends. Maybe he would start dating. And down the line, he felt almost certain he would deploy again.
Perhaps it was the clarity of deployed life that he craved. The structured routines seemed so much simpler than the messy realities of home. He could not quite put his finger on it, but he knew that “normal life” no longer meant what it once did.
“Once you get stuck into that environment,” he said of deployment, “and you do it every day, it’s very, very hard coming back to the states and living a normal life. I’m just having a real hard time dealing with it.”
In the weeks after the battalion got home, Captain Bonenberger, 33, moved into an apartment with two fellow captains and considered his future. Should he accept a teaching position at West Point or get out of the Army?
Private Stevenson married and learned that his child, due in August, was a boy. He bought an SAT prep book.
Specialist Hayes, undergoing rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, visited his platoon mates at Fort Drum. To celebrate, they drank Guinness from his prosthetic leg.
And Sgt. First Class Brian Eisch, 36, struggled to learn how to run again.
A machine-gun burst had almost taken off his left leg during a battle in Kunduz last fall, and he had been flown to Walter Reed for treatment. Determined to return to a frontline unit, he would have to prove that he could run with a pack. Doctors told him to go slow, but it was not in his nature.
So after returning to Fort Drum in February, he went to the gym almost nightly, working the shreds of muscle still in his calf. When he continued to limp, his doctors suggested that he replace the leg with a prosthetic. No way, he said.
“I’m trying to put on the happy face and the strong guy, but at the end of the day I’m almost in tears in pain, “ he said. “It hurts.”...art. completo en After Combat, the Unexpected Perils of Coming Home