Life After Iraq, Part I - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

03/01/04

Life After Iraq, Part I

This kind of happy homecoming was not the end, but a new kind of beginning. This kind of happy homecoming was not the end, but a new kind of beginning.

A year ago this month, we watched Coastal Empire soldiers lead the charge in the liberation of Iraq. But their battle against the enemy and the elements is hardly forgotten. WTOC has spent time with soldiers, their families and counselors to see how they're adjusting to life after Iraq.

Some face recovery from physical injuries, others the shock of combat. But for many many more, it's finding a place back in their own family. Each says it takes time and work.

No matter how many times we saw the scene, it was hard not to get a lump in the throat when soldiers were reunited with their spouses, their children and the lives they led before war. But that was anything but an end. In ways, it was the beginning to a new challenge.

"One of the main adjustments is change," said Sgt. Richard Robinson with 4-16th Transportation Company. "When you leave, your children are one size, when you get back, they're another."

Soldiers and families faced the challenge of putting behind them the separation and trauma of war and restarting their lives and relationships. "It was overwhelming, that's the first word that comes to mind," said Capt. Chris Crotzer of the HAC 4th Brigade. "The kids come up and grab your legs and, 'Daddy, Daddy, Daddy,' and I hadn't seen my son yet."

After months of battle-heightened readiness, it can be a challenge simply to relax and trust the surroundings that were once familiar. "It takes time to move from a war back to the friendly side of life, if you will, where you're not suspicious about what's around the next corner," noted Hunter Army Airfield chaplain Lt. Col. John Foxworth.

Most of the problems are not the traumatic ones--those typically go away after a few weeks. The biggest problems are adjustments back to the everyday and realizing it may not be as easy as it sounds. "Being gone so long and constantly around soldiers, your mentality changes a little bit," said Foxworth. "Getting home and toning down, trying to get to talking to the children can be a challenge."

Counselors like Chaplain Foxworth say the Army does all it can to prepare soldiers for the postwar adjustments they must make. Acknowledging the potential problems is not always easy for normally proud soldiers. "You hear talk during the classes about when I get back, I'm going to tell her just the way it's going to be and the kids are going to be in line and the chaplains usually chime in, 'Don't be that way, cause that's not how its going to be,'" he said.

But after the victorious campaign into Baghdad, it's hard to imagine the welcoming arms of loved ones could be equally tricky. Chaplain Foxworth says when soldiers anticipate the problems, they handle them better. 

Reported by: Dal Cannady, dcannady@wtoc.com

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