I may not fully agree with this article, but Ret. Chaplain Keizer, Jr. discusses some things that need to be considered. It is a massive change of gears living in a combat zone, being on alert 24/7 for any sign of danger, trying to locate possible threats everywhere you go... to being home where there is relative safety and a demanding family. They have their own dreams concerning holiday celebration and family reunion that often can't materialize.
I know about these difficulties because I am married to one of the people, set in place, to assist this reintegration. My hubby is currently the Chaplain to the wounded soldiers being treated for their injuries at Walter Reed, so he sees this sort of thing a lot. My own husband had to work through the nightmares of walking through what was left of a bomber while ministering to those who survived the blast. He didn't want to share the gruesome details, but he also wanted to talk to me about the nightmare.
I believe that God heals, He grants peace and serenity if we lay our burdens at His feet.
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30
I believe that He also is our refuge, the strong tower that defends us, and I believe that He protects His children while He hands our enemies to us.
"There is none like God, O Jeshurun, who rides through the heavens to your help, through the skies in his majesty. The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. And he thrust out the enemy before you and said, Destroy. So Israel lived in safety, Jacob lived alone, in a land of grain and wine, whose heavens drop down dew. Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD, the shield of your help, and the sword of your triumph! Your enemies shall come fawning to you, and you shall tread upon their backs." Dueteronomy 33:26-29
If you know a soldier:
- Don't force them to move on right now! Like grieving, this is going to take some time.
- Be open to them talking about their experiences, but be mindful that in the act of reliving such experiences, they re-enter the nightmare.
- Be willing to create the holiday according to their dreams and wishes.
- this may mean having a ton of people around that you don't want around
- this may also mean having a 'hermit' holiday so they can unwind privately
- Remind children that their soldier needs warning before jumping on them. Loud noises can be disconcerting.
- Be aware of the unhealthy focus of your soldier on nightmares or memories. He may need external help with moving on.
- Please keep in mind your soldier just spent a year dealing with adults and reliving the same day over and over and over again. Their patience with children, their attention span, and their memory is a bit short right now. Show some patience yourself.
- Ladies, your man may not want to talk about anything. But he will really be fine with holding hands or snuggling up on the couch to watch a movie. The power of touch is amazing!!
- LOOSE LIPS SINK SHIPS!!! If your soldier opens up to you, you must not blog about it, tweet about it, or share it on mass emailing. Your soldier talked to you and you alone.
- Take some time and focus on your soldier. Yep, I know, you had a miserable time too. I know all about the car troubles, landlord issues, kids being brats, FRG squabbles, and having to shoulder all the family drama alone!!!! I got it, but you were AT HOME dealing with these things. Big difference. It goes against human nature, but please, focus on them for a little bit. Ease them back into 'family living' slowly.
- Treat them with respect. Trust me, they know all about who thinks we shouldn't have been in Iraq, some of our soldiers would agree with you, but they were ordered to go. They don't need your political puking, they need some respect. Look them in the eye, don't pity them, and thank them... welcome them home.
Photo courtesy of Mharris88