The Guide to Coming Home

Minnesota Public Radio has created a place online where returning veterans and their families can tell stories of coming home from war, and share advice and tips for reintegration.

I found this tidbit of information in the February 2010 edition of the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs newsletter, and I think it is a wonderful idea. Vets returning from any deployment can have a hard time getting used to the flow of civilian life, and advice from peers could make a world of difference. Insight from family members to family members would also be useful.

I know I could have used some in the first few years as a Navy wife.

When my husband Eric was in the Navy, he would deploy for months at a time, and there was a pattern of behavior it took me several years to notice. Shortly before he left to go out to sea, we would get in an argument. Shortly after he came home, the same thing would happen.

Before a cruise, he would be focused on leaving – deciding what to pack in his sea bag, gearing up for the job he had to do, and making sure he had left things at home as prepared for his absence as he could. I wanted him focused on me and the kids for every little minute before he left. We would both be on edge, and a tiff was inevitable.

Then he’d come home. A time that was happy and blissful was also a bit sticky. After all, I had been making all the decisions in the household for the past six months (or however long the cruise lasted), then he would come home and take back his role as man of the house. I had been in charge of life, and was suddenly relegated to a lesser position, which was tough.

In the meantime, he was adjusting to being home. While happy to be back with his family, it was a huge change from the life he had been leading recently. When a sailor comes home, he wants to come home to the exact same thing he left behind all those months ago. But circumstances don’t always allow it – kids grow, routines alter, things change. Our daily lives were a mystery to him because he had been out of the loop. Simple things like a change in laundry soap brands or rearranged furniture bothered him.

Eventually something had to give, and a snapped comment would turn into an argument.
Several years in, understanding the cause of the altercations helped us learn how to avoid them.

I wish someone would have explained it to me (and him) earlier in our 10-year stint. When my cousin became engaged to a high school sweetheart who was Navy-bound, she and I had a long talk and I explained some of the things I had learned. She told me years later that the insight I gave her was incredibly helpful. It certainly wasn’t magic, secret information. It was just Navy life. Sharing that kind of information with peers just makes sense.

I guess that is why I think the MPR “Guide to Coming Home” is such a great idea.

I encourage veterans or anyone who has advice to offer vets coming home to go to and take a look at the Public Insight Network. Consider adding your own 2 cents.

Even though Eric has been out of the military for almost 15 years, I’m looking forward to reading the advice from others after it is compiled. I wonder if veterans of the Korean and Vietnam conflicts will have the same suggestions as those from Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Iraq, Afghanistan, or any other deployment. Either way, it should make for some interesting reading.