Monday, May 19, 2008

The First 48

Here's something we didn't know before: When your son comes home from Iraq, the army sends you a letter warning you to watch him carefully, for the first 48 hours.
  • He is not to drive any vehicle for the first 2 days he is home. He is not to even sit on a motorcycle. These things are non-negotiable.
  • He may be aggressive, it says. He may want to pick a fight.
  • He may think he's invincible.
  • He will not have the alcohol tolerance he once had. We should monitor him, and his alcohol intake.
Doesn't really put your mind at ease, does it? I had talked to Brian enough on the phone that I felt I had a relatively good grip on how he was doing, and where he was, mentally. He sounded okay, to me. Same 'ol Brian.

Still, I figured that yes, the Army was probably on the money. Of course he'd be more aggressive; in fact, I hoped he would be more aggressive. When you imagine your kid getting shot at for a living, you don't wish meekness on him. He now has your blessing to do many things you've railed against him doing for his entire life. You find yourself marveling at the things that come out of your mouth when you're preaching to your kid to just get home alive. Perhaps the Army should send letters to the soldiers, warning them that their Mother's may become more aggressive.

So, was Brian more aggressive? I will, of course, have a Mother's point of view.

As his mother, I'd say that "Edgy" would probably be a more appropriate word than "aggressive."

After we picked him up, he and Moore rode in the back seat of the car, windows down, when we took them back to the barracks. Brian had his arm on the edge of the window, and finally brought it in, saying "having the windows down makes me nervous. It seems so dangerous." Moore agreed.



Standish couldn't keep his eyes off the side of the road, as he rode back with his parents. Still looking for that roadside bomb, it's a habit not broken in a 12-hour flight.

And at the barracks, someone dropped a dumpster lid, causing all 3 boys to start, more than the rest of us.

Reacclimation was definitely in order.

There was alcohol. "Watch your soldier, limit his alcohol, they told us." Seriously, you just try to keep alcohol away from 300 soldiers just home from Iraq. It took all of about 15 seconds for a bottle of frozen rum to find its way into the room. I watched 'em, alright. Watched 'em do this shot...

And this one...

Ah, screw it. The restaurant is right next to the hotel where they'd be swimming next. No one's driving. Make mine a J├Ągermeister.


Here was Moore's lunch—hey! What's that in the background? That's aggressive.


And back at the pool...this looks kind of like a cozy hug, but I believe someone's about ready to get knocked into the pool.


Supervised by four parent-figures, they talked a lot, and managed to get pretty happy. One, perhaps, might have been put to bed a little early, while the rest of us continued to catch up.


When we took our leave of the boys at 10 PM, I'll admit to telling Clint that I felt like I'd been tossed into a pool of Testosterone. 12 hours with of 3 soldiers fresh out of a war. 3 soldiers happy to see girls again (there are no women in their company), and making no bones about it! 12 hours of rum and beer, ribald language, hair-raising war stories, and one mere expression of a desire to hit a certain jackass on the sidelines.

Not that much different from a Girl's Night out, but I still had a strange desire to go buy some mascara, or paint my nails.

Pink.


Monday morning, 48 hours after his arrival home, we picked Brian up to go find his bags. The edge is gone. He's calm, rested, and talks easily about being home. Little things—his own bathroom—make him feel "like I never even went to Iraq." We eat a fast-food breakfast, and discuss everyday things: does he need more toothpaste, his cell phone, and how and when he'll get home in 2 weeks.

My boys, they seem fine. I'm not naive enough to believe instantly that some of the things they've seen and been through might not haunt them later. Maybe they will, and maybe they will not. I'm pretty sure that my next cause will be PTSD, and figuring out what I can do to help our sons & daughters in the military get the help they need to cope with stuff that crashes down on them later.

But, as I said, for now, we are all fine. We reacclimate: them to having the luxuries of throwing meat on a grill, and to wearing flip flips, and God only knows what else moves them. Me, to the luxury of hearing Brian's voice by hitting #2 on my cell phone, and to receiving a phone call asking me how to cook a cornish hen.

I could get used to this, fast.

11 comments:

  1. Amen Sistah!

    I am SO happy for you.

    Brian has the most contagious "happy face" look ... hug that kid and don't let go!

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  2. On the doing something about PTSD and ensuring treatment, the first place to start is the VA's website... there's a link on the main website to their page for OEF/OIF veterans.

    One of the first things you'll notice is a lot of broken links, removed pages, etc. That in itself is a bit infuriating. There is quite a bit of good information in the links that work however.

    VA Watchdog.org is a pretty impressive site for news on VA issues, especially the current fight to keep the VA from treating PTSD like a problematic budget issue as opposed to an important part of their duty to do everything they can for veterans. I don't always agree with their opinions, but as far as information goes on VA issues it is an indispensable tool.

    I've dealt more with the veteran/VA end of the system than the active duty/DoD end of the system, but there's a regular poster on IP, James Mortland, who is probably very privy to the DoD end with his duties with ILNG.

    On the veteran end the two biggest problems with PTSD are the VA itself and its adversarial claims process for benefits and veterans themselves refusing or avoiding help because of the mental illness stigma.

    One big thing to note is that returning OEF/OIF veterans currently have extra perks with enrolling in the VA healthcare system, a bump in line of the horribly backlogged claims process, and various other new transitions services. The enrollment issue is a big one since the government can, and currently does, block enrollment of some veterans into the VA healthcare system unless the meet income, service connected disability (shown through the claims process), or other qualifications.

    Feel free to drop me a line on any of this stuff... I don't know everything but there's a good chance I know the right person to look up or direction to look in general. It's a topic near and dear to me.

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  3. You're blog made my day.
    And I had a pretty damn good day, so that's saying something lol

    Lots of hugs, kisses and love to you both! I'm so happy to see him home!

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  4. So happy for you - and the boys. Here's hoping things continue to go well.

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  5. I am just so happy that you got Brian back safe and sound.

    Enjoy your time together.

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  6. I so happy for you! I'm amazed, too, for the little things we take for granted, like driving with the windows down.... it's wonderful to see so many smiling faces, happy to be home. :)

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  7. I'm so happy for both you and your son. Take care.

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  8. Phew. I'm cryin' for you - relief. Joy. So glad your baby is home.

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  9. I can feel the weight off your shoulders. Having Brian home, safe and close to you must be such a wonderful relief after such a long-long time.
    It's great to feel your happiness.

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  10. What an interesting post.

    While we were in the States, we stayed in two different locations in New Mexico. Neither of them are all that far from Alamogordo, where Holloman AFB is located. It's also not that far to the White Sands Missle Range.

    Anyway, we ran into a lot of young soldiers. I always thought of you. I sat next to one from Houston to El Paso and again from El Paso back to Houston, on Continental. I made it a point to have conversations with them. They were both quite personable young men, seemingly eager to talk to a civilian about their military lives.

    OH...and I was proud of Continental, too. They wouldn't accept payment from anyone in uniform for a drink. Good for them.

    One more thing. Do you remember the photo I posted both on Lord Celery and to my Smugmug album of the judge who married John and me back in 2006? She's located in Alamogordo. Most of those photos of newly-married couples on the wall in her office include at least one soldier getting married before deployment. I think that's one reason she remembered John and me -- because our circumstances were so different from those couples she usually marries.

    Janet

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  11. Is he home for good this time?

    I never even knew they sent notes to you guys like that...that's weird to think that you worried about him while he was there and now have to still worry once he's home.

    I'm happy none the less.

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