Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, June 2004: I have been in Iraq for ninety days when I returned home for leave. My heart is racing. My daughter Emma-Lynn has been born while I was away. Thoughts race through my mind. “Hi! I am your dad. Sorry I missed your birth, but I was busy fighting a war. It’s nice to meet you.” Walking down the terminal, I suddenly come upon a large crowd of people. A sea of desert uniforms melt into the throng of people in civilian clothes . Reporters and cameramen are filming and asking questions. Boom, boom, boom my heart feels like it has been injected with adrenaline. Searching for my wife, I notice that she is standing next to a reporter. Walking up, I pick up my daughter. She is perfect. A microphone is thrust into my face and I am asked what it feels like to be home and seeing my daughter for the first time.
St Paul Minneapolis Airport, 2005: We arrive in St. Paul, Minneapolis and are standing in line to go through customs. The announcer for the airport announces our arrival back into the United States like this: “We would like to be the first to welcome home the Seventh United States Cavalry, they are returning home from their year long deployment to Iraq.” The crowd in the airport erupts into cheers. Reporters swarm us, hands are thrust out in greeting, and it is singularly one of the most overwhelming experiences of my life. “Finally, I am home.”
In many regards, coming home is hard to explain. When you are at war, it is a much simpler life. You wake up, shave, and do your job. Then you come back to the barracks and rest. The cycle repeats every day until your tour is up. When you come home, everyone wants to know what it is like wherever you deployed. It is only natural that people are curious about it. Then there are the less tactful They want to know if you killed anyone.
When I came home to see my family in Mississippi, everyone immediately noticed the change in my behavior. I was hyper, my speech patterns were erratic, and I could not stay on topic to save my life. My mind was scattered, and much like a jigsaw puzzle with missing pieces, I could not put it all together again. Many folks thought that I was burnt out. They were not wrong. Every effort that I made to correct my issues only led to more disaster. My mother was a Sunday School teacher at a Pentecostal church in Columbia, Mississippi. She asked me to speak to her Sunday School class. I was in no shape to address anyone, but I powered through it. Those poor young people are probably scarred for life.
Returning from war was the single hardest thing I have ever had to do. It took me years to make peace with what I have done. I tried and failed on my own. However, it took one church service for God to correct the issues that had plagued me for so long. Today, with the grace of God, I am still a broken man, but I have peace knowing that God stood by me in my darkest hours. My family and many of my friends stood by me as well. I am eternally grateful for the love, support and encouragement. May God bless you all.