Monday, November 13, 2006

No Separate Peace ...

Dr. Johnathan Shay pens a tomb that attempts to frame the soldier in society.

What is the way back home? Can't sleep? Feel detached, even from loved ones? Flashbacks. No desire to talk about "it". Alone in a crowd. Hopelessly alienated from a hum-drum work-a-day world?

All these and much more about the combat adaptations that can cause temporary injury or that can fester and get worse, as with any wound.

From Houghton Mifflin, a step-by-step experiential survey from the flipside, from those for whom "deployment" is a household term.

A journalist wife of an army chaplain, Kristen Henderson tells it simple and straight (Hemmingwayesque). She includes a Resources and Actions list, that includes "10 Ways to Really Support the Troops" and link to TAPS (support network for survivors).


I was visiting Fayetteville, North Carolina, home of the Army's Fort Bragg, when a friend said he knew a woman who needed to talk to me. He introduced me to Beth.

"This is our first deployment," she said.

Her eyes were wide and blue green and shadowed by her straight, dark hair. She gave me a level look before withdrawing her gaze and adding, "They say it's supposed to get easier but it's been four months and so far it's just been hard. When does it get easier?"

"Oh," I said, and the oh dragged itself into a sigh while I tried to decide whether or not to lie. I wanted to fix it for her; I wanted to make it all right. But I knew the only thing that would make everything right would be for her husband to walk through that door right now, safe and whole in body and mind, the same man he was when he left. So in the end, I couldn't. I couldn't lie to her. When does it get easier?

"It doesn't," I said. "Wartime deployments are always hard."

"Don't tell me that," she said.

But they are, they're just so hard. Eventually you figure out ways to cope -- or not. But they never get easy. A wartime deployment is always a mountain, no matter how you climb it.

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