"He Went to War and Came Back a Changed Man"

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She Says, continued

"In 1992, Jack fulfilled his hardship tour in South Korea; afterward, he was sent to Colorado, where we spent four wonderful years. Jack thrived in his job, I finished school, and we traveled throughout the West. We had hoped to have kids, but after two years of trying, our doctor determined that Jack had a low sperm count. We considered in vitro but didn't want to undergo the stress and expense of a procedure with no guarantees. Our lives were happy enough that we chose not to pursue adoption, either.

"Colorado was followed by a one-year stint in Virginia and a three-year assignment in Kentucky. By the spring of 2001, when Jack received orders to join a combat battalion in Germany, we couldn't pack our bags fast enough. We had always dreamed of living overseas, and Jack and I immediately immersed ourselves in the German culture. We went on romantic getaways every weekend, and over an 18-month period, we visited 16 European countries.

"We were happy until the fall of 2002, when the buildup to war began and the Army imposed travel restrictions, requiring Jack to stay near the base. We lived in perpetual stress for five months, wondering whether the United States would invade Iraq and Jack's unit would be deployed. Our views on Iraq were a sore point: I opposed the war and he supported it. But he didn't want to argue. 'I don't have time to debate politics,' he'd fume whenever I raised the subject. Ultimately, we agreed to disagree and to stop discussing Iraq. Neither of us was going to change the other's mind."

Casualties of War

"Days after the war started, Jack learned that his unit would be going to Baghdad. After he left, I relied on three close friends for companionship and support. I was cordial with the other Army wives but in their eyes I was the boss's wife. It would have been awkward for me to share my personal feelings about anything with them, let alone the war in Iraq. After Jack left, I avoided most social situations. The other wives' concerns heightened mine; I would leave a group dinner feeling worse than when I arrived. I felt isolated in both the military community and in Germany, a country that was staunchly anti-war. I also missed Jack terribly and worried constantly about his safety. Unfortunately, we had limited contact. When he first arrived in Iraq, it was hard for him to call, and when he did, the line would often go dead in the middle of our conversation. He had no e-mail for the first few months, either, which meant it was impossible to schedule calls. We wrote letters, but they are no substitute for someone's voice.

"Halfway through his deployment, Jack got a two-week leave. I imagined a romantic reunion, but he was distracted and depressed, and our lovemaking was perfunctory. He wouldn't talk about the war or the shooting death of a close friend. Our short vacation in Sweden was a fiasco. The old Jack was a great travel partner, but the new Jack set our daily agenda and walked two feet ahead of me. We argued constantly. When he left again for Iraq, I feared that the war might permanently change his personality.

"We've been together in Virginia for five months now and his attitude has yet to improve. His road rage is getting worse, so I now insist on driving us everywhere. I can't remember the last time we made love or even held hands. I decided to go back to work to stem my loneliness, but the prospect is frightening and Jack gives me no support. The other night, I started to cry as I struggled to write my resume for a sales job. 'Stop feeling sorry for yourself,' Jack yelled, looking at me with disdain. 'You don't have it so bad. You don't even know what bad is.'

"I realize that Jack needs time to adjust after the battlefield, but I can't take much more of his insensitivity and anger. This is not the man I married. I still love my husband, but I don't like him anymore. And I can't stay in a marriage where my emotional needs aren't met and I feel so hopelessly alone."

Continued on page 3:  He Says

 

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