"The War Really Changed Him"
"Each time you're on a battlefield you leave a little piece of yourself behind," said Greg, 30. "I'm not the same person I was when I left last year, and I guess that's why it's so hard to play catch-up with my family.
"At first I was really thrilled to see Maggie and the kids. When I was overseas I missed them so much and thought about them all the time. But now that I'm home I feel distant from everyone. Maggie doesn't seem too happy to have me around, either. I don't remember the last time she spoke to me without an edge in her voice. When it gets too overwhelming, I head to my workshop, which is my safe zone.
"I just feel so confused about what I'm supposed to be doing. In Afghanistan I knew exactly what my job was. But back home I'm not sure what my role in the family is anymore. Maggie complains that I'm not helping more with stuff around the house, but she's gotten so used to taking care of things by herself that I feel like she doesn't need me to do anything but mow the lawn. And all she does is criticize me: I'm too strict with the kids...I don't go to church...I'm not involved with our family. That last criticism really hurts. I truly like being with my wife and kids, but this isn't what I expected. I had visions of all of us going for long bike rides together or just hanging out in the house. But Maggie has Jenna and Timmy so tightly scheduled -- every day after school, even on weekends -- that trying to figure out where I fit in is like jumping onto a moving train.
"I also don't really have much desire to do some of the things Maggie had planned, like going to visit relatives or playing tourists in Washington, D.C. And I don't feel like spending hours in church, either, but that doesn't mean that I lost my faith. I'm exhausted -- mentally and physically. I really just want to hang out and chill.
"As far as the kids go, what's wrong with trying to instill a little discipline in Timmy and Jenna? It's important to teach them the value of hard work. Am I really expecting too much to ask them to make their beds and keep the bathroom neat and clean? And it bugs me that our house looks like a giant toy store. I was in a country so poor that the children were ecstatic to play with a 10-cent Frisbee every day because that's all they had. My kids have flat-screen TVs, video games, and Nintendo Wiis. Some days I feel like junking it all and making them sleep on a simple mat to get a taste of what it's like in other parts of the world.
"I'll admit -- it was pretty traumatic being in Afghanistan. You're in danger all the time and it's scary. I wish I could talk to Maggie about stuff, but things are so tense between us that I just don't feel like discussing anything with her. I'm realizing now, though, that it feels good to get this off my chest. I hope my wife and I can figure out a way to talk to each other again."