Reservists spend first day home relaxing
Paying bills, spending time with family and doing "a whole lot of nothin' " were the ways some members of the 660th Transportation Company spent their first full day home.
The Army reserve unit returned to Zanesville on Sunday after spending the last year in Iraq. The 660th has about 100 members, with 40 from the Zanesville area, according to 1st Sgt. John Taylor.
Returning to normal life also means the reservists will return to their normal schedule of monthly drills and "hot missions," such as hauling fuel for the government within U.S. borders, Taylor said. He doubts the unit would be called up for Iraq again, but a deployment in the next one to two years is possible.
"It all depends on the future of Iraq," he said.
Spc. Sarah Wright hauled fuel and drove a gun truck for the 660th. It was strange to wake up Monday morning and not have to go through her daily routine with the unit, she said. While Wright thought it would take a lot of time getting used to life back home in Conesville again, she said she felt OK after her first day.
"I'm adjusting pretty good, I think," she said.
The 2002 River View High School graduate spent her 21st birthday overseas without much celebration. She said she guessed some revelry is in order, but she didn't really have any special requests upon her return. She was content to just spend time with everyone.
Her family was among the hundreds of people who gathered in front of Secrest Auditorium on Sunday as the buses carrying the 660th rolled into downtown Zanesville. Wright said it was amazing to see all those people from her perch in the bus.
"It was a great feeling just knowing there were so many people there to support us," she said.
Staff Sgt. Sam Hendricks echoed her sentiments, adding that he wished veterans of the Vietnam War would have received the same welcome home.
Seeing all those people "made me proud for my service," he said.
In his first morning home, Taylor took his son to the doctor and went to church to catch up with friends there. He intended to spend time with his other two young children, too. "It's been great," he said from his Grove City home Monday.
A veteran of Desert Storm, Taylor said the best advice he can give to soldiers and their families is to be patient with one another.
Help available for soldiers adjusting to civilian life
ZANESVILLE -- Coming home after spending the last year in Iraq is another culture shock for Staff Sgt. Sam Hendricks.
The Army prepared Hendricks and the other members of the 660th Transportation Company as they headed into Iraq, and the Army prepared them for coming home, too.
But the first day back home can be a strange experience for soldiers who have seen combat, said Capt. Annmarie Daneker of the 318th Public Affairs Detachment. For those who left spouses and children, they will find that those who stayed behind have changed a lot, too.
In Iraq, Hendricks was a squad leader, overseeing other soldiers. Back home, he is a trooper with the Ohio Highway Patrol. He'll report to the Granville post in the next month.
As a trooper, he has encountered sights and experiences that most people will not. The 32-year-old thinks that prepared him better than most for going to Iraq, but he witnessed events there that folks back home can't possibly imagine.
"War's an ugly thing," Hendricks said.
Life for soldiers and Iraqis is wildly different -- they face the constant threat of insurgents rising up, suicide bombers walking into crowded, public places with one mission in mind.
After being so guarded for the past year, soldiers will have a hard time relaxing, Daneker said.
"There's a lot of energy. You're constantly on edge -- you're either worried about yourself or (other soldiers)," she said. "It just doesn't stop because you're home. ... It's their way of life now."
The Army provides counseling services to troops upon their return and can refer veterans to local services if necessary. For couples, the Army recently began offering three-day retreats where counselors, chaplains and others are on hand to discuss issues related to getting reacquainted.
"It's almost as if you're starting to date again, learning a person's likes and dislikes," Daneker said.
Of course, there are other mental health concerns soldiers and their families are educated about, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The psychiatric disorder can develop after witnessing or experiencing a life-threatening event, such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist attacks or violent personal assaults.
Those with PTSD can suffer from nightmares, flashbacks, sleeplessness and feelings of estrangement. PTSD is sometimes accompanied by other disorders, such as depression, substance abuse and memory loss, according to the National Center for PTSD, which was created within the Office of Veterans' Affairs in 1989.
Even if they're not dealing with a condition as serious as PTSD, soldiers and their families should be patient as everyone readjusts, Daneker said.
From her own experience, she found it was best to give herself time and measured her progress by being in tune with what her feelings told her was right.
"Often times soldiers come back and compare themselves to how other soldiers are adjusting," she said. "Some other soldiers might react to other things differently."
Hendricks said he doesn't have an expectation for when life will seem normal to him again. By Sunday night, he already noticed how different it felt to be away from his unit.
With "bullets and bombs flying," those in combat learn to count on one another quickly. Being away from the rest of the 660th will be another adjustment, Hendricks said.
"Once you trust each other with one's life ... that's how the bond is formed," he said. "You're so used to having your buddies around. You have to get used to not having them there."
By MONICA TORLINE, firstname.lastname@example.org