At first I was exhausted, but after about 6 months, my stamina improved. I did hit a wall at 12 months. I had had enough. I was frustrated and angry, and I wanted it to be over! We all stayed in very good health through this time. When the kids did get sick, I brought them to work or they went to a neighbor’s house. I felt neglectful, but I didn’t have a choice. Once I got sick, myself, and had to ask for help, but I actually was the most physically fit I have ever been during this time. Cooking for me and two little ones was easy. The kids and I walked every day.
Kathy and Mike did what had to be done and coped in the best ways available to them. Their resources expanded with increasing needs. Sources of support shifted and changed completely in some ways. They will never be able to return to the same relationships and decision-making style present before deployment. Time, circumstances, and priorities have changed their family unit markedly. The year following a service member’s return to civilian life will often determine the family’s ultimate adjustment.
The toll on families caught up in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be analyzed for years to come. Divorces in the military increased by 100% in 2004 (Skipp, Ephron, & Hastings, 2006). The army has spent millions of dollars on programming designed to positively enhance marital relationships of deployed men and women. All branches of the military have engaged in conscious efforts to strengthen support systems on both sides of the globe. Kathy appreciated this.
The army family support group meetings were helpful, and I really respected the army chaplains and their wisdom. It was a good place to air frustrations and anger, but it was only once a month.