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"The War Really Changed Him"

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Her Turn

“Greg has been back from Afghanistan for more than a month, but it still seems as if he’s not really here,” said Maggie, 31, who’s been married for 12 years and has two children, Jenna, 12, and Timothy, 10. “Ever since he got home he’s been totally withdrawn. I’m still taking care of everything — the housework, setting up carpools, managing finances, supervising the kids’ homework. Greg just doesn’t seem to want to pitch in at all, or even be involved with the family. He spends all his time in his workroom, away from everyone.

“My husband is in the Army’s Special Forces and has been deployed overseas twice in the past two years. First he was in Iraq for six months and then he went to Afghanistan for almost a year. I realize that things were tough on him over there, but he doesn’t tell me anything about his experiences. Other military wives say that’s typical. If you focus too much on the horrors of war, you just would be crushed and stop functioning. Still, I wish I could feel more connected to him. He’s only home for another few months before he goes back to the Middle East.

“The kids and I had been counting the days until Greg’s homecoming. We had so many plans — visit family in Virginia and see the museums and monuments in Washington, D.C. But now Greg doesn’t want to do anything or go anywhere. He won’t even come to church with us on Sundays. It’s as if he has lost his faith. I’m especially annoyed at the way he treats Jenna and Timmy. He’s always commenting about how spoiled they’ve gotten. I resent that. They’re doing great in school and never get into trouble. Yeah, I buy them a lot of toys and video games, but so what? We can afford it.

“On top of that, Greg treats the kids like a couple of Army recruits. When Timmy left a bit of toothpaste in the sink the other night, Greg threatened to make him clean the whole bathroom if it happened again. And he insists that they make their beds as soon as they wake up. I’ve been getting them up and out for a year. I don’t make my bed every day, so why should they?

“You’d think I’d be accustomed to life as a military wife. My dad was in the Army and I saw how hard it was for my mom to raise four kids, mostly on her own. When Greg told me right after we got married that he wanted to enlist my first reaction was total terror. My main concern was that something would happen to him. But he just seemed so committed to serving his country that, ultimately, I supported his decision.

“I lived with my folks when he did his basic training — I was pregnant with Jenna then. Three months later he went to Kosovo and didn’t meet our daughter until she was 3 months old. Initially I really didn’t know how I’d manage to raise a family without him around. And when he was first gone I just missed him so much. I lived for his e-mails and phone calls. But it’s gotten easier with every deployment: You figure out systems to manage day-to-day life and you learn to close off the part of yourself that makes you sick with worry. When you’ve got young children you need to stay focused. You can’t break down since you’re the one keeping the family together. I’ve gained a lot of confidence over the years, which is why I get so insulted when Greg criticizes the way I’m running the household.

“I know it’s difficult for Greg to dive back into our lives after being in the middle of a war. But it’s not easy for me, either. We’re snapping at each other all the time. He’ll be heading back to Afghanistan again in three months, so I insisted we get counseling. I love this man — at least I think I do. But we need this time to work on our family or we may not be married the next time he comes home.”

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