Last weekend Jodie Foster (not the
actress), her 12-year old daughter, Kayla, and her two step children stood in
the middle of LP field during the second quarter of the Tennessee Titans –
Washington Redskins game. They thought they were being honored for a winning essay they had all
written together about husband and father, Mark E. Foster – a sergeant in 101st Combat Aviation Brigade. He is on
his fifth deployment, the latest being to Afghanistan eight months ago. In
that essay Jodie asked the kids about their dad.
daughter, Hunter, said: My dad drove in a
snowstorm at 35 mph from Kentucky to Ohio, a nine-hour trip that ended up
taking 16, just to spend a few hours with me and hold my hand after my knee surgery. Then he had to leave the
next morning to make it back to work on time. If that's not a true sacrifice, I
don't know what is.
daughter, said: My dad loved me
enough to adopt me. Mom, no one gave me to him, he picked me. I am proud of him
for enduring what he does and the sacrifices and choices he has made in life to
give us the life we have today.
Son Cody said: I see the honor in his eyes every morning he puts on
that uniform, and one day I want my family to look at me the way we look at
LP Field announcer said something about a surprise. Jodi turned around, and
there was Mark with yellow roses in hand, on the sidelines in the middle of a
bunch of Titan players. What followed was the whole family crying, running,
hugging, and kissing as 69,000 fans cheered wildly, and Trace Atkins’ song, American Solider, boomed over the
wish that every homecoming was just like that -- soldier comes home, war is left
behind, everything is back to normal, and they all live happily every after.
Many times it is exactly like that. Many times it is not.
One soldier came home to a party
attended by a house full of family and relatives. His wife later commented, “It
was just overwhelming for him—too much too soon.”
They went downtown for a stroll, but
the low brick buildings reminded him of some buildings in Iraq. There was
a crowd of people and lots of street noise. “That was not a good idea,” she
“I had planned the perfect first night
back together,” one wife commented, “but it turned out to be rather awkward. It
was like making love to a stranger. We should have spent more time
One day a soldier, back home from a
combat deployment, finally said to his frustrated wife who kept telling him to
come to dinner, “I can’t. I’m in Iraq.” She had grown more and more
frustrated because she didn’t know what that meant. Why doesn’t he just get over it and move on, she thought.
Others talk about nightmares, emotional
detachment, fixation on their war experiences, the difficulty of adjusting from
a wife running the household all by herself to dad being home, and (to the
shock and amazement of a spouse or loved one) the compelling desire to go back.
As great as it is to be back home,
sometimes that just starts the process of leaving the war behind. When soldiers
are deployed in a war zone, they are always busy, constantly on guard, and
completely focused on their mission and responsibilities. When they get home,
the place where they can relax and stand down emotionally, that is when all the
emotional issues, held back while on deployment, begin to surface.
It can be frustrating to a wife who has
always assumed that she could just love him through whatever problems he has.
Realizing that alone isn’t going to fix him, she begins to take things
Dealing with combat-related stress
takes time, patience, and almost always some counseling. It’s a lot like many
other issues that can overwhelm a relationship — the death of a child, the
chronically ill family member, or enormous financial stress.
About two or three years after her
husband returned from Iraq,
talked about her experiences to NotAlone.com, one of our ministry partners.
Merritt said: At this point we are in a good place in our relationship,
but we have certainly been through our share of ups and downs. When he came
back from combat, there were a lot of issues we really struggled with. We even
talked about divorce a few times, which was really scary. I felt like I was a
strong independent woman, and I could walk away from the relationship if I
needed to. But as we talked about deep feelings, we always came back to our
commitment to each other and how much we meant to each other. We have shared
our lives together, and we really are each other’s best friends. As much as
combat and the related issued have been difficult on our relationship, in a way
it has brought us closer. We sought counseling together, we’ve each had to work
on our own stuff, and we realize that we really love each other from somewhere
deep in our souls. It has made us stronger, more committed to each other. We
feel now there is nothing we cannot get through.
Sergeant Mark E. Foster who surprised
his family at LP Field, is scheduled to return to his unit in Iraq in two
For military personnel and their families
dealing with the combat related stress issues, I recommend that you contact Not
Alone through their website at www.NotAlone.com
Next week I will begin a few posts on
dealing with issues that come to the surface during the Christmas holidays.
What is the best and most difficult
part of Christmas for you? Your Comments?
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168. MILITARY RELATIONSHIPS (part 2): The Dreaded Deployment