Reconnecting with family after deployment
After returning from the war, many soldiers find it difficult to reconnect with family. In the case of Maj. Levi Dunton, a former Apache pilot and commander of 150 troops, there was difficulty sharing with his wife, finding joy in being a parent, and small things made him angry. This emotional distance in marriages among soldiers is something that the Army has acknowledged and is attempting to address through their “Strong Bonds Program,” which encourages couples to address issues of communication and connection through retreats, individual counseling, and other forums. Sue Johnson, director of Ottawa Couple and Family Institute and contributor to the “Strong Bonds Program,” wrote of Israeli research that shows prisoners of war that recover quickest are in happy and secure marriages in her book “Hold Me Tight” (Little, Brown). Through the efforts of the “Strong Bonds Program,” hopefully U.S. soldiers returning from deployment to Iraq will find similar emotional healing and return to normalcy. The following is an excerpt of an article from the New York Times that discusses the difficulties of connecting with family after war:
In a measured voice, Maj. Levi Dunton explained to the small circle of Army officers and their spouses what had gone wrong in his marriage since he returned home from Iraq in 2005. He had trouble being involved with his family, he said. He didn’t find joy in being a parent to his two boys, 3 and 5 months. Little things made him angry.
Major Dunton said he was not sure whether his year in Iraq, where he was an Apache pilot and commander of 150 soldiers, was responsible for his numb state. Others, he wanted to make clear, had it a lot worse. To the other soldiers, this was a familiar litany of guilt, emotional distance and marital discombobulation; they were silent or simply nodded their heads.
Like Major Dunton, they seemed uneasy with all this talk, all this sharing, all this connecting to the wife in front of strangers.
Even as he spoke, Major Dunton, who fidgeted and played with his wedding ring, rarely made eye contact with Heather, his wife of 10 years and a former helicopter pilot herself.
Ms. Dunton, however, seemed relieved, liberated even, to be given a chance to reach out to her husband. She put her hand around his knee and said she was convinced that the war had wormed its way into their marriage.
“He used to tell jokes and funny stories and now he doesn’t do that anymore,” she said later. “I could tell he was different right away, but I thought it would pass.”