While my husband was serving in Iraq a sticker adorned my front screen door, just above the blue star flag. The clear sticker had an image of a heart, one half red, the other half in an Army camouflage pattern. Scrolled across the image were the words, 1/2 my Heart is in Iraq.
Half of my heart was gone, along with half my soul, half my pair, and half of the team. My family's life was torn in two while my husband was at war. War tears so many things in half.
In this column and the next I'm going to talk about the effects of war on Americans and the civilians in the countries we're fighting. I'm going to show you a side that the media doesn't always spend enough time on.
And I'm going to give you a good reason to see the war in Iraq differently than any way you've seen it before. I might climb on my soap box, but know it's not to beat you over the head with rhetoric. It's to show you just what the Iraqi people are like and how they see our occupation of their country. Remember, America is unique in its own way, don't take your mindset and compare it to others, or you'll have a hard time understanding.
First, let's explore the American side of this two front war. Right now a new president sits in the office, asking that our troops be removed from Iraq. For some it's too little, too late. For others its about time. Those families who have sacrificed their soldier's presence in their lives numerous times are ready to keep them home. Nothing strains relationships more than war and combat.
Many marriages have suffered under the pressure. Both, husbands and wives, have succumbed to the temptation and committed adultery simply because they miss physical and personal intimacy from the absent spouse. Others have divorced because the non-military spouse couldn't take the stress, felt that they were no longer important, and/or blamed the soldier for leaving them. Or worse, they left because the returning soldier suffered from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and was physically abused by the spouse. There are many other reasons, but these are the top three.
Separation due to war causes so many problems. Health for both spouses can worsen due to stress, environmental issues in the countries the soldier serves in, and unimaginable mental anguish. During my husband's mobilization training and tour of duty I was sick a total of seven and half months. The stress of caring for my four children alone, dealing with the financial and physical side of maintaining a household alone, and missing my husband wreaked havoc on my immune system. And to top it all off, I was learning for the first time that my thyroid had been compromised, which can play a heavy part on how your body functions. I had the flu three times that winter, where as the last time I succumbed to the flu was the year I was pregnant with my daughter. On the flip side, my husband was exposed daily to burning trash, sand storms that kicked up the very fine dust on his base, exposure to third world country conditions, and extreme heat and 20 degree temperatures without electricity. When he came home, he hacked up black phlegm for almost a month. For the rest of his life he has to be vigilant in watching his lung health because cancer could emerge.
"Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can
occur after you have been through a traumatic event. A traumatic event
is something horrible and scary that you see or that happens to you.
During this type of event, you think that your life or others' lives
are in danger. You may feel afraid or feel that you have no control
over what is happening."
Anyone can suffer from PTSD, but you see and hear more about soldiers than the average American civilian. The stress of coping with a soldier suffering from PTSD can strain even the most stable of marriages. The person you married is buried, and the one left behind is someone you don't recognize. For some wives it's like walking around on eggshells when your husband is home. You never know what to expect from them. I will delve into this more in another column.
Another aspect of being military is dealing with people who have no compassion and spout misinformation like it's gospel. Nothing made me more livid than to hear anti-war people denounce everything my husband stood for and fought for while he was in Iraq. They bled misinformation spoon-fed to them by the media and refused to listen to anyone who was there. Daily reminders from anti-war protesters and back sliding politicians made me despise this country more than anything had before. But I was given reminders that this was why men died and fought in past wars. So everyone had a right to make their voice be heard. It just sadden me that the minority drowned out the majority and no one seemed to care. Then my husband came home and I learned from him, after he talked with some of the Iraqi people and other nationalities, just what the US military presence did to improve their lives.