Somewhere along the line, the collective psyche of the US decided that our men must be able to be warriors on the battlefield, full of heroics and loyalty to the nation and nothing else, but normal everyday people when they touch back onto US soil. The transition is supposed to be seamless with nothing from either life bleeding through to the other.
Coming home and being unable to switch back to a tender husband and loving father after the horrors of war is unimaginable. And shameful.
We as a nation, as a group, as a whole, have set an unlivable standard.
How is it right to expect our military to leave the normal human morals behind and then be shocked that they are unable to reconnect with their more "human" side when they return? Can you say that you have been through hell, any kind of hell, and come out the other side untouched and unchanged? I can't.
Just living with the aftermath of multiple deployments and years as a nation at war has changed me. So why does it seem to be thought of as shameful to admit that war changes you?
It is not to say that everyone comes home with PTSD. People do not have to lose their humanity. But to expect the masses to fight a 12 year war and remain unchanged is an extreme form of naivete that I can't understand.
I don't know what my husband saw. I don't know what he did. And I don't need to know to know that fighting a war but retaining your sense of self is not always easy. He was trained to be a Marine. A fighting machine. He has said that those who join the Marines join to fight. They wait for war, they often welcome it. Maybe that's true. But if it is, if they truly are trained to be the best fighter of any war, then to expect them to transition back to a life in a civilian world and not see threats everywhere makes no sense. They are trained to do exactly that, see the threat, neutralize it and move on.
My husband has admitted that in times of great stress, when we are fighting and he shut downs, he sees me not as a wife, but as a threat to be neutralized. And why shouldn't he? That is what he was trained to do.
We are living in a world of unlivable expectations. It is unreasonable to say that our service members must be capable of taking a life, an act that is thought of to be immoral and inhuman to do, but then expect them to retain both extremes in harmony. To say one must be a war fighting machine, but also a gentle and loving father, husband, neighbor and co-worker, is to say that the dueling conflict within must be resolved without guidance.
It is not shameful to come home struggling to leave the war behind. It is what we asked of them. Fight a war. My husband did just that. And now that war lives with him everyday. "Broken by battle." The dueling conflicts of who he is supposed to be cannot simply resolve because he stepped off a plane and was home again. Some make the transition easier than others, but there is nothing wrong with the struggle. It is we, those who have placed that expectation on them that should be considering our actions.
Instead of understand, we surround them with stereotypes and expectations that are impossible to meet. My husband did what he was trained to do and it was inevitable that, at some point, the switch would not flicker on and off so easily.