By Sgt. Matthew C. Cooley, 15th Sus. Bde., 1st Cav. Div. Public AffairsFebruary 4, 2008
FORT HOOD, Texas - Every Soldier's redeployment experience is different. Some have to find a place to live and readjust to the slow pace of garrison life while others have to adjust to a busy house full of children.
Coming home is more than merely ceremonies and parties, it means adaptation and change.
For Spc. Alex Manuel, a financial specialist 15th Finance Battalion, it meant adapting to having his family with him again.
Three days before Christmas, his wife, Veronica Manuel, and three daughters left the house to meet Alex. She knew that a white bus would be picking her husband up from the airport.
"When I left here, I saw the white bus going to the airport, and I just started crying," she said, recounting the joy she felt.
Alex wasn't able to share those feelings. He wasn't quite used to the prospect of being home.
"I felt like I was in a borrowed car with a borrowed family," he admitted.
While he was gone, his wife furnished the house, bought a chocolate Labrador retriever, and a new convertible for him. These were major goals and dreams for Alex, but at first, he felt little, he explained. He adopted a different outlook during deployment to cope with his time in Iraq.
"You don't expect things anymore," Alex said. "You don't learn to be happy, but to be content."
Another Soldier's homecoming was a little different.
It was late, cold, and windy the night when Spc. William Bradley stepped off the bus. Time seemed to crawl, he said. As he and the other Soldiers waited, the bus drove off, revealing his sister and mother on the other side.
"Seeing everyone there, it gave me chills down my back," Bradley said. "I don't know how to say how I felt."
Bradley has deployed to Iraq twice, but said the second deployment taught him a lot about life. Before the deployment, he partied a lot and drove recklessly, but claimed to feel and act differently after his return.
"I don't take as much for granted anymore," Bradley said.
Bradley said he spends more time with family and friends now. He explained that his deployment had changed him, especially the death of a friend he served with in Iraq.
"I cherish life because now I have seen what can happen," Bradley said.
He had many goals to accomplish after his first deployment, but upon returning the second time, his goals had changed.
"I just wanted to get back, see my family, and take life one step at a time," Bradley said.
For those troops, like Manual, and their families that have a hard time adjusting to a Soldiers return, the Army has programs to help one step at a time.
Reintegration and Battle Mind Training are intended to make the transition back to a more normal life easier for everyone involved by providing Soldiers with briefings before, during and after deployment. Briefings are also made available to the families of the service members, so that they will better understand what their loved ones have been through and how to help them cope while they readjust to home life.
Military Family Life Consultants is a civilian program which may be of particular benefit to Soldiers, family members, and even close friends of the service member. When someone seeks the services of MFLC, no report is made to the Soldier's chain of command. MFLC can be reached at 288-0400.
The Family Advocacy Program conducted by Army Community Service, which is partly responsible for reintegration training, can be reached at 288-6474.