Blonde moment

And the silver spoon.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

June 22, 2007

Yes, 2007. Actually, let’s back up another week… Cousin Rachel’s bridal shower… Peder drops Rachel off at the shower, and I tell him the most wonderful event known to service man kind… “Josh called me from Q8.” And Peder smiled. I continued my good news, “And if I don’t hear from him for 24 hours, that means he’s on the good side of Q8.” Then I made a fuss over Rachel.

The day after Rachel’s shower, Granny died. Soldiers returning from duty should not have their homecoming marred by sad wives, and so, I continued on with my sign making and yellow ribbon hanging. That Monday, I get a call from Bangor, ME. Bangor, ME, was the first American Dirt Josh stepped on.

But, back to June 22, 2007…. It was Granny’s funeral. And we were flooded with emotions. Dad was right, the hardest thing about stuff like that is leaving the cemetery. We had a very good reason to leave, however… we had to go to Grand Rapids, MN, because the next day Josh would be released!

Josh and Fish’s signs were in my trunk. We had a camera to provide visual evidence to Fish’s folks (who couldn’t make it) that their son was indeed home. And we were ready to start reintegration.

It’s been a year now since Josh has been home. If I learned one thing about Minnesotans it is that they think “Post Traumatic Stress” or “Just fine.” There’s this middle ground called “reintegration” where most soldiers and their families hang out for a while. Josh’s first three months were rough. Not impossible, but rough.

An example… Josh’s Mom, God bless her, is not a list person. When I go to the grocery store, there is a list, and it is divided into sectors of the store where I can find a particular item. I’m not quite as good as my mom, who has things by aisle, but I’m at least to quadrants. List people are pretty good with reintegration because they can leave their soldier home with some tasks on a list and the tasks will get done. Rodger that. We met Josh’s Mom in Sioux Falls where she was attending an HUD conference with her friend.

So, the next day, our mission was to drop my car off at Josh’s step-sister’s house and then go to the ranch where we would spend time with the family and pick up his truck. So, we got up in the morning, packed the car, ate breakfast, and ran errands. Running errands was not on the mission task list.

And one would think that Josh would completely understand, having grown up in Rapid City, that Sioux Falls has stuff that you can’t get in Rapid, so you just stock up when you have a chance. And, besides, it isn’t like we were operating under Liz’s family rules, we were operating under Josh’s family rules, rules he grew up with. And the rule is, no list. Eventually, we head towards Josh’s step-sister’s house with more undocumented stops along the way. And Josh’s knuckles are getting white on the steering wheel of my car. And when we get to our first documented destination, we found no one was home and their very steep drive was being completely repaved, and there is no way my Saturn was getting up the mud, and so, Josh, being the good soldier, turned around, got gas, and some water for our journey thinking his caravan was following. But, his caravan didn’t follow. So, we went back, explained that we had decided to take the Saturn with and that we should just forget about parking it and head towards Mitchell where we would be eating lunch.

After Josh’s mom spent more time on the phone trying to find the reason behind all of the obstacles not realizing obstacles are bad, she lead the way off to Mitchell. And, then Josh said, “She’s driving like a terrorist and she is not a good caravan leader.” Well, she was driving like she usually does, which is just fine, and Josh also thought that I, and about everyone else, drive like a terrorist. So, we called ahead, said we were going to pass them, and all was good in the Caravan the rest of the way to the ranch.

Is this PTSD? No. Josh had spent two years in a highly structured environment and if structure was not followed, lives were lost. Josh has a wife who craves structure, which made some things easy. And we were in an environment with people who do not crave structure. Is Josh still like this? Well, on occasion, sure, when there is a trigger moment. But, had this entire thing happened now, Josh would have felt comfortable enough to “leave the caravan” and tell his mom, “Liz and I don’t want to run errands, so we’re just going to go on ahead to the ranch, give our regrets to the step sister and family.” But, under the training Josh was still operating under, you don’t leave your caravan.

Why am I saying this now? If I mentioned all of this then, it wouldn’t have been the funny little story it is now. And Josh and his mom talk on the phone at least weekly, just like before, and Josh is more civilian then soldier at war. Perspectives have changed. Josh’s reaction to all of this was normal, considering his training and experiences in Iraq. And his training reflexes have died down considerably. When I tell a story about reintegration now, it is so other people understand that there is a learning curve between war and peace.

The tough pill to swallow is reintegration. The good news is, within one year, God, through the Minnesota National Guard’s reintegration program, gave me back Josh, who is now a college student, getting the best grades he has ever, and who is ready for home ownership and ready to hold his first child any day now. Is Josh back to normal? We can never reclaim the past; but I can say that life is better then it was before he left in the first place.


  • At 4:36 PM , Blogger Kara said...

    Thank you for sharing, and thanks to Josh for serving.

    Good thing Baby Kulzer isn't arriving until now. No matter how much of your genes it inherits, newborns aren't list/schedule followers!

  • At 5:01 PM , Blogger Liz said...

    No... but that's why we have FMLA and stay at home parents; so newborns don't have to get on a schedule.

  • At 7:46 PM , Blogger Uncle Ben said...

    That's very helpful. Thank you for sharing it.

    And has it been a year already? Time must be on steroids.


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