The military calls the post deployment adjustment time, reintegration. It’s a sterile word for something that is very messy. The reintegration period is fraught with emotion.
The reunion kiss between husband and wife is something photographed and broadcast across network television again and again, but the reality at home much less attractive image.
Picture being the CEO, CFO and COO at a company for two years when suddenly the former CEO, CFO and COO comes back to run the company with you. Think of the potential for conflict in every move that is made. It can be that way between the returning service member and spouse if they aren’t careful.
The work load also grows exponentially, which can lead to resentment. Imagine the laundry pile doubling in size, along with the grocery bill. I am blessed to have such a helpful spouse. Horatio jumped in with both feet right away. We seem to have made this part of the transition with grace. Horatio carries the laundry up and down the stairs and moves it from washer to dryer, while I fold it and put it away.
Maybe the current CEO is tired of making all of the decisions and is happy at the prospect of having someone else do it for a while. It can be frustrating when the returning soldier doesn’t want to make decisions at home. After all, he’s been making potentially life altering decisions in theater; deciding between tacos and tuna casserole for dinner can seem mundane or unnecessary.
In Disney World, Horatio and I experienced some of these conflicts. A trip to the Disney parks is stressful enough for a family under every day circumstances, now picture how it goes for a newly reunited family. Space Mountain or Thunder Mountain? “You decide,” “no you decide.”
Horatio is used to a high stress environment and leading 70 sailors in a job with international relevance. At times, to me, it felt like he wanted to run the trip the same way. He wanted the trip to go like this: “If we get a fast pass here, and go to the other end of the park to do this ride and that ride, we can get back just in time to do the other ride just in time to use the fast pass.” While I, hobbling around on a still sprained ankle, in an orthopedic walking cast in 95 degree heat and matching humidity, preferred the, “What do you want to ride first, Zack?” and “ok, Dwight, you get to choose next,” meandering around the park in a carefree, casual manner.
We managed to work it out and made it through seven days of amusement parks and other attractions and still love AND like each other.
My point is that it can be a daily challenge to get through the maze of reintegration. A marriage has to be strong to survive it. The divorce rate in the military has increased 42 percent since the start of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, we are lucky that our marriage is solid and can withstand the stress of deployment and post deployment. We have made it through the reintegration period three times before, so we’ll do it again, hopefully for the last time.
Reintegration is going well. I’d say it’s 90% butterflies and roses and only 10% messy. The boys and my cups truly do runneth over with gratitude and joy that Horatio is home.