Here’s a truth about coming home from war. The soldier is finally home, but not fully. The National Center for PTSD says trauma survivors often experience problems in their intimate and family relationships; because PTSD involves interferes with trust, communication, and emotional closeness. Today on Veterans’ Voices, Army veteran Andrew Klein of Kettering talks with his wife, Anna and daughter, Elyse about their gradual healing process.
Anna Klein (Anna): What do you remember about when you enlisted, and why?
Andrew Klein (Andrew): I remember that I was eighteen years old at the time. I joined, I would say primarily, it was kind of selfish motives, honestly. I needed to pay for college, and there were a lot of college benefits. But, also, I joined right after 9/11, and was definitely feeling very patriotic and wanted to serve my country. So, twofold, in that regard.
Elyse Klein: Can you describe how you felt coming home from combat?
Andrew: So, we're coming home, and being excited to come home, and they bring us back and I remember I felt that recovering from a full year in combat was going to be a long, hard thing to get through.
Anna: I remember when those buses pulled into St. Mary's and we kept looking for each other, and I remember when we finally found each other, even first looking at you, it felt different. I didn't know it then, but I think that feeling was recognizing that it felt in some ways like our battle together began then. Like we had to figure that out, how to come back together. But, yes, I feel like I kind of, being pregnant and excited and having my little part-time job, and you were missing.
Andrew: I remember feeling just confused. Like, I knew you wanted more, and I knew I wanted more, but I had no idea how to be there, you know. It was like, how am I going to … I can't be who I used to be. That person’s not here anymore. But I can't just be stuck like this. And it took a long time for me to realize in some ways there's a problem, I think. But I felt like you were sometimes frustrated, but other times, you loved me. And you really wanted better for me and I felt like when I finally started realizing I had a problem, and something needed to get better was when I did start to get better. And that part was almost harder for me, personally - it wasn’t almost, it was harder for me personally. Recovering, once I decided I needed to recover from the war and PTSD and get better, was so much harder than just feeling kind of numb, you know, and out of it all the time. Like I could cope a lot better when I just felt sort of distant, numb.
Anna: I think, too, the misconception is that like they think about you when you first come back, like family even, like, oh, we should check in on him, see how he's doing. But for us, it was not until three years, I would say, after you got back where we finally were like we need to figure stuff out. We can't just live like this the rest of our lives. It took a long time for us, for both of us, to realize that we there was more that we needed to do to reclaim, or even like figure out our new normal.
Andrew: You stuck with me through it and we were able to recover from that together. I mean, that's one of the best, best things that's ever happened to me, is being able to look back and say that I have recovered from that.
Anna: I love you.
Andrew: I love you, too.
Army veteran Andrew Klein's conversation with his wife Anna and daughter Elyse took place at WYSO as part of StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative which visited the Miami Valley last summer. Veterans’ Voices on WYSO is presented by Wright-Patt Credit Union with additional support from CareSource. This story was edited by Tony Holloway and Will Davis and created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.