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An Unhappy Homecoming from Iraq
Dear Ms. Vicki,
“It was a day that I had been waiting for more than a year — coming home after fighting in Iraq and facing some of the fiercest battle in Mosul. I survived what many others didn’t, and I was coming home. There were 250 of us on the plane that landed on the air field at Fort Campbell, Ky. As it landed I could see what looked like thousands of people all jumping, dancing and waving American flags. There were banners that read ‘Welcome home, We love you, We support you!’
“We finally exited the plane to the tunes of the Army band, and the division commander shook our hand. I couldn’t wait to greet my wife with the big hug and a huge kiss. I expected to see her as I looked through the enormous crowd. I wanted to see my wife holding a welcome home banner with my name on it. But, I didn’t see a banner or my wife.
“That’s when the anxiety started growing and a burning sensation gripped my stomach. My heart started pounding as if it would jump right out of my chest. As we stood in formation there was a quick welcome home ceremony, then we were released to greet our families. Surely my wife spotted me in formation. She would run to me when she heard the words ‘Soldiers greet your families.’ They said the words and the scramble began. All around me families began running to their Soldiers with hugs, kisses and tears.
“My wife never ran to me so I decided to look through the crowd for her. But, I realized I was searching for a needle in a haystack. We would only receive 30 minutes for the initial reunion. Then we were to report to our unit and turn in our equipment and start inprocessing. Afterwards we could go home with our families to start the reunion and reintegration process. I searched and waited but she wasn’t there. After 30 minutes we were ordered to line up and board a bus that would carry us to our unit. Something had to be seriously wrong. Why didn’t my wife show up to welcome me home? Was she hurt? Was she ill? I rushed home in the hopes of finding her.
“We didn’t live far from base, so I didn’t have far to go. The closer I got to my home the more nervous I became. In my heart I knew something was wrong but I didn’t know what.
“When I finally got home, I saw that the house was empty except for the trash and my wife’s unwanted clothing strewn all over the place. I was shocked.
“My wife was gone and she also took my dog, Bo. I lost it, I came unglued and I wanted to find her. I was furious. I sat in the middle of the living room floor crying for hours. Finally, there was a knock at my front door. It was my neighbor who stopped by to say welcome home.
“She told me that my wife had been seen in the company of several men in our home, while I was deployed and in the last four months she had fallen in love with one of them. The last I heard my wife moved to California to be with her new lover.
“Ms. Vicki, there is more to my story. She emptied my checking account, including my $15,000 re-enlistment bonus, which left my account in the red. My wife also used my power of attorney to borrow money from every checking cashing place in the city. How could she treat me in this way? I know I was a jerk at times, but I didn’t deserve this.
“Where do I go from here? I would appreciate any advice you have to give me.”
This is a terrible story about a Soldier returning home from the frontlines. To my regret, I’ve received hundreds of letters from both male and female servicemembers who have faced the same dilemma.
First, you should immediately call a close friend, relative or a loved one. You need someone will let you vent. This person should remain objective and not talk you into do something criminal, like assaulting your spouse or even worse.
Secondly, remove your spouse’s name from all of your account information quickly. As long as she has access to your finances she will continue to use them. Don’t give them her privilege. You already have a financial mess to clean up. Eliminate all joint accounts and revoke her power of attorney promptly.
Thirdly, stay calm and follow the old adage “stop and think.” This is a volatile situation and you’re an emotional wreck, so don’t visit your spouse while you’re alone -- trust me you'll have a knee-jerk reaction. You’re bound to say and do some things you’ll regret.
Wait before you try to visit your spouse until you’re calmer and have had the opportunity to regroup and reprocess what’s happened. If you must talk, do so in the company of other family members or trusted friends. Additionally, you should speak to a professional counselor or therapist before you see your spouse. Bottom line, you need as much support as you can get right now. Asking for help doesn’t mean you're weak. Get encouragement from people who are on your side and totally understand what you’re going through. There are also professional help services available to you on base. You should start with your Social Work Services department and also your community resource office on base. They’ll definitely make sure you receive the assistance you need.
Finally, visit your legal office on base for recommendations and counsel. Most legal offices have walk-in hours, as well as appointments. They’ll be able to give you information on consumer credit information and let you know if anything can be done about your spouse desecrating your finances, ruining your credit and using your power of attorney inappropriately.
Regarding your future deployments you should stay involved with your finances and personal accounts as much as possible and enroll in online banking. Obviously your military missions come first, but you must make time to involve yourself in your personal finances. Another recommendation is to allow a trusted parent or friend assist you in managing your finances while you're deployed. This person should be in good standing with their own finances.
Please keep in touch with me and let me know how you're doing.
Do you have a question for Ms. Vicki about deployments, making new friends at a new duty station, or military life in general? E-mail her atAskMsVicki@military-inc.com, and she'll answer your questions. Two or three Q&As will be published on Military.com's Advisors channel.
Copyright 2010 Ask Ms Vicki. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Military.com.
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