When my U.S. Navy SEAL husband, Mark, returned from Iraq with only a broken leg, I praised God he was home safe and sound. In the months following his homecoming, however, I sensed his leg was the least of our concerns. Although Mark recovered physically, his soul still walked with a limp. His unseen wounds, caused by war-zone experiences, slowly but surely infected our marriage, our children, and our family life.
Married to a Stranger
The first change I noticed in my husband was a disruption in his sleep patterns. Nightmares menaced the few hours he did sleep, causing him to awaken, sometimes startled, sometimes shouting, always drenched in sweat.
During his waking hours, Mark avoided discussions about the war and television newscasts. He kept to himself and seemed to have trouble concentrating or remembering things.
Months later, Mark's moods became unpredictable. The kids and I walked on eggshells. I noticed certain sights, sounds, and smells had the power to transform a fun family outing into a day I'd rather forget. Mediterranean foods, hot weather, sand, the smell of smoke or burning oil, the sound of low-flying aircraft, a slamming door, or the whine of a vacuum cleaner made his heart race and catapulted him to another place and time.
Discussions that previously caused minor tension, such as tight family finances or discipline of the children, combusted into major, ugly showdowns. Simple home repairs and the normal clutter of a busy, growing family, which never bothered him before, seemed to overwhelm him. Mark became more aggressive behind the wheel and was easily offended by other drivers.1