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    THV Extra: Challenges of returning veterans (Part 1)

    7:09 PM, Feb 21, 2012   |    comments
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    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Ten years, two continents, and millions of Americans. Since the War on Terrorism began in 2002, 2.3 million troops have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and for many of our Arkansas service members returning from war, the adjustment to civilian life is not an easy one.

    Deployed service members face all of the struggles you may expect that come from living in a war zone, such as the stress of combat and missing their families. But when the uniform comes off and they return home, it is then that they may be facing a whole new fight.

    It is an experience you cannot imagine unless you are there, service members fighting for our country in a foreign land.  (photo gallery)

    "It kind of changes the scheme of your life you know," says Ebony Campbell.

    "When you go over there for the first time, you're thinking every single thing is a IED or everybody that walks up to the car is going to pull out a gun or something which isn't the case but you're just so wired," says Jesse Clark.

    They spending months, even years away from home.

    "Being in dangerous situations all the time, all those things over a long period of time take a toll on you," says Campbell.

    And when it is over...

    "You want to feel like you're normal but you're not," says Campbell, an Army veteran who returned from Iraq in 2004 after a fifteen month deployment.

    "There is nothing set in stone to say oh this is how you get back to normal life because at that point, what is normal life to you?" says Campbell.

    "We are the fourth largest state when it comes to redeployment or as far as the number of veterans that are serving in the war," says Nakia Williams, Program Manager for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System.

    She says since the War on Terrorism began, Arkansas service members including the National Guard are seeing more time overseas than ever.

    "Our veterans now are serving more tours. Vietnam veterans typically served one tour. Many of our veterans are serving, two, three even four tours," says Williams.

    Jesse Clark is a Marine Corp Reserves veteran who served 8 months in Iraq in 2006.He has friends who've been on 5 back-to-back deployments and it's taken a toll.

    "I had guys that family members passed away while they were over there that they didn't get to see and I had guys that their wives divorced them while they were over there," says Clark.

    "Society really doesn't understand some of the problems that they are enduring because of the multiple tours," says Williams.

    While the war in Iraq may be over, for some it is the war within their minds they continue to fight.

    "Those thoughts, those feelings, those memories are so vivid, so real that they can find themselves as though they are truly still in danger," says Dr. Vince Roca, Program Director for the Outpatient Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Unit at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System.
    He says not all service members come home with PTSD, a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after a life-threatening experience. But for those who deal with the constant fear and stress it brings, everyday tasks become all the more difficult.

    "There will be some trigger that happens now. It could be a smell, could be something you see, something you hear, it could be the humidity in the air, could be the temperature," says Dr. Roca.

    "I was very jumpy should I," says Campbell who served as a medic with the Army. Although she does not suffer from PTSD, the habit of protecting herself did not go away once she came home.

    "Loud noises were the thing for me. I remember one time somebody's tire blew out and I almost hit the floor. I was so embarrassed," says Campbell.

    After living for so long with so little, Clark says adjusting back to the land of plenty did not come easy.

    "You come back here and people are just enjoying all these great things that they have and they're still complaining about it and you just...It just makes you mad," says Clark.

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