First Person: I Left for Iraq Married, but Came Back to an Empty House

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First Person: I Left for Iraq Married, but Came Back to an Empty House
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Bill Howell.

As we near the 10-year anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq, Yahoo News asked U.S. servicemen and women who served to share their perspectives and discuss how it changed them. Here's one story.

FIRST PERSON | When I joined the Kentucky National Guard, I had been a police officer for seven years. They were so short on police advisors because the war was over so fast, I was thrown into training new Iraqi police. I moved from place to place and was never in any place for too long. It was exciting and I was able to work with some great people who are still good friends.

Internet access was spotty at best in most of the places I was in and I never knew when I was going to be able to use it. My wife had not been responding to my emails, and I was so lonely for most of the tour.

The first time I had heard from my wife in over a month was when she found out I had been blown up in Baghdad. She would not communicate with any regularity, and I had no clue what my daughters even looked like. My wife was already thinking about divorce before I left for Iraq. At some point during my tour, we decided to just call it quits. I recovered from my IED blast and my divorce while in Al Hilia, Iraq, and I went back to training the police until the end of my tour.

Coming home to an empty house was hard. I just cried for three days, holding my dog, who would not leave my side. I finally went to the VA and met a counselor at the end of day three. She told me to go back to work, that I had too much time on my hands. It sounds cruel, but it worked. All in all, I was away from my family for 13 months. I was back at work as a police officer four days after being home. I had PTSD for almost two years, but I was able to hide it until I was able to control it. It was a hell of a demon to keep caged.

How did Iraq change me? I gave up my family and just a bit of sanity. I lost 13 months of my life and my back is hurt so bad from my IED in Baghdad that I was medically discharged from the Guard. I since then left police work because of my back injury. I now sit in front of a computer all day missing the days when I was a soldier.

But would I have done anything differently? Nope!

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