Part 2 Iraq Aftermath
Ray returned home after his tour in Iraq a changed man, of course. No young person is going to leave his country for the first time and live and serve in a war zone without major changes. We welcomed him home with a honor guard motorcade from the airport to his base and followed up with a party to celebrate his unit’s return. After that it was back to the old life where everything was the same except him.
Ray had the the love and support of his girlfriend, Sue, while he was away and they were joyfully reunited. They set up housekeeping together and started their new lives. Sue worked in a bank and Ray started the job hunt. He received a very glowing letter of recommendation from his commander in Iraq and was offered a position with the National Guard at Camp Lincoln. This position was for a one year term, and was up for renewal annually for as long as the position listed.
At Christmas that year Ray and Sue announced they were going to become parents and the following July I got to meet my first grandchild, Alan Roman. We were all thrilled, and no one more so than Ray. My favorite picture is of Ray sitting on the sofa bare chested with newborn Alan cuddled up on his chest and Ray kissing the top of his head. A picture that still brings tears to my eyes in the light of the circumstances today. A tragedy like this is but a drop in the ocean, with the ripples of effects spreading in an ever widening circle.
During this time we lived about 75 miles apart and I didn’t see Ray that often. It appeared that things were going well for their new family and I know that Ray loved his job at Camp Lincoln. But I found out later that things were not as good as I thought. There were bouts with depression and isolationism. Ray struggled with dark thoughts and was unable to talk about them. I’m sure there was PTSD involved.
Ray was in his 2nd year’s assignment in the Camp Lincoln job when two events occurred. First of all, he found out he was going to be a father again and baby Adele was due in June. Next he found out his unit was scheduled to deploy again, this time to Afghanistan. He found out both of these things around January. The deployment was scheduled for June. Needless to say, Sue was stressed out about having a two year old son and a newborn daughter to handle by herself, while worrying about her husband being in a war zone. And the uncertainty if Ray would even be in the United States long enough to see the birth of his new daughter.
When the annual date of the renewal of his Camp Lincoln position came up in March, he was taken out of the position due to his expected deployment to Afghanistan. He was given a going away party by a group of fellow Camp Lincoln co-workers. Here comes the first travesty: they partied into the wee hours of the morning and did rent a hotel room to crash. But Ray had to get home so that Sue could go to work and when he left the hotel, he had not had time to sleep it off and was still legally intoxicated. Which was determined when he was stopped on the way home and charged with DUI.
THEN, his unit’s deployment was cancelled. Now he had lost his Camp David position because of the expected deployment and the position had been filled already. And he now has to deal with the DUI charges, of which he was convicted and had his driver’s license revoked. The lawyer was expensive and the fines were costly as well, at time when he was now unemployed. Things had went downhill in a heartbeat.
Ray was able to draw unemployment to help out while he looked for another job. He was able to find a position as a supervisor in a major warehouse operation. Getting back and forth to work was a challenge but they managed to work it out. He worked long hours and they had a 2 year old and a newborn to care for. We all know as parents that this is stressful, and expensive, time in child rearing along with the joy and love they bring.
Again, from long distance, the relationship seemed to be functioning. But I could tell that Ray was not as happy as I would have liked to seen him. At this point I didn’t even know about the DUI and the lost driving privileges. They were trying to handle things on their own. I knew that their finances were tight and occasionally helped out, but again, I didn’t pry into their business. I also found out later that Sue had quit her job over a dispute with her employer not allowing her to take her lunch hour in conjunction with her being able to take Alan to preschool. That caused more disharmony between them and additional financial problems. This is the point as far as I can tell that the increased isolation, depression and stress led to the beginning of the drug problem.
Continued in Part 3 The Path to Drug Abuse