Sunday, July 12, 2009

Stress in a War Zone

A few days ago I went to a meeting at the base chapel about stress. In particular "Does your family back home raise or lower your stress level?" Since this was a group discussion about stress, I could assume people who were stressed out would attend. I was not quite prepared for how much soldiers are stressed out by their families back home. For much of the hour, I listened to folks who dread the calls home because their parents/significant others are worried sick about them and can't be easily persuaded to talk about anything else. (My family does what they can to keep me informed about their lives and tell me some of the funny things that happen in their lives.)

The conversation that got the most nods of recognition was telling Mom that the attack in Baghdad they saw on TV was 300 miles away and had nothing to do with our base. And once they get Mom calmed down, things will be fine until the next time Mom watches the news then they have to go through the same litany again. The significant other/spouse problems are money/kids/in-laws in roughly that order. You know from earlier posts that soldiers get stressed out about different things than civilians--see Bitching at Breakfast.

But it is sad to think with all the free and nearly free ways we can keep in touch with home from Iraq, a lot of soldiers don't call because it is too painful to talk to their families. Almost everyone present said talking to friends back home was great.

In a sadder post script, I told one of my old sergeant buddies about the meeting. He is a conservative and said something about the problem is that none of the young people make long term commitments and suffer though hard times and etc. etc. But a half hour earlier he told me when I come to visit the new outpost where he is being assigned, don't write anything on my blog about how they get hit with mortars more than our current base. This is also a guy who has mentioned off and on since we first got activated about how worried his wife is about the deployment. He seems to spend a lot of time on the phone reassuring her.

I have had other people tell me not to write anything about attacks or anything else that is dangerous on my blog because their spouse/mom/sister reads it and gets worried.

Also at the meeting, no one mentioned being stressed out by work. One of the odd things our schedule does is give workaholics a chance to live life the way they want to without guilt. Many people work seven days a week even when they get a day off and work well past whatever time their shift officially ends. When I had a corporate job, some of my co-workers made a show of saying they didn't like the long hours and travel, but privately they said they really did. They like accomplishing things. Here, the workaholic can put all the rest of life on hold and work day and night!