A recent headline on the front page of the East Oregonian said, "Safe and Sound," with a quote from Spc. Troy Crafton of Hermiston, "I don't believe I'm home."

Crafton was one of the soldiers of Detachment 2 Company L151 Aviation, which had just returned from 14 months in Iraq. The group left for their tour of duty on Dec. 31, 2003.

Similar reunions for those who have survived military action and friendly and/or unfriendly fire are occurring all over the United States and other countries that have sent troops to Iraq.

A recent issue of the Oregonian included a photo of a tearful South Korean mother who was greeting her son upon his return from fighting in Iraq. Such tears mean much the same thing, no matter where they are shed - joy.

Each veteran has in his or her life significant people who are holding together things at home through their support and actions. The folks at home are involved in many ways, including dealing with the fear and dread that creep into their hearts when they think of the ever-present possibility of injury or death to a loved one. Regardless, they go on, doing what they need to do.

A recent letter to Dear Abby was from a soldier extolling the virtues of his wife back home, who has been working full-time, serving as both mother and father, raising three children, and taking entire care of their home. He described his wife as a true American hero, and I agree.

A dear friend of mine is the wife of one of those soldiers who just returned to Pendleton. She has two small sons and a house to maintain. She has been working full-time throughout her husband's absence, as well as going full-time to graduate school. She finished her master's degree last June, and has, throughout it all, supported her husband, the troops and their families left behind in many different ways. She is an American hero, right along with her husband and all the others who have given part of their lives to the military.

This is true whether or not you agree politically with the war in Iraq.

Most of the troops of this Pendleton-based group just back are from Oregon and Washington. Their loved ones were at the airport to greet them, along with many other supporters waving flags and cheering for them. Getting back home in one piece is an accomplishment in itself. Resuming their "regular" lives will be another challenge.

Hopefully, as veterans from Iraq start over at home, they will not have long-lasting negative effects that have faced some returning veterans in the past.

Re-establishing their lives will be difficult enough without other complications imposed upon them like the after effects of Agent Orange or having to deal with an unwelcoming public.

Post traumatic stress disorder has taken a terrible toll on veterans of the Vietnam and Gulf Wars. Whether or not it will be a problem for a significant number of those returning from Iraq remains to be seen.

Sometimes the shocks of everyday life right here at home are traumatic and heinous. Not a day goes by without stories of seriously abused children or victims of natural disasters who are hungry, homeless and traumatized.

Let's hope those who just got back from warfare can find happiness and regain meaning in their lives at home, and that we all will actively do something to lessen the pain in the world.


Cynthia Hilden's column appears every other week. She can be reached at cyhilden@msn.com.

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