Welcome home requires more than ceremonies

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Editorial: Nov. 22, 2011

ISSUE: Soldiers returning from combat
OUR VIEW: Time and understanding needed

Fort Knox and the community at large celebrated with soldiers’ families Thursday as an advance team of 57 returned from deployment in Afghanistan.

The return of the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division is a long-awaited event. Over the next several weeks, more than 3,400 soldiers will return with the task to be complete by January.

While heart-warming reunions took place at Natcher Gym, a group interested in a smooth transition for returning warriors completed its meeting across the post at the Leaders Club.

Return of the 3/1 marks the largest single fighting force arriving at Fort Knox direct from the battlefields since World War II. The community needs a refresher course in what to expect and how best to accommodate our neighbors.
Soldiers in combat obviously see and experience traumatic events. It’s normal for a soldier to adapt to those situations as a matter of self-preservation, explained Dr. Melanie Morin, an Army major who is assistant chief of behavioral health at Ireland Army Community Hospital, during a presentation Thursday at the community meeting.

No matter how much a soldier wants to be back home, those adaptive symptoms are not switched right off and can last six to eight weeks or more depending on the individual, Morin said. The symptoms can be exhibited in ways varying from concentration problems and loss of motivation to frustration, irritability and fatigue. Some more serious signs can include anger episodes, flashbacks and depression.

Time and understanding are key tools to helping soldiers reconnect. Outlets such as exercise, time with family and friends and spiritual development all can help soldiers reconnect, Morin shared in her presentation.

Morin’s presentation was one of several valuable instructional programs provided by experts at last week’s event coordinated by One Knox. The session displayed a new direction for One Knox, which came into existence to coordinate community efforts to address Base Realignment and Closure’s impact at Fort Knox.

Now that BRAC has ended, One Knox is seeking to demonstrate its continued value. Like most agencies created for short-term missions with government funding, part of its efforts now are devoted to self preservation. Helping the transition for soldiers returning home and bridging the civilian and military communities through understanding is a viable need to address at this critical time.

One Knox chose to step in. Candid and detailed discussions such as Dr. Morin’s work are a reminder that understanding, patience and care are vital at this delicate time.

Remember, most soldiers do not come home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Most soldiers come home better for their experience in service to our nation. It just takes time to fully adjust to life in a safe, caring community that the military’s sacrifices ensure for us all.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.