TWIN FALLS, Idaho – The 1,700 soldiers from the Idaho National Guard’s 116th Brigade combat team are still expected to be home from Iraq by Christmas if not sooner, and families are preparing to adjust to having their loved ones back after more than a year away.
“It seems like we just got used to them being gone,” Tamara Harmon, wife of Spc. Justin Harmon of Twin Falls, told the Times-News.
She’s asked her husband to try to give her a heads-up when he knows he’s coming home so she’ll have time to prepare. She jokes that she needs three weeks notice to get the house cleaned for his arrival.
“I know I’ve definitely developed some bad habits,” she said. But, “he’s been living with guys for a year now and he’s probably developed some habits that are less than tasteful.”
Sonya Nowland, the family assistance coordinator for the Family Readiness Center at the Twin Falls armory, said wives and families of the 116th members have heard rumors the Idaho guardsmen could be back home sooner than Christmas, but there’s been no official word.
“We hear October and November but not to plan until December,” said Nowland, wife of Sgt. 1st Class Kent Nowland.
The 116th left Idaho in July last year for training and arrived in northern Iraq for peacekeeping duties in December as part of an 18-month deployment. Harmon said many military wives meet at the Family Readiness Center to talk about getting reacquainted with their husbands after so long apart and wonder whether the stress of the combat zone will carry over to the homefront.
“A lot of the guys don’t tell us what they see over there, so we wonder how it’s going to affect them emotionally,” Harmon said.
The first stop on U.S. soil for the 116th when they return will be Fort Lewis, Wash., where they will be debriefed, get a physical and be checked for indications they may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, an anxiety illness that causes nightmares, flashbacks, sleeping difficulty and feelings of alienation.
“A lot of them are not going to know they have those symptoms,” said Cheryl Ringenberg, veterans administrator for Twin Falls County. “They’re just going to want to get home to family. Who is going to know it are their wives, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and kids.”
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