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Dealing with Military Mortality

by Liz Brown

Part II

There are some who work and go to war, and there are others who are professional warriors. Members of Special Operations Forces, like Navy SEALs, are part of the latter group. I know because I married one.

But what happens when a warrior lays down the sword? What happens to his sense of identity?

Rob separated from the SEAL Teams in August and I can admit to wondering. In the Teams you are part of a wolf pack. When you die in the Teams, you die as a wolf. When you separate, you turn into some other animal. It's as though something in you has to be undone.

My questions usually bubble up to the surface on long car rides. My husband admits to still being plagued by "combat sleep" — something I knew because of the violent way he grinds his jaw. He's also says he's unable to relax. Mentally.

"You open doors of the mind to dealing with high-stress situations that can't be closed," he says. "There's a place you go to when you've killed someone and you can't go back. Relaxing isn't relaxing. Playing video games or reading can't be passive waste of time; it's an escape from your brain. Hiking feels great until you superimpose Team guy knowledge on the day and think: 'This is bad terrain.'"

He says that kind of thinking can be haunting if you let it be, but can also be great if you let it work for you. The Teams taught Rob that second place is dead. Translation? He fights just as hard in the civilian world. He has learned to bend the universe around his will to be the man he wants to be, and to provide for what our family needs.

Mastering the warrior instincts is part of Rob's transition. He will always identify with being a SEAL, it's just that now he is first a son, a brother, and a husband.

I am happy to be the constant — his wife. I vowed on our wedding day to love the man he was, the man he is, and the man he will become. That part, at least, is easy.