A long vigil should soon have a happy and safe ending when the Georgia National Guard’s Bravo Company from the 121st Infantry 48th Battalion returns to American soil at the end of this month. The 132 man brigade based out of the Covington Armory has been deployed in southern Afghanistan for the last year. Their general mission was to train and mentor Afghan soldiers. To date, Bravo Company hasn’t experienced any casualties or serious injuries.
One of Kim Schroeder’s missions during her son’s, Specialist Zachary Schroeder, deployment has been serving as the company’s Family Readiness Coordinator. Their group met last Sunday along with Sgt. Robert Swanson to prepare for the re-integration process.
"We’re trying to educate the families on how it’s going to look once their soldier comes home…what to look for with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), how to deal with that, how to set up counseling if necessary," she said.
Schroeder noticed when her son, a 2006 Heritage High School graduate, was home on leave last fall, he was very "high gear" and could only sleep in three hour increments before he was up pacing.Wade Ramsey, the father of Specialist Kyle Ramsey, observed his son was "pretty much himself, but it’s a whole different mindset when you’re constantly a target."
Despite the inevitable hardships of war, both families support and honor their sons’ commitment. "The military has been great for him as far as discipline and organization. It almost instantly matured him," said Schroeder. She also believes the experience has honed his natural leadership skills. He plans on pursuing a business degree after a road trip across the U.S. until school begins.
Though his son hasn’t been able to go into detail, Ramsey said Kyle was struck by "how little they have and that for the most part, they’re good people. " A highlight for him was some work they did with an Afghan orphanage. Upon his return, he plans to resume his studies at North Georgia College.
The experience has also affected the family members left back at home. "Deployment has deepened my faith," said Schroeder. "Going 23 days without one word from my son… there isn’t anything you can do but trust in the Lord." Swanson, who was deployed in Iraq back in 2003, believes there are silver linings to the ordeal of being separated from your family. He said he and his wife had a renewed appreciation for one another, and they discovered she was a better day-to-day manager of the family’s financials.
A seemingly simple, yet important, thing families and friends can do for their returning soldiers is to listen. "This is a very powerful healing technique. Veterans, for the most part, do not want to be treated special — they just want to be treated with respect and consideration, just like anyone else," said Diana Peters, with Clayton State’s Student Veteran’s Association.