In Texas, Heather Shoaf is counting down to the moment she has been waiting for. Her husband is coming home after nine months.
‘I think all of them come back different,” said Heather,“will he be different? We’ll see it soon, in a few hours.’
Euronews met Heather and her two daughters Maddie and Taylor in their house at the Fort Bliss military base.
Heather fought back tears, saying: ‘I can’t bring Daddy back from work, I can’t make it better, I can’t let them (our two daughters) talk to him all the time. All these little things they do, all these funny stories that they say and do and tell… you know: he doesn’t get to be around for that. But you know what? We knew that, that it’s his job, and that’s why my girls think that their Daddy is a super hero. You ask them what he does, and they’ll tell you: my Daddy is a super hero.’
Mark arrived at the end of a 20 hour flight from Kuwait, via Germany, Maine and finally El Paso.
We asked him what he missed most. ‘Mainly my wife and kids,” he replied, “because especially at 3 and 4 years old… because they were growing up and stuff. So it’s hard and you see it in a videotape, instead of seeing it live.’
Mark’s unit served in Kirkuk. Casualties were relatively light among the 300 soldiers: two deaths and a handful of injuries.
Nevertheless the return home may not be easy. Cases of post traumatic stress disorder and depression are common. Suicides have been on the rise.
Psychological and spiritual support awaits the troops upon their arrival.
Steve Roumelle from the Army Community Service said: ‘There is a little bit of tentativeness when they come back, they don’t know what to expect.’
Bishop Harrison Johnson added: ‘They’ve been away for such a long time, from husbands and wives, and then of course the trauma of the war. So we need to give them some time, a cooling down period.’
The war is over for Mark Shoaf. Most other US soldiers have been withdrawn from combat.
Altogether nearly 4,500 US troops have died in the Iraq war. 30,000 have been injured.
Euronews correspondent Anna Bressanin said:
‘There are still 1,300 soldiers from Fort Bliss in Iraq. From September 1st their mission changes its name from “Ready First” to “New Dawn.” They won’t be combat troops anymore, instead they’ll support and train Iraqi soldiers. But what this New Dawn will bring, is really hard to know.’