Welcome Home GI Dad!

For the last 15 years, I have devoted myself to providing men the tools, support, and knowledge to help them become the fathers they want to be——and their families need them to be. As a former Marine, I understand completely the barriers and issues that come up for men when deployment is over and it’s time to return to the wife and kids.  In honor of Armed Forces Day (May 15, 2010), I wanted to reiterate an answer that most military families find useful to the question of “how easy is it to come back home from a long deployment?”

There’s nothing like being away from your family to get you thinking about making life better when you get home. “I’m going to spend more time with the family; not get upset over minor things like spills on the carpet, clogged toilets, or idiot politicians; and help the kids more with their homework.” All are great goals. The problem is that the guy who made those resolutions (you) may not be the same guy who’ll be trying to make them a reality (also you): Although things may look pretty much the same as they did before you left, being deployed has changed you. Lots of other things have changed too:

  • Friends. You just spent the 6-12 months (or longer) with some very close friends, living through the same hardships, facing the same dangers, and providing emotional and social support to each other. Friends back home are great, but unless they were deployed too, they probably have no idea what you’ve been through, and you may find that you don’t have much in common anymore.
  • Roles. One of the hardest things for returning dads is to figure out how to plug themselves back into their family. It’s natural to imagine that you’ll jump right in and pick up as if you’d never left. That’s a lovely thought, but a completely unrealistic one. While you were gone, your family had to create new routines, new ways of communicating and making decisions, new approaches to discipline. Call is “a new normal.” Mom has been the primary decision maker, the kids have taken on some of your old chores, and no one may be interested in making any changes. That might be okay if someone took over the lawn-mowing duties, but what if someone has taken to sitting in your favorite chair?

While you may be proud that your family came through your deployment in good shape, you may also be a little surprised—and, honestly, a little disappointed. After all, the logic goes, if they thrived so well without you, do they need you anymore? The answer is, Yes. A lot. They love you, too, and want you to be a part of the family again, to resume your duties as teacher, mentor, authority figure, fixer of all things broken, bad joke teller, and heavy lifting guy. It’s just going to take some time. Chances are, you’ll never get back 100 percent to the “old normal,” the way things were. Instead, you, your wife, and your kids will end up creating a completely new routine that combines the best of the pre-deployment and during-deployment ones.

  • Even the animals. Some pets may not like having to compete with you for attention, and may resent that you’re sleeping on “their” side of the bed. Be prepared for some unusual behavior and some unpleasant “gifts” (cats are especially fond of punishing their owners for perceived slights . . . ).
  • Heck, the whole world seems to have changed. The TV Guide is filled with television shows you’ve never heard of. Menus at your favorite restaurants may have changed—assuming they’re still there at all. Ditto for the guest policy at your local gym. Changes like these—and there will be lots of them—will make settling in to your old/new life a bit harder. Unfortunately, there is no handy While You Were Away: Important Things That Have Changed handbook. You’ll also have to get used to some of the things that haven’t changed but that you got unused to while you were gone. For example, you no longer have to wait in line to use a telephone, and you’re no longer limited to watching old, scratched-up DVDs on your base computer. Now, you can actually go to a theater to see a first-run movie, or get an almost-first-run movie from Netflix. And you can, gasp, actually watch live television (although you may not want to. How many crime shows do we actually need? Keep an eye out for CSI: Peoria).

While some of these changes are good, others may be more troubling. For example, it’s going to take a while for you to stop worrying that every car that pulls up alongside you might be a potential suicide bomber or part of an ambush. And it could take years before you’re able to stop ducking for cover every time you hear a loud noise or a bang. These things won’t just affect you. It can be more than a little frustrating for your family to have you constantly worrying that you’re about to be blown up.


Blurb about today’s Guest Blogger:

Armin Brott, a nationally recognized parenting expert, is known worldwide as Mr. Dad. He is the leading author of books on fatherhood, which have sold millions of copies worldwide.  Armin writes the nationally syndicated column, “Ask Mr. Dad,” and hosts the “Positive Parenting” radio show. For more information, please visit his website at www.mrdad.com.

Armin Brott

View posts by Armin Brott
Armin Brott is the proud father of three, a former U.S. Marine, a best-selling author, radio host, speaker, and one of the country’s leading experts on fatherhood. He writes frequently about fatherhood, families, and men's health. Read more about Armin or visit his website, mrdad.com. You can also connect via social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest,  and Linkedin.


  1. NicoleMay 21, 2010

    I didn’t realize there was a bad or hard side to the end of deployment. Kudos for educating people, like me, who settle for the tear-jerking soldier-family reunions on the 10pm news and think ‘Good for them, one big happy family.’

  2. AnonymousMay 31, 2010

    Well done.

    In this video you will find one of the most moving of “Welcome Home” scenes, Jim Stockdale returning home with his fellow POWs after 8 years of torture. A lesson in honor, dignity, and family.

    The final segment as he moves to and desperately clings to his wife and elder son are captivating, and the final few seconds as he silently passes those virtues on to his son are an eternal lesson on the role of fathers, and acceptance of the sacrifices they must make. It is fitting that the video ends freeze-framed on that scene. Honor, dignity, family.

  3. CSchmidtJune 7, 2010

    This is some very important information. It could be of great use to the Dad’s who are returning home after such a long time away from their families. I agree this post should be at the top of the list on the search engines.

  4. Ahsan SayedJuly 14, 2010

    I can totally imagine how hard it must be for those who served overseas. This is an amazing resource for them.

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