- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dear Ms. Vicki:

I have a boyfriend in Iraq for whom I would do anything. I handle all of his business and take care of the things that he has, such as his car. We talk every day, be it by phone, e-mail or instant message, about everything from getting married to having children.

I’ve been down this road before where I’ve given my entire heart to a soon-to-be or deployed soldier only to get burned in the end.

He sounds very sincere about the whole thing, but how do I know this isn’t just how he feels while he’s over there? How do I know he’s not just saying this because there is that faint possibility he may not live to have to keep his word? Don’t get me wrong. I have my trust issues, but for some reason, a big part of me is saying, “He’s serious. Leave it alone,” and another voice in the back of my head is saying, “You know his past. It’s not happening.”

How do I handle or get rid of the negativity, be it true or false?

Woman Ready to Trust

Dear Ready Woman:

Love is a great thing, and we all want to be loved by someone and have the sentiments reciprocated. Trust is also paramount; from your report, he obviously trusts you very much.

My advice is to take it slow, even after deployment. Don’t feel that you must rush into anything, like marriage. After deployment will be a good time to get to know each other.

I also think you should continue to take care of yourself, your finances and your future. That way, if it doesn’t turn out as you desire, you still are set because you have “yourself” in order. Many times, women move too quickly for love and lose everything that was important to them. It sounds like you have a good heart; you’re trusting and willing to commit. These are great attributes, and I hope your deployed soldier appreciates them. Please stay in touch and let me know how it works out, OK? Take care of yourself.

Dear Ms. Vicki:

I was blazing during the deployment. I have been in Afghanistan and Iraq twice and just finished my third deployment. In Iraq, I was promoted while I was still taking my classes and finishing my degree online. Contrary to popular belief, Iraq is not the worst place.

When I returned home, I found out my husband was cheating. I kicked him to the curb and filed for divorce. I moved on; it’s his loss, not mine. I figure, “Why cry about something you can’t change?”

I have been helping my family, who are Katrina survivors and still displaced. But guess what, it seems that I’ve hit bottom. By that, I mean I get angry a lot; my patience is short. I recently received an Article 15 (nonjudicial punishment) because I was about to hit a senior noncommissioned officer.

I feel depressed and just cant seem to get going anymore. I don’t want to go to the movies or a club or do anything fun. My friends and family are worried about me; they say I’m not myself. Should I believe them? Sometimes I think I was better off in Iraq. Do you have any advice for me?

— A Stellar Performer in Iraq

Dear Stellar:

Your story sounds very familiar. From your report, you were “fired up” and had a lot of energy while in Iraq. Many service members report that being in Iraq provided a rush of adrenaline, and they were able to be focused.

Now you are home with other emotional, family and occupational problems, i.e., a divorce, anger, an Article 15 nonjudicial punishment, and displaced family members.

To your advantage, I think you have much strength. It seems you have been able to get through some tough times using good coping skills, except the time when you were about to hit your NCO. I’m sure thats Army Rule No. 1 — never hit or try to hit your NCO. At any rate, I hope you will be able to redeem yourself with that issue.

Regarding your emotional health, I think you should listen to your family and friends. You should speak to a professional regarding your increased anger and feelings of depression. There are many resources available to you. Seeking help doesn’t mean you’re not still stellar.

Dear Ms. Vicki:

I paid a contractor to do some renovations to our house more than six months ago. They began the renovations but didn’t finish them.

To make matters worse, I can’t even find the man. All the phones have been disconnected.

My husband is deployed and I haven’t told him the truth because I don’t want to worry him. Do you know where I should turn for help? I feel so stupid. This was a project that my husband depended on me to handle and I failed.

— Feeling Swindled in Georgia

Dear Feeling Swindled:

I think you need to share this with your husband. It’s better that he knows now rather than later, if he thinks he is coming home to a renovated house. I’m very sorry this happened to you, but don’t suffer in silence. When something of this nature happens, you have to report it.

I checked with the legal office on base (JAG) and they suggested you or your husband make an appointment with them. At this point, its important to note that you may not be able to recoup the money. Conversely, the JAG office will be sure to put this business on their “Do not patronize this business” list. These lists are circulated in several agencies on base to keep others from doing business with them.

Another suggestion is to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and with the state attorney general’s office. I’m sure they would direct you with the contact person for your matter.

Again, let me say that I am sorry to hear about your financial loss. I know your desire to renovate your home was an admirable one. Please feel free to stay in contact with me, and let me know how it goes.

Vicki Johnson, a licensed clinical social worker, military spouse and mother of three, has been counseling service members and their families for 15 years. Her column, Dear Ms. Vicki, runs in The Washington Times on Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at [email protected]

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