New Dawn Journal: Homecoming and Life After Deployment
by Maj. Jeffrey Sherman
Editor’s Note: This is an occasional column by Jeffrey Sherman, who shares his experiences as a deployed Reserve Officer as part of Operation New Dawn in Iraq. This column delves into his return home.
In the distance, I could see my wife Terri, my 12-year-old son Max, and my 8-year-old daughter Lucy, anxiously waiting for me. Lucy’s leg seemed to involuntarily shake and she struggled to stand still. Terri knelt to remind Lucy to wait until I got close enough to read the "Welcome Home" signs they had made. Finally, Lucy could take it no longer. She threw away the sign and ran toward me. Max quickly followed and in seconds I was reunited with my children. Passengers at DIA watched our reunion and clapped. It was wonderful.
Homecoming is something you think about, look forward to, and picture in your mind over and over again during a military deployment. Some imagine it like those soft focus pictures of soldiers hugging kids and living happily ever after—you’re loved; everything is back to normal just like before the deployment.
The problem is a year has passed. Everyone has changed. The old normal doesn’t exist, and the new normal has yet to be established. Much as a wedding is not the same as a marriage, a homecoming is not the same as life after deployment.
The first several weeks home, we went off the grid. I turned off the cell phone, ignored email, and spent time entirely focused on my family. We took a three-week car trip around the Midwest to visit family. We swam, boated, played catch, watched movies, visited museums, listened to books on tape, ate ice cream, and did household projects. We needed time to reconnect.
While in Iraq, I had no childrearing obligations. Someone else prepared the food, did the dishes, washed and folded the laundry, and took care of maintenance of my housing unit. I had to adjust to once again being a fully engaged spouse and father. Furthermore, my children have no respect for the rank structure and routinely disobey my orders!
My comrades-in-arms in Iraq have become some of my closest friends and I miss them. Living with my family is certainly preferable, but it took time to get used to being away from that intense camaraderie. I spoke to some of my friends who had returned from Iraq before me and many of them had similar experiences reintegrating into their families. It was really helpful to have a strong network of friends and family providing emotional support.
There was one exception to my self-imposed exile. Jim Leonard, the head of Faegre & Benson’s corporate group in Colorado, invited to me to attend the grand opening of our new Boulder office. So, a mere four days after arriving home, I put on my corporate lawyer "battle rattle"—a navy suit—and headed to Boulder to mix and mingle. I was thrilled to see many of my friends from Faegre who had supported me and my family so generously during the deployment. There were countless hugs and handshakes. It felt great to return to my work family, too.
In late August, I returned to Faegre & Benson full time. My schedule was immediately packed: I had volunteered to teach two CLEs within three weeks of my return and I needed to prepare. Further, I planned breakfasts, lunches, coffees, and beers with many clients, former clients, friends, and referral sources. I had industry conferences and internal practice group meetings to attend. And, of course, I had clients with legal needs. I was glad to be permanently home and back in a position where I could help them myself.
Shortly before my return, Faegre announced a possible merger with Baker & Daniels, a large international law firm based in Indianapolis. I spent many hours with my current and future colleagues, in Denver, Boulder, and Minneapolis, planning the integration of our practice groups and working to ensure a smooth transition. Subsequently, the merger was approved, and as of Jan. 1, we will be known as Faegre Baker Daniels.
It has been a whirlwind first month back at Faegre—exhausting and exhilarating. I am incredibly lucky to have colleagues and clients who supported me so strongly and valued my service. I am also grateful to the many readers of The Docket who emailed me and expressed their support while I was in Iraq. I am thrilled to be back in Colorado and proud to be working with my friends throughout the Colorado Bar. D
Jeffrey Sherman practices corporate and securities law at Faegre & Benson LLP in Denver. He served as a Judge Advocate with the 2nd Stryker Advise and Assist Brigade, 25th Infantry Division at FOB Warhorse, Iraq. He returned to Denver in July. Read past "New Dawn Journal" columns, about Sherman’s experiences in Iraq, at denbar.org/docket.