Soldiers Battling Depression

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It’s become a familiar scene, returning troops welcomed home from Iraq with hugs and kisses. The homecoming parades try to give soldiers a sense of closure to a war that has not ended. For the soldiers of the Third Infantry, who saw some of the most intense battles since Vietnam, coming home has been a far more complicated experience.

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As a new father-to-be, Cpl. Gary Harvey headed to Iraq with just one mission in mind.

Gary Harvey: “All I could really think about was ‘I got to get home to my wife’ and ‘I want to be a dad.’”

Chenoa Cruz-Harvey / Gary’s Wife: “All the while, inside I’m thinking, ‘Please God, you have to bring him home to me.’”

Harvey did return home five months later because of complications his wife faced during pregnancy. He was able to see the birth of his son Dominick. But what he saw in Iraq haunted him.

Gary Harvey: “Bodies were in the middle of the road. It was hell.”

Harvey, like many of his comrades, is now fighting a new mental battle, struggling to transition back to a normal life.

Chaplain Charles Herring: “Yeah, war is hell, that’s true, but if you don’t come into it with your eyes open, home can be hell too.”

Gary Harvey: “It’s making my family life really difficult.”

Back on base, Harvey turned to this United Methodist chaplain for help.

Chaplain Charles Herring: “You know, it’s like they look at you like you’re from Mars.”

A veteran of Desert Storm, Chaplain Charles Herring ministered to combat troops in the Iraqi desert. Now he’s helping soldiers on the home front.

Chaplain Charles Herring: “They’re always comparing notes like, ‘You know, I’ve had a really short temper here lately.’ ‘Yeah, me too.’”

Chenoa Cruz-Harvey says her husband is different – more distant and detached.

Chenoa Cruz-Harvey: “I feel really angry that this war has done this and, yeah, you served your country but what are you left with?”

For returning troops, combat stress can continue to inflict damage. These conversations help work through their feelings and give Herring an opportunity to shed some light.

Chaplain Charles Herring: “And many times it ends on a family note: ‘I’m just glad I’m back home with my family.’”


Because combat stress is a fact of war, every solider leaving Iraq is being screened and offered counseling. It’s part of an effort to make sure the troops don’t bring home a world of hurt.