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Homecoming: A Soldier Returns

For one family in Waltham this week...the war in Iraq is over...for now.

Staff Sergeant Jim Scanlon has returned home safely after serving for a year in a National Guard Transportation Company outside Baghdad.

WBUR has been keeping track of the Scanlon family as they've adapted to Jim's deployment. Now his homecoming is a mixture of joy, tension, and readjustment. Here's WBUR'S Monica Brady-Myerov with her latest report on the Scanlon family.

TEXT OF STORY

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: Staff Sergeant Jim Scanlon's return from Iraq was not what you might envision... flowers, tearful hugs and long kisses. [SNEAK UP SFX OF CLAPPING AND CHEERING] When Jim got off a military bus at the Framingham Armory one morning recently, his family had not yet arrived. I was the first to greet him.

JIM SCANLON: Hey Monica how ya doing? Nice to see you. Good to see you welcome back. Looks like I beat Karen. Yeah.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: Jim's wife Karen Scanlon and their two girls, Autumn and Amber are late. Jim keeps panning the crowd to look for them. He's not the only one. The soldiers' buses have come in earlier than expected. Twenty minutes later, Karen arrives but Jim and the other soldiers are standing in formation.

KAREN SCANLON: Of course I missed it right, the buses got here early, he's inside/ laughter.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: As the Scanlon family and hundreds of other families look on, a commander shouts instructions to the 160 soldiers in the 1060th transportation company advising them on how to adapt to civilian life.

[Sfx of instructor talking ..Whoa! (fade, keep under, after whoa)]

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: He says they have the rest of their lives to catch up with their families so they should do it in moderation. He warns repeatedly against drinking and driving. As soon as the formation ends, Jim's two daughters run to hug him.

JIM SCANLON: I love you honey give me a hug that's my girl, I love you so much. This is great to be back here.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: But no sooner does the hug break up than his 12 year old daughter Autumn asks her dad to buy her an All Terrain Vehicle. Karen laughs with relief, knowing now she's not the only one in the household who will make all the decisions. But she admits it's going to be difficult to work together again.

KAREN SCANLON: I gotta get used to having another person to bounce things off of. At first we're both going go relax and then have him to do stuff. And the yard, I'm done with the yard I don't want to do it any of that stuff I'm done with that, you can deal with it so...

[crossfade sfx inside to outside]

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: Two decision makers in the house is upsetting to Autumn, who is now in the 7th grade.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV & AUTUMN SCANLON: What do you think is going to be different this year now that your dad's back, more yelling at, another parent to be yelled at.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: Her younger sister, 8 year old Amber, just wants to play with her dad. Karen says the reason Jim's return from Iraq isn't very emotional is because he was home in May for a two week visit. That time was fraught with tears of relief and occasional frustration. The remaining three months of his deployment have flown by for his family. But not for Jim in Iraq.

[PAUSE FOR BEAT OF SFX]

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: As Jim sits down in the hangar where the welcome home celebration is winding down, he says it's surprising how much he's missed.

JIM SCANLON: I'm gonna be quite frank, my two girls are not little kids anymore I'm looking at them one of them is a young lady for sure and the other one is a big girl. That's the one thing I'm looking back on and I'm not going to dwell on it but I wasn't able to see the transition from Autumn going from big girl to young lady I really miss that. And Amber I can still pick her up but she is not that little girl that I left 15 months ago.

[FADE DOWN SFX OF ROOM TO BLACK, FADE UP IN CLEAR OF OUTDOOR SCENE]

AMBER SCANLON: Dad, check this out.

Sfx of roller cart [fade down]

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: In their yard in Waltham the next day, Jim watches in amazement as his daredevil daughter Autumn rigs a child's car seat to a skateboard to make an off-road go-cart.

[PAUSE FOR SFX OF ROLLING CARD]

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: She launches it down a ramp. The road ahead could be bumpy for Jim and Karen. Jim will soon go back to his job as a short haul truck driver, and Karen doesn't plan to leave the job she started while Jim was away. She is used to operating the household without him.

KAREN SCANLON: I have a routine set and then he expects me to stop everything and it's like no I gotta do my routine. He wants to show me all this stuff and I don't have time trying to get everything ready, so he gets mad. But I think its everybody getting used to another person, an extra body in the house.

[CROSSFADE AMBIENCE]

JIM SCANLON: At the end of the day the very last thing is the rule is you don't go tot bed mad you talk it out or you laugh about it.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: When Jim was in Iraq he wrote love letters to Karen and she sent him his favorite chocolates for Valentine's Day. Even though they've been together for 15 years, They were married in a quick civil ceremony just before his deployment but were planning a big wedding for when he returned. Those plans are on hold.

[pause for amby]

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: When Jim was away they both said his deployment strengthened their relationship but now Jim has come home to a different household with a self-empowered woman, who he nicknamed Karen-zilla.

KAREN SCANLON: I think you find yourself again do you know what I mean you lose yourself when you're with someone and then you find yourself you have to be a stronger person, be more independent relying more on yourself.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: Jim has three and a half more years in the National Guard before he reaches 20 years of service and a military pension. They both know another deployment is a possibility. Karen says she knows she is can handle it, but unlike Jim, she doesn't support this war.

KAREN SCANLON: I respect everybody that's over there and I'm glad your home I just wish that everybody could come home now.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: Jim says a second deployment doesn't worry him, yet.

JIM SCANLON: Being home now knowing we don't have to go to Iraq it honestly is a weight off my shoulders today. The last few days I've been a little nervous there's something wrong waiting for the shoe to drop and I think I figured it out it's that ...maybe I should be going back because the mission's not complete.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: But he has unfinished business at home too. The pool needs cleaning, the grass needs mowing and his daughter's sports start soon. Jim Scanlon says after a year away in Iraq, he knows he'll have to blend in with his family again, not the other way around.

For WBUR I'm Monica Brady-Myerov.

This program aired on September 7, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

Monica Brady-Myerov Twitter Reporter
Monica Brady-Myerov was formerly a report in WBUR's newsroom.

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