'Reflections on Return': Sharing War Experience

Army Specialist Richard Denny was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq for 12 months. Now he is at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. He's from a family of military men in Knoxville, Tenn., but Denny says his war experiences are hard to share, even with his family.

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US Army Specialist Richard Denny is from a family of military men in Knoxville, Tennessee. Both his father and his brother have done tours of duty in Iraq. Specialist Denny was himself deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan for 12 months. Now he's at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Richard Denny says his war experiences are hard to share even with his family.

Mr. RICHARD DENNY (US Army Specialist): I know when I go back home on leave and I'm with people that I knew before who don't really know me now, I tell them a story that's amusing 'cause it's not that they don't really want to know the rest of it. They care. It's just that I don't know how to tell them. I have such a tight family unit back home that really wanted to be supportive of me. And I really just wanted to be left alone about it because there's a huge portion of your life that they're never going to understand.

My brother, for instance, is in the Air Force and he's done two deployments to Iraq. And I can't even really trade stories with him because our experiences were so different over there. And even now the only person I can really talk to about it is my father who's a Naval Reservist. And he's been deployed to Iraq. But I saw a little bit worse about Iraq than my dad and my brother did. You know, if you'd give me the choice, I'd rather be deployed than not be deployed. You know in Iraq, I knew where I was, I knew what I was doing. In Afghanistan, I knew where I was, I knew what I was doing. I remember the day I got back from both of them. I went and got a hotel room away from everybody just by myself and I spent an hour making fists with my toes in the carpet.

My cousin, almost like a brother to me, took me to a club and then the lights went down and I was okay. The smoke machine goes off and I was okay and then the strobe light comes on and I just about decked the blonde next to me. And at that point I was like okay, I need to step back, I need to reevaluate this. This music sucks anyway, I'm leaving. It's hard. There's a huge portion of your life that nobody's ever going to get.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: Army Specialist Richard Denny. His story is part of Youth Radio's Reflections on Return.

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