When Bob Curry came home from Vietnam, he stepped off the bus into a crowd of Americans shouting “baby killer” and throwing chicken guts. When Joe Naylor came home from Iraq in the dark hours before dawn, strangers from the local American Legion waited in the airport tunnel with cell phones so the incoming veterans could call their families. After three tours in Afghanistan, Seth Bruce drove straight from his last day of active duty to his first day at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Jennifer Sluga also went to college after her deployment to Kosovo, determined to earn her counseling degree and help other survivors of military sexual assault.

These local residents are four of about 20 million veterans living in the United States today—an estimated 375,000 in Wisconsin and 26,237 in Dane County. Throughout the years and through changing times, veterans have come home in different ways. Some got parades. Some quietly slipped back into families that no longer recognized them, into communities that couldn’t possibly comprehend where they’d been or what they’d seen. Most had wounds, but only some wounds were visible….

Soldiering On

Madison Magazine cover story, November 2017

“U.S. troops are trained for war, but not for the battles they may face when coming home. Approximately 200,000 troops re-enter civilian life each year. While the welcome they receive has improved dramatically since the Vietnam Era, returning veterans are in need of varying degrees of support. Four of Dane County’s 26,237 veterans share their stories of service to this country, finding a new normal in life after war and how they soldier on despite the challenges.”

This is in no way intended to speak for all local veterans, not even close. I appreciate the opportunity to share this handful of personal stories.

—Maggie Ginsberg is an award-winning freelance writer in Madison, Wisconsin

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