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Returning From War to Find A New Battle At Home

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Time now for StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative, recording the stories of post-9/11 veterans and their families. Today, a story of an Iraq war veteran's return home. Candace Desmond-Woods met her future husband, Army Specialist Tom Woods, right before he left for his second deployment. When he got home, they started a family. But two deployments had taken a toll on Tom Woods. When they sat down for StoryCorps, he asked his wife about what his return was like for her.

CANDACE DESMOND-WOODS: We were all really excited for you to come home and finally be able to have our life as a family. But when you got home, I didn't get that feeling that we were all going to live happily ever after.

TOM WOODS: When I got out of the military, subconsciously I pretty much checked out. So I'd say I did give up.

DESMOND-WOODS: I remember you'd been drinking. Like, you'd been doing a lot at that time. And you just left. So I was upstairs with the kids, and I heard some really heavy knocking at the door. I remember walking downstairs holding Blake and I saw you pounding on the door. And then you started kicking the door. And then you were screaming, and I was like, Tom, calm down. And you were looking at me, but it was almost like you were looking right through me. And I called the police and I just explained to them that something is going on. He's not being himself.

WOODS: What made you stick around through it all?

DESMOND-WOODS: I knew that if you got some time to deal with that, that I would get Tom back. And I think that's what made me stay was that I was in love with - with you. And I just wanted you back. You know, I truly felt like finding the right help for you was a matter of life and death at that point.

WOODS: What do you remember about the day that I came home from rehab?

DESMOND-WOODS: When you left, Blake was 7 months old. And when you came back, he was almost 2. I was really worried about - just if you guys would bond. And when we pulled up, you were standing out front and I walked over there with Blake. And I remember he put his arms out you and let you hold him right away. And just that whole day, like, somehow he instinctively knew that you were his dad. And I remember a lot of my fears had been put aside seeing the way you guys just automatically loved each other. And you just looked like a different person. You looked like the Tom that I met years before.

WOODS: I feel like I'm in a better place. Not everything's perfect, but it's a lot better than it used to be.

SIMON: Army Specialist Tom Woods with his wife, Candace Desmond-Woods, in Irvine, Calif. Tom Woods now works with other veterans, helping them to get treatment. And their story will be archived at the U.S. Library of Congress. You can hear more from StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative on the StoryCorps podcast, which you can get on iTunes and at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.