One Military Mom's Struggle With PTSD

Filed under: Amazing Parents

By Louise Farr

Robin Milonas struggles with PTSD after serving in Afghanistan. Credit: Jodi Bieber

The police officer saw Robin Milonas, but she didn't see him. And, even if she had, it probably would have made no difference. On that spring evening in 2006, Milonas was driving home in twilight when she spotted a shadow on the road. Though she was in Washington state, thousands of miles from Afghanistan, she instinctively registered the shadow as a land mine, of the sort insurgents plant.

Panicking, Milonas swerved. The officer came after her, lights flashing, and pulled her over to ask if she had been drinking. She hadn't. She had just left a hair appointment.

After looking at her driver's license photo, in which she wore the uniform of the U.S. Army Reserves 364th Civil Affairs Brigade, the cop backed off. "I'm just going to give you a warning this time," he said. "Go straight home and don't make any stops."

"And take it easy," he added, waving her along.

Nice of him to say, but this was the third time Milonas had been stopped for erratic driving since returning from her tour in Afghanistan. Taking it easy was no longer an option.

Until recently, Milonas had been living on a constant upward trajectory: ROTC and long-distance running in college, followed by five years in the army, then two decades in the reserves while she juggled marriage (to an Army sergeant), motherhood (caring for his three kids from a previous marriage), graduate school (she earned a master's in education) and careers as a middle school teacher and an adjunct college professor.

By the time she landed in Afghanistan in January 2004, she was a much-decorated lieutenant colonel attached to the Special Forces; for a time, she served as her group's liaison to President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, where he showed her the now bombed-out schools he had attended as a child and told her of his hopes for educating Afghan women.

In the U.S. military, women are still technically barred from serving in most direct-combat roles. But in a report to Congress in March encouraging the removal of the bans, the Military Leadership Diversity Commission noted that these rules are based on standards "associated with conventional warfare and well-defined, linear battlefields. However, the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have been anything but conventional."

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.