A soldier's (other) life: adjusting from the battlefield - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

A soldier's (other) life: adjusting from the battlefield

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- The Iowa National Guard confronts an unseen enemy: the mental health of soldiers returning from battle. The head of the Iowa National Guard, Wednesday, delivered his Condition of the Guard to the Iowa Legislature.

In his 14th and final Condition of the Guard, Major General Ron Dardis gave a very optimistic review of Iowa's force. He commended guard members for their work during Iowa's flooding, tornadoes and ice storms.

Dardis also says the army's reducing of deployment terms has reduced stress of the guard. But -- the guard is facing another problem from soldiers returning from those employments.

"We too have experienced an increase in the number of suicides and suicide attempts last year. Like all leaders, I am troubled by this issue. There is no clear trend or cause that is readily apparent," said Dardis.

But there are many challenges facing guard members going from military life, to everyday life.

Ski patroller Brian Barr has spent five years on duty at Chestnut Ski Resort in Galena, Illinois.

"Haven' t missed a season even through 2 deployments," said Barr.

Two deployments on duty with the Iowa National Guard.

"I joined the guard in 2002, just after September 11th," said Barr.

Shortly after basic training he deployed to Iraq for just shy of a year.

"I got back on Mother's Day. Mom was happy about that," he said.

Making the transition back to civilian life wasn't easy.

"First couple of weeks anytime I heard a loud noise, like a door slam or something like that I'd kinda jump," said Barr.

He says the National Guard helped with the transition, briefing him on post traumatic stress, suicide and catching up with friends and family.

"When you're coming home and trying to switch back to civilian life. It's like catching up with old friends you haven't seen in awhile. Everything is the same but things have changed," added Barr.

After spending a few months at home, Barr moved to Dubuque County and started his job at Chestnut Mountain. In 2007 he deployed to Kosvo with the 1st 133rd Infantry. Coming back a second time, last July, was easier than the first.

"I knew things were gonna be different, didn't know what but you just stay flexible and adjust to it," he said.

Now Barr says his job helping people on the ski hills helps him switch from his national guard experience.

"I never really thought of all the similarities that are there but every once and awhile I'm like "wow this is just like I did when I was deployed," said Barr.

Making adjusting to home life that much easier.

Online Reporter: Lauren Squires

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