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Soldier Deals With Harsh Reality Of War, Economy


Taylor was 22. He wanted to be back home in Kansas with his wife and two children. But with the economy as bad as it was, he had no idea if he'd be able to find a job, and so he had just re-enlisted. Agreeing to stay in the military meant a stable salary. Signing up for six more years meant he got a signing bonus of some $12,000.

JEFF TAYLOR: I know I'm going to have food at the table. I know we're going to have money for what we need. We're going to be taken care of. If we were to get out, in the economy - they're trying to stabilize it, but you don't really know what's going on. I look at it as a big gamble, and I'm just not willing to take that risk.

GREENE: After having that conversation with Specialist Taylor, I drove to Fort Riley, Kansas, to meet his wife, Sarah, and their children - at the time ages 1 and 3. She told me that as much as she wanted her husband, Jeff, at home, she agreed that the best decision for the family was for him to stay enlisted, and that meant staying in Iraq.

SARAH TAYLOR: It's stable, it's secure. And you have to really mess up to get fired. And you can't quit. So the deployments are risky. But, I don't know?


GREENE: Jeff, tell me why you had to come home.

TAYLOR: When it would be time to go eat at the dining facility, I wouldn't want to go in there. And there would be times where I wouldn't eat. When it came to work in the office, if somebody got too close to me I got really uncomfortable. I mean, I'd be having all the signs of anxiety such as, you know, my skin would turn bright red; I would start sweating; I'd get really shaky; couldn't concentrate on what I was doing - I lost focus. So it got to be really difficult.

GREENE: You mentioned crowds, Jeff. I mean, were you in crowds when you were doing your work there in Iraq - I mean, in the streets of Baghdad or elsewhere?

TAYLOR: We were going through like, an aquarium part of the Omaha Zoo, and we were just packed shoulder to shoulder. And I started to have a little bit of trouble breathing. And I looked at my wife and, you know, I was like, hey, I've got to get out of here.

GREENE: Remind me how long you've been home, and how are you doing right now?

TAYLOR: I got back the end of January. And here lately, just now, it's starting to come back together. All in all, it's worth it. Everything is working out.

GREENE: Have you been able to even start thinking about, you know, taking classes or thinking about work, or are you just focusing on your health right now?

TAYLOR: Now, I'm going to college to try to get my degree, and I'm knocking out my prereqs right now. And then after my discharge, I'm going to go ahead and attend school up in Iowa and go from there.

GREENE: And what do you plan to study?

TAYLOR: I'm going to study dental hygiene.

GREENE: Well, let's say your plan B works out and, you know, you get this dental hygienist degree that you're going for. You know, the economy at the moment, not looking much better than when I saw you in 2009. And you know, that tough economy was the reason that you decided to stay in Iraq. What are you thinking about the situation in the country now?

TAYLOR: I think I'm going to be fine. Our end result ? where we want to end up ? is either North or South Carolina, and that is where we're going to retire. But between then, we'll just go where there's work.

GREENE: Jeff, best of luck to you. Thank you so much for talking to us.

TAYLOR: Well, thank you very much, and I appreciate that.


GREENE: That's Army Specialist Jeff Taylor, who just returned from serving in Iraq this year. He was speaking to us from his home in Fort Riley, Kansas.


GREENE: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.