61-year-old vet comes home
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — When an Iowa man decided he wanted to serve his country he enlisted in the armed forces, but his story is a bit different.
Dan Grinstead was in his 60s during his first deployment to Afghanistan.
His job was to help soldiers cope during combat.
A social worker for 35 years, he decided to serve his country in the way he knew best, in the area of mental health.
"I just couldn't imagine myself sitting down talking with soldiers in anything other than a uniform," he said after signing up.
So he said goodbye to his family, and departed with 2,800 others for a year of duty in Afghanistan.
As soldiers became more embroiled in combat, Grinstead dealt with all kinds of issues.
Combat stress, sleep, relationships, finances and then in April, loss of life.
All along, he saw the quiet strength of his fellow soldiers.
"I'm not sure I could ever have that strength of character that they did," he says now.
Now 61-years-old and home again, Grinstead is reacclimatizing by sharing his experiences.
As commander of Grinstead's battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Steven Kremer says the social worker's expertise was invaluable.
"Being able to deal with your emotions, your issues, your frustrations makes you a better soldier," he says. "You know, Dan's providing a form of body armor."
Once back home, the challenge for every soldier is adjusting to life in a non-combat environment.
"You hope you can explain to families what's going on: Why am I scanning a room? Why am I driving the way I am?" Grinstead says. "You have to have those skills to survive in a hostile environment, and the trick is to turn them off when you get home."
Now Captain Grinstead has a new mission now: Helping soldiers become citizens again.