When Army veteran Stephen Machuga returned to the U.S. about a decade ago after deployment in Iraq, he didn't like trash day. In Iraq, insurgents embedded explosives in refuse. "You just got used to looking for wires coming out of piles of trash," he recalled.
Back in the U.S., Machuga's mind would start twitching on Tuesdays, when large bags and bins dotted his Pittsburgh neighborhood. This is what civilian life can sometimes be like for a returning veteran.
You try to engineer a new normal. But your brain can't stop imagining dangerous scenarios about your surroundings. And you miss your military buddies. "I definitely had those days, when I drove past a recruiting station, just to see someone in uniform," he said.
His mind itching, Machuga eventually found mental relief in a lifelong hobby — playing video games. "Hey, there's something here," he recalled. Machuga has since transitioned back to civilian life after 13 months in Iraq.