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National

'Here In The States, I Don't Even Know How To Talk To People'

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's Friday and time for StoryCorps. Today, we'll hear an encore presentation of an interview from StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative focusing on post-9/11 servicemen and their families. Twenty-six-year-old Army Captain Drew Pham finished his tour of duty in Afghanistan in October of 2011. After his return, Drew found it hard to adjust to life at home. At StoryCorps, he spoke with his wife, Molly Pearl, about that transition and some of his most difficult combat memories.

CAPTAIN DREW PHAM: I remember I called you and told you that I shot a man, and you didn't really know to say. So you said, well, we'll deal with it when you get home.

MOLLY PEARL: I had a hard time responding to some of the things you would tell me.

PHAM: I did a lot of bad things. We killed this 60 or 70-year-old schoolteacher. He was an old man. And the sniper shot him because he had a two liter water bottle in his hand, and we thought it was a rocket. I had to go and clean up the mess. I had to talk to his son and try to convince him that it, you know, was a mistake, I was sorry. So all this stuff happened; I come home. And even though it was hard to fight in Afghanistan, here in the states I don't even know how to talk to people. I don't think anything that anyone says anymore is important - what they think or what they feel. Sometimes, I want to, like, take everyone that I know to Afghanistan and force them to see it. I want them to feel all of it.

PEARL: I remember when you first joined. I would tell you that eventually, we would look back and it would be four years, just like college was four years. And that used to really help you, that ability to look past and see how time always moves on and moves you with it. I don't know if that ever happens with Afghanistan.

PHAM: I don't think that this is ever really going to be over for any of us. I mean, honestly, like, you really are the only thing that keeps me going.

PEARL: That's tough. But I'm OK with that.

PHAM: I still don't know how to carry on a normal life with all these things, but at least I get to carry all of those things with you.

CORNISH: That's Army veteran Captain Drew Pham with his wife, Molly Pearl, at StoryCorps in New York City. Drew was honorably discharged from the Army last year. Their conversation first aired on Weekend Edition in March. It was part of the StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative and will be archived at the Library of Congress. Get the StoryCorps podcast at npr.org. And a reminder that our colleague Renee Montagne is away - she'll be back behind the mic at the end of October. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.