May 22, 2019
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For this National Guard captain, home is with the one he loves

Where is home for you? Is it where you live now or a place where you used to live? Does a person, not a place, embody home for you?

We tend to describe veterans returning from combat overseas as “coming home.” But for many veterans, their home changes. Or their perspective of it changes. How do they find — or create — their new hometown?

This is the last in a series of videos of veterans talking about what coming home meant to them.

Captain Nicolas Phillips: Age 31, of Carmel, commander of the Maine Army National Guard’s 185th Engineer Support Company.

Service: Two tours in Afghanistan, in 2011 and 2014.

Captain Nicolas Phillips grew up mostly in Germany, the son of two active-duty parents. But his father was from Embden, in Somerset County, and it felt right to come to the University of Maine for college.

In 2004, Phillips enlisted with the National Guard; he commissioned in 2006. And he stayed in Maine largely because of the Guard and his now-wife. For him, Maine has “always been a refuge,” he said. “I can walk out my door and … walk into the woods and keep walking for quite a while if I wanted to.”

After returning from his first tour in Afghanistan, he knew more of what to expect the next time. When he returned from his second tour, he and his wife had a plan. They told loved ones they needed time together, and they’d see them after a month. It allowed them time to adjust.

They’ve also done specific things to grow their resiliency and bond as a couple: He’s learning mandolin, and his wife is learning guitar.

For him, home is a person: his wife. “Being home is literally walking into her arms and being able to hold each other again. That’s all,” he said.

If you’re interested in learning more about veterans’ recovery from trauma, MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient and psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Shay will give a free keynote on the trials of homecoming at 6 p.m., Wednesday, May 13, at Wells Conference Center at the University of Maine.

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

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