Maj. Dave Polizzotti used to balance his family finances. He has not touched a checkbook in a decade.
“I say, ‘Honey, do we have money?’”
That role reversal is one way his family changed because of his three yearlong combat tours since 2003, two in Iraq and one here in Afghanistan.
The officer is quick to credit his wife, Tommie, with shouldering the heavy work at home while he has been consumed in the nation’s wars. They live at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where Tommie has her hands full with their four children.
Polizzotti’s two most recent deployments put him in relatively safe conditions. He’s the executive officer for his Stryker brigade’s 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment. In 2009-10, he was a planner for Lewis-McChord’s I Corps during its deployment to Iraq.
But in 2003, Polizzotti commanded a tank company in the 66th Armored Regiment. He and his soldiers often came under fire whenever they left their forward base in Samarra, Iraq; Polizzotti lost two men in a single mortar attack.
He looks back on those days as some of the most rewarding of his career. That’s a common feeling among officers who have commanded companies in combat.
The intense days, however, made adjusting to life in the states challenging.
“I came home close to a ticking time bomb,” he said.
He stewed for a couple of years before seeking help from chaplains. They taught him better ways to cope with deployments so he would not come home so out of touch with his family.
The key for him, he learned, was taking time each day to separate himself from his work at war. He does not allow soldiers in his cavalry headquarters to eat in their command post. He wants them out in the dining facility clearing their heads at least a few times each day.
Polizzotti says he plays games or reads at the end of each day, something to take his mind off the life-and-death decisions he’s charged with making as a senior leader in his squadron.
“You need to find a way to blow off steam,” he said.
Pictures of Polizzotti’s children frame his desk. He makes time for at least one long conversation a week over Skype with his wife and kids. That rhythm works best for them, he said.
“You don’t forget about your family,” he said, “because they’re going to be there when the Army’s gone.”