Families left behind
Aside from their own anxiety, retirees recalled to active duty worry about the strain on loved ones. "The impact on the spouse who remains behind is very, very difficult," says retired Col. Frank Ryan, 59, of Lebanon, Pa. "We know when we're deployed whether we're safe or not, whereas our family member is always wondering."
Ryan retired from the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve in 2002, after a one-month stint in Afghanistan as the central command special operations officer. Later, "I still remember the phone call I got in November 2004," Ryan says.
"They asked me if I was physically able to go on active duty. I said 'absolutely.' Two weeks later, I received orders to go to Iraq." He was deployed from December 2004 until June 2005.
Ryan worked with an Iraqi committee on national security to ensure that the country's elections would proceed freely and without incident. This required someone with expertise in rebuilding governments or corporations in addition to a military background.
As a certified public accountant, Ryan specializes in helping companies avoid bankruptcy. He became self-employed in 1991, after realizing that it would be easier to resume active duty if he was his own boss.
Pattillo, immediate past president of the Reserve Officers Association of the United States, is also an independent consultant. He advises municipal governments on selling bonds to build and repair roads, bridges, schools, jails and other projects. "I put that on hold," he says, "to proudly return to active duty."
His experience in finance and four years as former assistant attorney general of Texas qualified him to interact on the Army's behalf with U.S. contractors in Iraq. The contractors kept water systems, cafeterias and other entities running smoothly on the military base during his tour, which ended in January 2006.
"My civilian skills did come in handy," Pattillo says, "and they were happy to have me there."
Susan Kreimer is a writer in New York.