By Tom Brokaw Correspondent
NBC News
updated 3/11/2004 7:40:35 PM ET 2004-03-12T00:40:35

Sgt. Charles Weaver led one family of young soldiers across Iraq before bringing most of them home to Fort Stewart, Ga., while his other family — wife Dawn and two children — fought their own war on the home front, praying for a safe return.

A platoon sergeant in the 3rd Infantry Mortar Brigade, Weaver’s training continues far away from the front lines, though his days and his journey have not been easy.

“I know I’m going home at night and I’ll make it through another day,” said Weaver. NBC News watched them say goodbye in November 2002.

In Kuwait, a few months later, NBC provided him with one last chance to see his kids before the war began.  We showed Weaver home video of his family, which NBC had brought to Kuwait.

Then, last July, NBC News found Weaver, battle worn and tested, on patrol north of Baghdad.

Now, after turning in his Humvee for a pickup, he’s home at last: a changed man.  “G.I. Joe has left.… He’s now more, um, OK, I’ve done that, I saw what happened, and I think some of his attitudes and perspectives have changed,” said Dawn Weaver.

There’s a new puppy, his son is talking and his daughter has shed her training wheels.

Weaver says he appreciates home so much more. “My problem is that, I have, like, a feeling of guilt. Because I know that I came home, I came home to my mom and dad and my daughter and my son and my wife. But there are other people that didn’t.”

The images of war are burned in his memory. Especially the face of one soldier Weaver couldn’t bring home: 20-year-old Joel Bertoldie. “Every day, we pass by, on my way to work, there is a place they call warriors’ walk.  And so, every day, I remember.”

Weaver returned home with nearly constant back pain and says it’s sometimes tough to turn off his sergeant’s temper at home.  And, when he first returned, he needed solitude.  His wife said, “He didn’t get any time to himself at all.  And I think there were a couple of times when he had to say, ‘Dawn, I need some space, please!’”

One year later, the Weavers know they’re the lucky ones. “I honestly want people to remember what these kids sacrificed and what they did it for was the greater good, no matter what anybody thinks,” Charles Weaver said.

For Dawn, she hopes her war scrapbook is filled up for good. But she’s not holding her breath, “This is our life, and this is what we live…. More than anything, the concern and the one thing I think about is, OK, when is the next time?”

One year later, a soldier’s story continues.

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