After Afghanistan, A Father Came Home — Then Disappeared
StoryCorps'Military Voices Initiativerecords stories from members of the U.S. military who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
After Army Pfc. Brian Orolin returned from Afghanistan in 2011, his wife Donna could tell something wasn't right. He became paranoid and suffered constant headaches, and he would isolate himself in his bedroom with the lights dimmed.
Then, on November 19, Brian left his home, wife and two children in Spring, Texas.
He's been missing ever since.
At a StoryCorps interview in Houston, TX, Donna Orolin remembered the day he returned from Afghanistan and the moments before he disappeared.
"He was literally the last person off the plane, and he was just so excited to see his daughters," she says. "I dressed the girls up and put little bows in their hair with his unit on 'em, and I'd put a sign out front that said, 'Welcome Home Specialist Orolin.' He just couldn't wait to be Dad, husband again."
But things were different, she says.
"We used to hold hands all the time before he left. When he came back, he didn't like to be touched," she says. "So, I had to remind myself to not rub his back, not sneak up behind him and give him hugs."
His sense of purpose seemed to be missing, too. "He would say that he was just gonna go away somewhere, someday and disappear and we'd never find him," she says.
It was a Wednesday morning when Brian left. Donna was getting ready to go to church for Bible study, like usual. Brian had the car, so Donna called her church to see if someone could pick her up.
"Somebody arrived at our house to take myself and my daughters to church, and while they were there, Brian come home," she says. "He got very upset that I had people in the house that he didn't know, and he threw his car keys, his credit card, and all the cash he had on hand at my feet.
"And that's the last I saw him."
Donna Orolin is working with a private investigator and the Lone Star Task Force, in addition to the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department, to search for her husband. In the meantime, she's caring for her children alone.
"Our daughters are five and four. They know that Daddy's not home. They know that the police are looking for Daddy," Donna says. "But sometimes they'll have memories like, 'Daddy used to bake brownies,' and he'd let the girls crack the eggs and stir the batter.
The first time Donna went to make brownies, her younger daughter wasn't sure it was OK.
"I had to tell her that us Orolin girls could do anything, and we get through it," Donna says.
"If I could tell Brian one thing — I love him and I've got this," she says. "I'm gonna do what's best for those girls. I've got this."
Audio produced forWeekend Editionby Von Diaz and Andrés Caballero.
StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.
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