It's hard to believe that 18 months ago normalcy meant wearing camouflage every day, cringing over explosions outside a base camp wall and eating food in a chow hall with thousands of other U.S. troops.
Today, normal for Master Sgt. Todd Griffith is more like the experiences of most American families - paying for college, teenage dramas and home repairs.
And he is fine with that.
"I would say we're making it just fine," Griffith said.
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In February 2007, Griffith was one of 1,800 S.C. National Guard soldiers who left home for 18 months as they trained and then deployed to Afghanistan.
The deployment was especially hard on the Griffith family.
Todd Griffith's wife, Kim Griffith, was recovering from a bout with breast cancer when he left. She underwent four surgeries to reconstruct her breasts while he was gone.
Katherine Griffith, now 12, has cerebral palsy. Katherine had reconstructive foot surgery at the Shriners Hospital in Greenville while her dad was deployed. She spent 10 weeks wearing a cast on each leg.
And, Timothy Griffith, the son and oldest child, dealt with his mother's and sister's health problems on top of the usual strife associated with the teenage years. For example, he got his driver's license and had his first car wreck while his father was overseas.
The Afghanistan mission ended for most guardsmen, including Griffith, in May 2008. Since then, the soldiers have acclimated to life at home and watched with a cautious eye as the United States debates its strategy in that country.
A few weeks after his return in 2008, Griffith he said he wasn't sure whether he would volunteer for another overseas deployment. Today, he still can't answer the question.
"Don't even ask that. I don't know."
Griffith said his 15-month absence had a permanent effect on his family.
Mostly, it has changed the dynamics between his wife, Kim, and Timothy, 17.
"While I was gone, their relationship became more like brother and sister than mother and son," Todd Griffith said. "It created that outlook between them. Kim is trying to take that mom role back, and he doesn't want that."
Timothy Griffith is a senior at Mid-Carolina High School. He no longer marches in the band but runs cross country instead.
The household is stricter now that Todd Griffith is home, Timothy said. There's little patience for procrastinating on chores.
"When we have to clean up, my usual three-day waiting period has been cut down to three hours," he said.
Timothy is facing a big decision as he plans for college. If he graduates from a university, he would be the first in his immediate family to earn a four-year college degree.
Todd Griffith can apply his G.I. Bill tuition benefits to his children.
"It's not like I need to go back to school to learn to be an engineer," he said. "I'm already an electrician making decent money."
After talking with a colleague in the National Guard who has advanced degrees, Todd is leaning toward sending Timothy to Piedmont Tech for two years.
There, Timothy could knock out his basic courses while living at home. The Griffiths would pay that tuition out of pocket. Then, the family would use two years of G.I. Bill benefits to pay for Timothy to finish at a university.
Under that plan, another two years of G.I. Bill benefits would be available for Timothy's sister, Katherine.
"I've put a lot of thought into it, and I'm looking to stretch that dollar," Todd Griffith said.
Katherine Griffith isn't sure about college. But she's got plenty of time to think about it.
In her first year at Mid-Carolina Middle School, Katherine is more interested in the gossip among the other sixth-graders. She joined the school's concert band and is managing to play the saxophone in spite of her disability.
She's glad to have her dad home and a regular part of everyone's lives.
"We get decent meals when he's here," she said. "With him, it's cube steaks and stuff like that."
Kim Griffith does not enjoy cooking, so Todd is the family's primary chef. When he was deployed, the family ate most of their meals at restaurants.
Since returning from Afghanistan, Todd has worked weekend nights at the Louis Rich packing plant in Newberry.
He works from 6 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The overnight shift earns him an additional $5.95 per hour above a regular daytime shift.
"I felt like it would give me more time with the family in the summertime," he said.
During the week, he picks his daughter up from school, oversees homework and cooks supper.
He also has more time to work on home improvement projects such as replacing windows, painting and installing new floors.
He bought a new riding lawn mower. He and Kim fight over who gets to use it because both find cutting grass to be an escape.
Todd is relieved that Kim's cancer has stayed in remission. And he knows life is easier for her with him at home.
"She's less stressed these days," he said.
Todd Griffith also has become more involved in his Newberry County community since the deployment. He already served as a volunteer firefighter. He now is an officer in the American Legion Post 24 and is a member of the local civic-minded Exchange Club.
"I just wanted to branch out," he said.
Todd Griffith isn't sure how much longer he will stay in the S.C. Guard. He was promoted this year and would like to earn the sergeant major rank. If he thinks he has a good chance of reaching that goal, he will stay in several more years.
Plus, he enjoys the camaraderie.
Once a month, he meets a fellow non-commissioned officer in Columbia and they drive to Charleston for their drills. They often talk about their time in Afghanistan.
"It's like therapy," he said. "A drill weekend won't go by where someone doesn't think about something that happened over there or something that reminds them of being over there."
As for the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, Griffith hopes President Obama chooses to stick with its efforts to reshape the country. The country owes it to those who lost their lives fighting there, he said.
Since the war started, 18 people with S.C. ties have died in Afghanistan. Of those, four served with the S.C. Guard's 218th Brigade Combat Team.
"If we quit, it will all be for nothing," Griffith said.