The Unvarnished Facts About Life After Military Service

Military service is one of the most demanding and important callings in life. It’s the acid test of a man or woman; pushing them on a daily basis to be the best that they can be. It’s an enormously fast paced and stressful environment in which only those with a particular mindset thrive. Military service requires a physical and mental toughness, discipline and fortitude that many civilians just don’t “get”. When you make the transition back to civilian life, it can be tremendously rewarding as you have more time than ever to spend with your family and friends but it can also take a psychological toll in ways that nothing can truly prepare you for. Whatever you face in your civilian life, it’s important to remember that you are not alone…

Pfc. Jordan Wagner, an infantryman with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, greets loved ones during a homecoming ceremony Sept. 9, 2012, at Pope Army Airfield, Fort Bragg, N.C. He and fellow paratroopers are returning from a six-month deployment to Afghanistan’s Ghazni Province. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)

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People may see you differently

The unfortunate truth is that people have odd preconceptions about veterans that haven’t been helped much by such pop culture stereotypes as Rambo and The Punisher. They may ask questions that you find hurtful, insensitive or offensive. They may throw the term PTSD around like a frisbee without much thought of what it means or the very real effects that you’ve likely seen manifested in men and women with whom you’ve served.

If you’ve been injured in service, it may take time for people to look past your injury or service connected disability. Try not to take it personally, this is just a paradigm shift that they’re behind you in adjusting to. Be open and honest about your feelings and experiences and above all be yourself. Then you’ll see people’s anxieties just melt away.

Family interactions may feel weird at first

You will arrive back home attuned to a very different rhythm to the rest of your family. If your kids were born after you served they will be unaccustomed to living with you full-time and (because kids are kids) they may be resistant to the change. Don’t beat yourself up if you feel estranged or distant to your family. This is a perfectly natural reaction and one that will pass as you attune to domestic life. No relationship is without its problems and that goes as much for civilian relationships as it does relationships among veterans and civilians.

You will likely experience anxiety and depression

When you get home, you’ll have had a huge chunk of your life taken away from you and that loss may manifest in different ways. Statistically it’s likely that you will encounter anxiety and depression and it’s vital that you attack them head on. Be social, avoid isolating yourself and resist the urge to look at the bottom of a bottle for solutions. Turning to alcohol invariably causes more problems than it solves. Remember that help is out there and that even though they may not show it in the ways you expect, everyone is glad to have you back.

Although the road ahead may be hard, you will in time experience a kind of peace and fulfillment that comes with knowing that you served your country and played your part in making it a safer place. Whoever you are, wherever you are… Your country thanks you!

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