After some time spent in the service, the old excitement and “glamour” simply runs out. Most people that were in the service realize quite fast that there is nothing noble or uplifting about being in combat. It is a very difficult and for some even traumatizing experience that could leave a huge mark on somebody.
After seeing a number of friends and family members return from military service, some of whom had seen their share of combat, and just how difficult it was for them to reintegrate into civilian life, I started talking to those who managed to pull through and they gave me some priceless advices.
It can be quite hard to get back to the regular civilian life for various reasons. I asked people to tell me about the things which were the hardest for them and also to give me valuable insights on how they were able to overcome them and lead a happy life after service. Here is what those military veterans told me.
1. Don’t Expect Too Much
I know that this is a sensitive subject, but I’m trying to help you and I cannot do this without being honest. Chances are you won’t be welcomed as a hero. Your family will be there of course, but even that moment when you reunite, no matter how joyful it might be, can still be awkward.
I am telling this to all of those who expect a triumphant storybook return. This might happen in the movies or books, but this is real life and you must prepare for it. Even your first kiss with your partner you haven’t seen for a long time can be awkward, especially if you have been away for a long time and you haven’t kissed for so long.
Additionally, you will learn that everyone has changed. This is the difficult reality of being in the military and having a partner. When being apart for so long in different emotional states, you and your partner will both change a lot. If you have kids, they will change as well and it might be tough on you, realizing what things you’ve missed while you were away.
2. Take Time to Readjust to Civilian Life
Each and every person who’s been in the service and especially those who’ve seen real combat need time to get used to being back home. It’s Impossible to simply leave a dangerous environment filled with destruction, death, and constant life threats followed with personal losses you must cope with, and expect to come back home without carrying some of those things back with you.
Even if you didn’t have a lot of real combat action, it doesn’t mean that the transition will not be difficult. When you have worked for months or even years with the army, taking care of your duty on a daily basis, being criticized or rushed constantly, you might get bored of living an “ordinary” life where everything is quiet. A lot of people struggle with the uncertainties of life and they miss their constant, clear military objectives.
Essentially, you must understand that your mental journey to a normal life will be much longer than the physical one. Once all of the homecoming celebrations have ended, your transition period will still continue. During this period, it is essential that you try and take care of yourself both physically and spiritually. Focus on your family with group activities, be active and exercise, and the most importantly, talk about your experiences with people who can understand as this can help you during the transition period.
3. Find A Job
There are a lot of people who come back from their service and just sit around doing nothing. This gives them too much free time and they start thinking about the experiences they’ve had and the terrible things they saw back in the military. They start obsessing and bad things come out of it, including alcoholism, drugs, depression, etc.
Of course, you should take the deserved break you need, but after you have started getting used to civilian life you should start working as soon as possible. This will keep those thoughts back and you will focus on things that surround you during your everyday work. Try and find a job that has a higher dose of seriousness and requires similar discipline to make up for what you are missing.
4. Seek Professional Help
Sometimes just talking with your brothers in arm, friends, or family members is not enough to get you through the memories that might haunt you. In this case, you should look to use on your VA and seek professional help. The VA can help you in many ways, but one of the best things is that there is a huge community and a great resource you can utilize whenever needed.
If you need someone to talk with and help you go through any issues you might be having after your military service has passed, they will be there at your disposal. No matter how alone you might feel, there are people with VA who have talked to a lot of those who had trouble readjusting, and helped them get back on track.
5. Find Your Place in The Community
For a lot of people, the sense of belonging to a group is one of the things they miss about the military. This is why it’s a good idea to get connected with some large community in order to feel like you are home. Of course, you should start by looking for a wider ring of neighbors and friends who have appreciation and respect for your time in the army. There are people who experienced this sense of community by becoming a part of service organizations, civic groups or clubs.
Some veterans do this using their faith and their religious community and they get involved in church activities. No matter what your interests are, there are a lot of communities and you can certainly find one that suits you. If you’re a part of something bigger and helping others instead of thinking about yourself, you can start feeling like a civilian.
The readjustment period can be a difficult time for anyone. Before the end, I would like to mention one thing that is very important.
“Don’t try to remember who you were before you went to the army.”
Everyone changes after their service and this is a normal thing. You cannot force yourself to be someone you once were. You will change, and other people will change as well. Learn to accept these things and become a part of your community as the person you are at the moment.