Family Relationships and Reintegration
A veteran’s military experience can have a tremendous impact on not only the veteran, but also his/her family. Combat deployments typically lasting a year or more, sustaining injuries (both physical and psychological), and losing fellow comrades can drastically impact the veteran and ultimately, alter family dynamics and the individual attitudes of the veteran, spouse, children, and/or parents.
From the perspective of the family, the veteran may appear to have different habits, personality, or even behave as a completely different character than before. He/she may even appear to be a stranger. The veteran however, may also view his/her family as strangers. Their ethics, morals, and values may seem to be different and at times, contradict his or her own. The veteran may even feel closer to those whom he/she served alongside with; those who he/she feels understand him/her most, rather than his kin.
Definitions of “family” and standards by which families should function may have become different, and at times, completely opposite. Such drastic differences in conceptions can lead to broken relationships and even isolation. What the family accepted and practiced as normal behavior may not be viewed in the same light from the veteran, and vice versa.
It is therefore imperative that both the veteran and family members gain an understanding of these differences and the impact upon each individual. A progressive re-acquaintance with one another may be required to co-exist, and ultimately, reintegrate the veteran and family as one.
Current issues veterans and family members deal with include:
- A spouse who must become the breadwinner because the veteran has an irreversible brain injury.
- Children robbed of the parent they once had.
- A veteran who has returned from the war but can’t resume his former life. Along with the visible injuries, it will take time for all of the unseen wounds of war to be healed.
- Still grappling with the loss of a spouse, a young mom needs to move off her military-home base within days of laying her husband to rest.
- An 18-year-old guardsman was living with his mom and dad before serving a yearlong deployment. He returns and ends up homeless because he can’t go back to acting like the boy his mom and dad still expect him to be.
- Upon her return from Iraq, where she suffered a traumatic brain injury, an Army reservist can no longer adequately take care of her children.
- A young veteran returns home and can’t see how he can possibly resume his schooling—his wife just had their first child and he has to work to pay the mortgage.