Life after the military can pose many challenges to veterans and family members. For some, returning to civilian life may feel like another battle that poses a variety of challenges that must not only be fought, but also understood and accepted in order to be successfully overcome. There are many factors involved in a veteran’s readjustment to civilian life, some of which include:
- Understanding and abiding by civilian legal standards that may be different from military standards.
- Coexisting with cultures, values, and norms different from those of the military.
- Dealing with authority figures.
- Re-establishing and even re-evaluating relationships with family and friends.
- Finding a new career path.
- Pursuing college/university education.
- Locating a new home.
Other factors of readjustment may even be a bit more complex. They may even be so complex for the individual veteran, that they prevent a progressive and positive readjustment towards a bright future. Depending on the individual veteran and whether or not he/she has the benefit of a positive support system, these intrinsic matters can be crucial to his/her overall transition and successful development. Such issues of concern include:
- Veteran’s relationship with him/herself, their sense of identity, purpose, and self-worth.
- Reassessment of life goals and ambitions, followed by setting and achieving personal/professional goals.
- Coping with “starting over” in society. No longer holding the respect and authority afforded by a particular rank and/or billet, ultimately being regarded as “Joe Smith” versus “Sergeant Smith, the Platoon Sergeant.”
- Psychological effects of traumatic experiences, which may inhibit personal and professional growth. Examples include PTSD, survivor’s guilt, depression, and inclinations towards substance abuse/addiction.
- Physical handicap as a result of injuries sustained in combat. Such injuries may include disfigurement, amputation, and scarification.
As a whole, transitioning out of the military can be a very difficult experience, contrary to the common illusion of “everything being gravy in the civilian world.” The reality is that the civilian world abides by many standards that are seemingly opposite of those of the military. A few comparisons of these phenomena are:
Purchasing all essentials
Fragmented social structure
Organized social structure
It is therefore imperative that veterans and family members work alongside one another for the overall long term benefit of everyone. Gaining an understanding of issues pertaining to a veteran’s transition is important not only for the veteran but also the family as well. Many veteran service organizations such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), American Legion, and numerous others specialize in supporting those veterans transitioning from active duty to civilian life. Services range from veterans benefits processing, clinical treatment, life coaching, and confidential one-on-one consulting.