Military veterans re-entry into civilian life

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Introduction

The military is a very structured environment and one that is defined that by not just but also a very high sense of discipline. The service itself is extremely difficult and demanding. The men and women in uniform have to sometimes endure very dangerous working environments in their daily duties of safeguarding us and our motherland. But another time of challenge for these men and women is have to return back to society after serving the nation in the marked forces. Transiting back to civilian life presents some challenge to the former officers. An important factor influencing the success of transition into society include; an officer’s level of education before joining the forces; college graduates tend to smoothly transition from the very structure military life back to civilian life as compared to those with only high school education. Officers who may have undertaken challenging missions also experience difficulties transiting back to civilian life especially if they sustained injuries or encountered traumatic experiences affecting them psychologically. It is not with doubt therefore that former military servicemen often experience difficulties when they leave the military and seek to re-enter civilian life.

There is no doubt that military life is not only a sacrifice but also a task that very challenging. That in itself is a challenge; walking out of a difficult but also a very structured environment can significantly trouble the veterans. Another concern with is on the level of support that the government to our veterans when they exit the military. It is very important that the government establishes a framework through which our men and women exiting the military can be assisted to smoothly transit back to the general society. Their families need also to be supported when it comes to accepting the veterans exiting the forces back into normal life. According to a research by the Pew Research Centre, up 27% of veterans re-entering civilian life found it very difficult. The figure even swell as to as high as 44% among those who had been in service for the ten years following the famous Sept, 11 terror attacks (Morin, 2011).

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Factors Affecting Ease of Transition from the Military

An important factor influencing ease of transition is knowledge and educational level. A research carried out by Pew on 1,853 veterans found veterans who had college education prior to joining the forces and those had been commissioned as officers found it a little easier to re-enter society as compared to those with just high school education. Those had a good understanding of the missions in which they served also seem to experience lesser problems when returning to civilian life while those with little understanding of their assignments encounter huge difficulties. This shows that education and knowledge of the nature of work can contribute significantly to the life outcomes of veterans on return from service. It is thus very important for the government of the US to ensure all the officers have a good understanding of their roles in missions (Morin, 2011).

Military life experience is another factor affecting re-entry into civil life when veterans return back to society from the service. Those veterans who have experienced traumatic experiences in their course of their service and those who sustained serious injuries while serving the nation report problems while returning to civil life. In particular, veterans who served in combat zones and those witnessed loss of life or severe injuries to persons they knew faced an uphill task to successfully come back to civilian life.  Psychological trauma is particularly striking among these veterans who worked in extremely endangering situations such as post 9/11, Vietnam and Korean missions. In fact with such veterans, the odds of easily returning to civilian life go down from82 percent to 56 percent.

Religious belief is another very significant factor influencing the ease of re-entry among returning veterans especially among the post 9/11 veterans. Officers with higher level of religious relief; those who attended religious services have significantly higher odds of successfully adjusting and returning to religious life. Veterans who are attached to a faith group and attend a religious service at least once every week have 67% chances of smoothly re-entering civilian life.  Among those veterans who do not attend any religious service the probability of experiencing a smooth entry is 43%. Other factors may include the age at the time the veteran is discharged from the armed forces, the period they have served and also whether they have young families or not ((Morin, 2011).

Common Challenges Facing Veterans as they try to readjust.

Whereas being in military uniform, it is also quite a challenge. The men and women uniform not only sacrifice their lives to safeguard us and sometimes work in very dangerous terrains but also face quite some challenges when separating from the military and readjusting to civilian life ( Rausch, 2014). Firstly, is quite a challenge for veterans when they have to relate to civilians who have no idea what these former military personnel went through while in service. They also have to experience the challenge of joining the community. While in service whenever an officer is moved to a new base or mission they are assisted to adjust to the new environments. This is structured framework is often absent when people separate from the military. Veterans and their families therefore, have to go out and devise ways of becoming part of social communities.

Another common challenge for returning veterans is problems re-connecting with family and taking up their roles. In the armed forces life is structured in certain manners and highly controlled. In their absences, the families behind came up with new routines. The returning veterans therefore have the task of adjusting to the changes. There is also the challenge of preparing to re-enter the formal workforce. Most of them have never sought after, applied or attended interviews for civilian jobs. Coming back from the military, the veterans must thus develop new skills for the job market. They also have to translate their skills and experiences from the military into more civilian terms in creating resumes. This despite the fact that instead of a resume, the military heavily relies on the Field Service Record to determine suitability of candidates for certain roles.

Culture change may also present serious challenges to returning veterans. In the forces for instance everything is provided, people eat at certain determined times in specific places and the roles determine the dress code. The military is also cauterized by a strong sense of teamwork and camaraderie.  Civilian life has no particular order, there is a lot of individualism and communications are quite different. The many options available in life out of the military can actually be sometimes overwhelming to returning veterans. Psychological adjustments are therefore inevitable when ex-military men and women re-enter into civilian life. Post-traumatic stress disorder and emotional distress thus affects many veterans not only because of their experiences in war zones but also as a result of the overwhelmingly individualistic and disjointed civilian life. The soldiers miss the sense of teamwork, oneness and collaboration that is characteristic of the military as they return into the highly individualistic society hence finding it problematic to recover from the war experiences (Van Staden, et al, 2007).

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Strategies that can be employed to Assist Veterans Transit Easily

There is no doubt that returning veterans often experience problems transitioning back into civilian life. It is therefore very prudent to understand some of the strategies available that could help this men and women who have sacrificed heavily on our behalf re-enter civilian life in the smoothest ways possible. Firstly, it is important to allow some time for self-care; in the military people are expected to lead lives following certain uniform structures, stay hardy and even not show emotions. As these men come back from service and re-enter the community different expectations await them and as such psychological adjustments are inevitable. It is particularly important for the emotional needs of the officers to be effectively addressed. Some especially coming from dangerous missions have experience traumatizing events and therefore need careful counselling as they enter back into civilian life having come back alive.

Another strategy a veteran could pursue as a way to ensure smooth transition back into civilian life is keeping a close network of veterans. Having similar backgrounds, the veterans would supplement one another especially when working out. Talking to former colleagues is quite important it helps them share common experiences and encourage one another. The veterans also need to find a routine that fits a military background. Maintaining consistency in work out and friends helps them keep some connection to the former military lives hence offering comfort that is much needed as they adapt to the new conditions in society. By staying connected the can also be able to collate their problems as a group and force authorities to act on their needs (Suzuki & Kawakami, 2016).

On the part of government it is very important recognize the challenges that veterans go through and formulate strategies to help them effectively cope. The Defense and Veteran Affairs departments who to work collaboratively for instance with local governments to support these returning national heroes. This is because they come home to communities and therefore the local governments are the best placed to meet their greatest interests. It is also important to maintain up to date veteran demographics so as to effectively inform policy. The Veterans Data Project launched by the Centre for a New American Security for instance will help collate available data on veterans so as to asses and understand their needs now & going forward. With accurate demographics of the veterans, it easier to plan for and actually meet the various needs of veterans hence helping them smoothly re-enter society as they return.

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Conclusion

In conclusion therefore returning back to civilian life having served the nation in the armed forces can be quite challenging to the veterans coming back home. A significant proportion of the returning veterans actually experience problems as they re-enter into civilian life. Psychological and emotional problems are rampant especially among those who experienced traumatic events in the course of duty. In fact, apart from level education and knowledge experience of traumatizing events is an important factor affecting the ease of re-entry into civilian life. Veterans also encounter challenges reconnecting with their families, joining the civilian individualistic communities, preparing for and getting new employment out of the military. Strategies that the veterans can employ to improve their outcomes as they return include keeping a network of other veterans, taking some good amount of time for self-care and seeking support from available institutions such as the Veterans Affairs.  The government can also help them by partnering more with local authorities to meet the greatest needs of these soldiers and understanding their demographics for policy purposes.

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  1. Gray, A., Wilson, R., Jenkings, K. N., Harrison, D., & Martin, M. (2017). Information-sharing in services for military personnel in transition to civilian life. Public Money & Management, 37(1), 15-22.
  2. Morin, R. (2011). The difficult transition from military to civilian life. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center.
  3. Rausch, M. A. (2014). Contextual career counseling for transitioning military veterans. Journal of employment counseling, 51(2), 89-96.
  4. Suzuki, M., & Kawakami, A. (2016). US Military Service Members’ Reintegration, Culture, and Spiritual Development. The Qualitative Report, 21(11), 2059.
  5. Van Staden, L., Fear, N. T., Iversen, A. C., French, C. E., Dandeker, C., & Wessely, S. (2007). Transition back into civilian life: a study of personnel leaving the UK armed forces via “military prison”. Military medicine, 172(9), 925-930.
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