How to Treat Returning Military Service Members

Welcoming A Veteran Home

When you have a friend or family member returning from an overseas deployment, needs and expectations from both sides vary. Because every individual and situation is different, I will draw from my own experience as a returning veteran, comments I've heard from other veterans, and what I've read.

First of all, it's difficult to express the experience of deployment. If there had been plenty of honest, heartfelt, and positive communication with those left behind during the deployment, reintegration should be smoother. However, patience, education, and understanding are vital in every situation. Being separated for an entire year from the life you know in a country you don't know is a huge adjustment. Therefore, it seems that returning would be a lovely, happy reunion! Unfortunately, it's not that simple.

But please don't give up; veterans need your care!

One way you can demonstrate care is to try to understand as much as possible. Moving through different worlds has a psychological impact on service members. Things are done a certain way--a very different way--in a warzone than how life is lived in a civilian world. This abrupt change in demands is stressful. Managing changes in where things go and how things are done is a frustrating experience and can diminish a veteran's sense of self-competence. When so few people are grateful or act as if the sacrifice you've made has done nothing for the freedom they enjoy, their sense of competence is aggravated.

Hair Cuts Behind "T Wall" at BIAP

"T Walls" are a common sight in Iraq
"T Walls" are a common sight in Iraq

Care Enough to Learn

Educating yourself on all the things your veteran friend had to give up (privacy, ice, first world bathroom conditions, weekends off, comfort, choices, safety, familiar social rules, traditional holiday celebrations, the usual means of social support, any control over things affecting home, loved ones' voices and hugs) for an extended period of time.

Iraq--A Home Away From Home for a Period

Little Luxury when Deployed (Camp Victory)

Short showers, shared toilet areas
Short showers, shared toilet areas

When the Time is Right

It took me almost a year before I was ready to share all the photos I took while I was in Iraq. I think because I just wanted to soak home in. I'm not sure my loved ones are interested in my photos yet. They may feel angry because I left. My deployment may remind them of my absence. But because the lack of connection is what makes the whole process of deploying and returning (which means again leaving a familiar place and people during a significant time) so lonely, I think this is important.

FOB Prosperity "Free" Time

An interpreter  and I (left) share Turkish coffee in Baghdad.
An interpreter and I (left) share Turkish coffee in Baghdad.

Share Your Feelings, Not Your Politics

With a recently returning veteran, especially, refrain from sharing your media-based political view, unless they've indicated their interest in your opinion. Instead, ask them about their first-hand experience, and be willing to hear their point of view. There is much to process, and talking may help.

Most importantly, kindly and respectfully share feelings. What did it feel like for someone you cared for to be away? What did it feel like for the veteran to be away from you? How did both of you feel about the communication and contact with each other during deployment? What do both of you want now?

With Iraq Officer

An Iraqi officer and I
An Iraqi officer and I

Remember Their Loss

A veteran may feel angry about the extensive time lost with loved ones. As a result, there may be a change in priorities after deployment. A priority change may also result from the fact that material comforts will probably seem excessive once the service member returns home. In addition, they may have seen or experienced some painful things while deployed.

Burka Barbie for sale Iraq

How I wish I could have been taking pictures of my kids too--not just for them!  How I wish I had been sent more photos of my kids.
How I wish I could have been taking pictures of my kids too--not just for them! How I wish I had been sent more photos of my kids. | Source

Deployment Length

Should Deployments Exceed Six Months

  • Yes, it is necessary for defense.
  • No, the separation causes too much damage on the homefront and to the servicemember.
  • Further research is needed to determine the best answer for our country.
See results without voting

Taken from a humvee while in Iraq by Donna Hickman

Mercy Me "Finally Home" video

More about Relationships

Thank you so much for reading this.

My blog, "Random Epiphanies" is about love.

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Comments 3 comments

manthy profile image

manthy 5 years ago from Alabama,USA

I read somewhere about Troops having Post Tramatic stress disorder in epidemic numbers in the USA - I think it is sad,but thanks for your hub it is loaded with good info

LetLoveBe profile image

LetLoveBe 5 years ago from Any Where Author

Thank you for your interest. I suppose I will write on healing strategies somewhere soon.

kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether

Voted up and awesome. I don't think many of us here at home realize the trials and tribulations that service members go through to serve their country and to keep their families and friends safe. Truly humbling...

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