Tips on Thriving For Returning Combat Veterans
This is the first time I have ever wrote an article for a military audience, and especially those who have returned from the desert (though anyone is more than welcome to read and comment). Whether this is your first time you have returned home from a deployment, or your 7th, there are things you can do to make your readjustment period more seamless. There are also things you want to be careful of, and many dangerous habits you want to weary of, and I will later list those issues in this hub.
These are just a few tips I have learned from my own homecoming, and tips I have learned from my husband, friends, and brother, when they have returned home from deployment. Also, I have been the spouse who has deployed, and the one who had to stay home, so I have a unique perspective.
When you get back home from a deployment, the first six-weeks will be the most difficult as you slowly readjust. If you have a family, they will have learned to live without your presence while you were deployed. That doesn't mean that you weren't missed dearly, or that that you weren't loved, but, life goes on because lunches still need to be made, homework completed, lawn mowed, and bills paid.
When you get back, you need to acclimate slowly back into the environment at home. Do you remember when a new officer or senior enlisted is transferred into your unit, and they get all gungg-ho and all of a sudden he makes all these new rules, and he tries to change everything as soon as he gets there? Don't be like that.
Ease your way back in, just letting the family (and yourself) slowly get used to your return. Don't start making new rules, deliver harsh punishment, and get into all the drama of home-life as soom as you return. Most likely they are walking on eggshells around you, because we all know that when a service-member engages in combat, they are likely going to have an anger problem when they get back.
When you get back, be mindful of how much you are drinking. Now that you are back, everyone and their mother will want to buy you a drink. If you wish, accept the drink, just don't follow it by 12 more. Besides, your tolerance for alcohol will be drastically altered, being intoxicated is an easy way to escape dealing with the emotions that come with being deployed. It's easy to get real emotional when a combat vet drinks, and veterans who do commit suicide are often intoxicated when they accomplish the act. Find a friend or therapist who you can to talk to, or find a hobby where you are able to channel those emotions; mine is through running.
Make sure you don't have a lead foot like me. I am one of the statistics on this; when I got back from Iraq, I received 3 speeding tickets (okay, two were actually warnings) in 3 months. Since so many of us did not return from the Middle East, it's easy to feel invincible. When one of our Marines returned home from my unit, he got in a car accident by hitting a tree at a crazy high speed, and he didn't even get the chance to go on combat leave and see his family. Just be mindful of the speed limit. Another reason why I think I received so many speeding tickets was because I was motor transport, and I was used to driving as fast as the convoy commander ordered. If you are going on long rides, or if you even use a highway, just turn on the cruise control.
Make sure you are getting plenty of rest. It seems like in Iraq we were either getting too much sleep, or not enough. For me, I was allotted 4-5 hours hours of sleep on most nights, but most of it was very low-quality of sleep, because I was always ready for our base to be mortared. Make a sleep regiment and stick to it. If you are not getting enough, or quality sleep, go to medical.
Ask for help if or when you need it. My Staff Sergeant once said in Iraq, "No one has ever died from being too careful, or too paranoid". That kind of mentality is completely normal in Iraq, but not so normal when you get back. I was even the same way (and still am in many ways); I always keep my back to to the wall, know where all exits are in a room, always want to know who is behind me in public, and I am ways trying to determine if a person has a silhouette of a weapon on them. Also, I get freaked out being awoken to an aloud alarm, because it reminds me of being mortared, so I bought a vibrating watch.
If these symptoms don't subside after a few weeks, see if you can go to medical, and they will put in a consult for you to see a therapist. If you prefer, you can go out in town to a vet center. You can see someone, and your command doesn't have to find out about it.
The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders. Call 18002738255. Veterans and their loved ones can call, chat online, or send a text message to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.