I can tell you that it is not easy to return to civilian life. There are countless barriers that stand in the way. The most difficult challenge I faced during my time in Iraq was not being in Iraq. We were processed oriented soldiers who knew our jobs and we knew how to execute it.
There are all kinds of leading psychologists and smart people out there who have a plan for reintegration into civilian life when we get out of Iraq. Any veteran who tells you after being in a combat zone, that he is fine and has no issues is flat out lying to hide the fact that he has issues. When you return home to civilian life, you must return slowly, utilize the resources available to you, and hope for the very best.
I believe we who have been in the service of our country deserve to live happy and productive lives. I do not believe we deserve handouts or anything for free. I think we deserve to be able to come back to our country and be allowed to be an equal at the table so to speak. There are many vets who are returning who have returned to face divorce, lost loved ones while away, endured great hardships in combat, and are just unable to cope right now or maybe even for a very long period of time. These are the ones our country really needs to reach out to and provide the best assistance available.
Long story short, reintegration to civilian life as a slow and meticulous process. Enjoy every moment you have to enjoy and work hard through the rest.
If you are talking about getting a job, there are many recruiting firms out there that place former military personnel in good companies. I would start there. In your interview, cite relevant work experience. Civilians don't care how many soldiers or dollars worth of equipment you managed unless you can somehow tie it to what the job requires.
The hardest part about getting back into civilian life is the realization that your bills have increased. You will have to pay for electricity, water, and gas. You will have to shop for clothes to wear to work. You will now have to pay for your own health insurance; and your new healthcare will not be as good as what you received in the military. Job security will actually be based on performance or the company's health and not simply the presence of a heartbeat. Instead of two months of vacation days a year, you will receive ten days of paid vacation and about seven or eight holidays. Unlike the military, promotion in the civilian world is not guaranteed. You may never get promoted in the civilian world. Your new job will seem less important somehow, but it will no longer define you as a person.
Regarding PTSD, I had nightmares for the first three months I was back. After that, they went away. The hyper-alertness went away after only a few weeks. No therapy was required for any of these two symptoms. Respect for life and emotional connection takes a conscious effort to regain. It took me over two years to get this back. Lack of sensitivity toward others, I believe, is a permanent scar that may never go away. Having a normal civilian business career helped significantly. I would caution veterans away from law enforcement or security jobs initially.
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