Returning Home After Military Deployment: An Overview for Personnel and Family Members
Military service is a difficult and unique life experience in which personnel face challenges and disruption and even threats to safety and well being. They experience things that most people – including families, friends, and co-workers – could not begin to understand or appreciate, things far apart in time and space and power from everyday lives. One of my practicum students spoke of an “airlock” between the hospital entrance and the psychiatric inpatient ward, in which he experienced the distance between that space and the space in which he ordinarily lived, both going into and coming out of that space. Here are some general suggestions, excerpted and elaborated from this document, on how to ease the airlock transition from military service to your home.
Return is a Process, not an Event. I think in my own work about the process of atmospheric reentry: too direct an approach to returning home and you burn up, too indirect and you bounce off. Try to get it just right. Returning veterans should be patient with themselves and with family members in their reentry, and family members should also be patient with themselves and with veterans. It is a process with predictable phases (see Managing the Homecoming Process above).
Rest. One of the common features of military service is a disruption in sleep and eating and exercise and wellness, and personnel returning home may feel exhausted. It may require days or weeks to regain health (as opposed to merely staying safe), and veterans, their family members, and employers need to make time for rest and recovery.
Pace and Routine. Military service frequently demands a fast-paced and even frantic task approach in which efficiency and speed are required instead of the more purposeful and deliberate approach generally available at home. Returning personnel, and their families, need time to “synchronize” their task approach. Similarly, military service (described by more than one veteran as “lots of boredom sprinkled with moments of sheer terror”) often requires an abandonment of many familiar routines as tasks emerge and must be managed spontaneously. Again, it may take time for military personnel and their families to “get in step” together again with routine, perhaps even developing new routines.
Sharing. Returning veterans may want to share with family members and co-workers about their experiences, and family members may be eager to “catch veterans up” on their experiences. The military service experience may seem in contrast much more dramatic and significant, but veterans should try to remember that family members’ experiences are as important to them as yours are to you. In dealing with children try to explain your military involvement in a way that is appropriate to their level of development, and involve them in disaster preparedness efforts for your family.
Emotions When you return home, some feelings or emotional swings associated with stress may surprise or frighten you. If you anticipate some of these emotions, you can manage them better.
Disappointment: Returning veterans may find that others are not interested in hearing about your experiences, or that your reunion with your family and co-workers does not live up to your expectations. You may expect they will be happy to have you home and be surprised to find they are angry at your absence. Similarly, family members may be puzzled or disappointed at elements of homecoming. Anticipating this response will help all of you in managing it.
Frustration and conflict: Veteran’s needs may not match those of family or colleagues. Although you may want nothing more than to resume a simple and predictable life, family members may have changed.
Anger: The problems and challenges of everyday life experienced by veteran’s family, friends, or co-workers may seem very trivial compared to those you have witnessed and experienced. Try to remember that the folks at home feel that their problems are just as important to them right now as yours are to you. Appreciate how your own anger and grief.
Survivor identification: The actions or characteristics of people at home may remind you of your experience in military service. You may experience emotional reactions that can surprise and confuse not only you, but also them. Try to make others understand the reasons behind your reactions.
Daydreaming: This on the part of veterans is a normal response to trauma and is a part of healthy dissociation. Veterans may be confused at how they are reliving their service experience, and surprised at how distant they may feel at times from daily life and routine. This is all a normal part of return.
Mood swings: These are normal for veterans after returning from a deployment and are one of the ways to begin to experience and resolve conflict feelings you may have experienced related to your military experience. Veterans may change from happy to sad, tense to relaxed, or outgoing to quiet without much warning. When you have time to put your military work into perspective, these sudden changes in mood will pass.
Returning from military deployment is a difficult process Practicing self-care and developing resiliency during the process of your return will allow you to continue giving your gifts.
The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Support for deaf and hard of hearing individuals is available.
Veterans Heart Georgia: This grass roots organization utilizes innovative approaches to helping veterans of all wars with the entire spectrum of the effects of war and military service. The organization is made up of veterans, mental health professionals and citizens.
CareForTheTroops Inc. is a 501c3 Non-Profit formed to develop a network of civilian faith communities, civic organizations, and networks of therapists all trained and able to work with the military members, veterans, and their families as they adjust to the changes experienced during and after returning from deployments and combat.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Our Mission: IAVA’s mission is to improve the lives of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families.
This is the information for Georgia’s largest provider of VA services and the web site address.
- Atlanta VA Medical Center 1670 Clairmont Road Decatur, GA 30033
- Phone: (404) 321-6111 hrs. 8:00a.m-4:30p.m.
- Website www1.va.gov/Atlanta
- 24-hour VA suicide hot line : 1-800-273-TALK
America's Heroes at Work: Welcome to America's Heroes at Work - a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) project that addresses the employment challenges of returning service members living with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and/or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
U.S. Vets Over 200,000 veterans will sleep on the streets of our nation tonight. Our VISION is that one day there will no longer be homeless veterans in America...U.S. VETS provides housing, counseling, job assistance, and HOPE to thousands of homeless veterans each year. Our programs foster the skills necessary for every veteran to return to the community and remain self-sufficient.