Post written by: Juan DeSantiago, LCSW, USMC Veteran
Getting out of the military can be an exciting and scary event. You’ve just finished your contract with the military, and after receiving your honorable discharge, it feels like a new beginning. You have so many resources at your disposal. From the Post 9/11 GI Bill to housing benefits, to medical care at Veterans Affairs Medical Centers, to organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the American Legion that you can join. What’s more, there are thousands of Veterans who are in the same position as you. It seems like everything is put in place for a smooth transition. For some it may be a seamless integration into the Civilian World. For others, it can be a jungle of uncertainty, despair, and estrangement.
The military, regardless of which branch you served in, is a highly structured organization that highlights camaraderie and purpose. Whatever your rank might have been while you were in the military, you knew exactly where you stood in the chain of command. You woke up every day surrounded by like-minded individuals who were working towards the same purpose. You suffered, bickered, laughed, and grew with your brothers and sisters. Ultimately, you formed a bond that is like no other. For those who have deployed to combat zones, this bond is enhanced. There is truly no walk of life that can be compared to that of the military.
But all – or most – of that lifestyle is being left behind once you choose to discharge from the military. Entering into the Civilian World can be an abrupt change. Depending on what you do in the Civilian World, it can leave you feeling like you don’t belong. Veterans who pursue college face further potential stressors like juggling school with work and family, and adapting to academic culture, which, in many ways, clashes with the culture of the military (Glasser, Powers, & Zywiak, 2009). Regardless of what you choose to pursue after your military service, there will be a period of adjustment.
Make no mistake about it. You Can Adjust.
Keep in mind that you already made the biggest adjustment of your life when you chose to join the military. The military is not for everybody. It will challenge you in ways you’ve never been challenged. The integration process (boot camp) can be grueling. Yet you were able to adjust and thrive. The same can be done in this situation. Through my research and experience, I am convinced that Veterans offer a unique perspective for the rest of society and have skills that others can only hope to develop. By understanding that you belong in this society, and that you have the ability to thrive, you are creating a growth mindset that will give you the opportunity to pursue your goals; rather than a fixed mindset that will keep you complacent and stagnant.
Regardless of where you are in your journey, there may be a time when you need additional support. Meeting with a trained psychotherapist is a safe way to discuss some barriers to thriving. Whether it is PTSD, depression, or addiction, you do not have to face it alone. If you would like to learn more about how to thrive as a Veteran, our therapists at The Mendery can
help. Give us a call at 469.890.0459 or visit us at https://themendery.com/
ReferencesGlasser, I., Powers, J. T., & Zywiak, W. H. (2009). Military veterans at universities: A case of culture clash. Anthropology News, 50(5), 33-33.