May 25, 2017, BY Brooke Chaplan – Life in the military is generally predicated on the idea of doing one thing: helping you survive in a war zone. There are a number of disciplines and practices that are a natural part of a soldier’s life that the civilian world simply cannot relate to. Conversely, this can also make it difficult for soldiers to return to civilian life. Here are 4 common realities that soldiers returning to civilian life have difficulty adjusting to.
While it may be hard to remember, when you first joined the military, you didn’t particularly like following orders either. The ability to immediately follow orders without thought and without question is a vital part of survival in a war zone, so you were drilled and drilled and broken down and drilled some more until following orders was as second nature to you as breathing. It can be hard to swallow when you issue a command and your family and friends ask questions instead.
Early to Rise
After years of rising at 0400, you may forget that at one time you probably slept until noon and thought nothing of it – until the military broke you of that habit for good. As hard as it may be to remember, part of what you were fighting for was the ability of your family, friends and loved ones to get a good night’s sleep as if they didn’t have a care in the world. So instead of seething in frustration at your “lazy” friends or “lazy” teen that sleeps in until 7:00 or later, just remember, that’s the very way of life you fought to protect.
Your training is/was much more rigorous than anything most civilians have experienced. While you may not have much difficulty running 5 clicks, your friends and family will likely count that as a significant accomplishment. Remember that a 5k “fun run” can be a pretty big deal for some, so try to be supportive and encouraging. This goes for many other athletic, and recreational achievements. You were trained to fight for your life – they will probably never have to. And that’s a good thing.
When you were on deployment, you may have had a spouse that stayed home and managed a number of things you got to avoid because you were off fighting a war. Sometimes, that war can seem like a cake-walk in retrospect in comparison to some of the landmines you have to navigate at home. A recent study found that out of all military members getting a divorce during the time of the study, 97% of them occurred after a return from deployment. While you may not want to pursue a divorce, be sure to protect yourself and speak to a divorce attorney if any concerns arise. Sometimes a little bit of knowledge can help ease the situation.
Relationships with civilian family members are probably one of the hardest challenges returning soldiers have to face. So many habits and disciplines that have become such an ingrained part of a soldier’s life are not shared by their civilian family members. It can be hard to remember that those disciplines protected your life in a war zone, but in the civilian world, they are just one of many ways of living. Try to work on honest and positive communication, and let your family know that you’ll need time to adjust. If they know what you’re going through, they may be able to adjust to help you feel more comfortable.
Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking, and gardening. For more information contact Brooke via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.