A 21-year-old veteran who returned to the United States to attend college and was left feeling that his opinion is unwanted and he has "nothing left to offer" offered some insightful lessons about how to treat veterans as they try to reintegrate.
It comes down to not treating veterans as damaged goods or limited in what they have to offer, a problem that may be compounded by America's tendency to stick veterans into a box when trying to deal with the many issues they face returning home.
Why are forty percent of our veterans claiming a disorder they shouldn’t have?
In reality, I think a lot of what veterans are facing is a transition disorder where we’re happy that we’re back home, but have no idea how to integrate back into society.
Describing the return to civil society as "culture shock," the author offered scenarios about the notion of "privilege," not racial or gender, but of living an unencumbered life - of behaving inconsiderately toward each other or taking each other for granted, actions that are not permitted in the military.
And that translates into how Americans treat veterans. They are no longer asked for their insight - learned in the most challenging of circumstances (and not necessarily combat). That insight is indeed unwelcome.
In modern times, we coddle the veteran or can dismiss their experience based on polarizing political views. We remind them—you are a warrior and that is where your experience lies so stick to that. This message reminds us we’ll always be at war and thus we never learn how to be at rest.
How do we make veterans feel useful once they've returned to civilian life? It would seem by returning to a more considerate way of communicating. Listen, but respectfully arguing when in disagreement. Calling someone out without calling that person useless.
AEI American Citizenship Project Manager Rebecca Burgess suggests teaching school children the value of America's military force, its roots, and the valuable roles veterans have served in the past following their military service.
Students today spend only 7.6 percent of their school time in social studies, only one part of which is civic education — the most crucial vehicle of transmitting an appreciation of the value of the American political order, and inspiring the individual to invest in the practice of democracy.
American soldiers exist primarily to protect the American people and American democratic principles. Yet how can a nation support such soldiers in the most fundamental way needed, when it no longer much knows what it itself is?
In other words, as the young veteran explains, help veterans to not always feel like they're in a conflict zone between service and society.
If we can begin to see the value veterans bring to the larger picture and teach them how to be at rest, they begin to have more in common with the farmer and business exec than just the men and women they served with.
When we begin to do that, we get to see a bit more compassion and humanity for one another, even when we’ve had different life experiences.
What do you think should be done to help service members reintegrate after service?