By Liz Grow
As more and more troops come home due to massive drawdowns, many Americans welcome deployed military members back home with open arms and admiration for their courageous sacrifice. However, when a soldier decides to remove his uniform and re-enter civilian life, misperceptions about the veteran’s ability to fully function and find success in the civilian world abound thanks to recent and persistent press about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). While mental health professionals want to be sure that service members and veterans who need help get what they need, it’s also important to remember that U.S. troops are remarkably resilient.
Any combat experience will leave a human irrevocably changed. Combat will not only put a soldier under an inordinate amount of stress, but that stress can last for an extended amount of time. Duration and intensity of the exposure to such hostile and unstable environments can cause a human to develop extreme coping skills. When a soldier returns home, it can be difficult to shut off their heightened level of awareness and the self-preservation instinct they built up during deployment.
But the truth is, only a small fraction of veterans who return home from war will manifest distinct symptoms of PTSD and require more significant intervention. The majority of soldiers returning from deployment will not need additional assistance and will find they are able to effectively deal with the psychological and emotional aftermath of combat through self-awareness and the support of their peers, community, family, and friends.
Just as the modern warrior quickly adapts to the volatile environment in which he fights, so too will he adapt to the ever-changing landscape of the civilian workplace or college campus. A soldiers’ deep capacity to take military experiences and positively translate them to any endeavor is what makes our military so resilient. While they will always identify as alumni of the U.S. Military, our men and women in uniform can reinvent themselves and use the leadership, discipline, and grit acquired in the armed forces to excel in the civilian world.
Liz Grow, MA, LPC is the Director of Counseling Partnerships for Fidelis, a technology company committed to solving the military to civilian career transition challenge. As a former psychotherapist and Army brat, Liz is committed to serving those men and women of the military who want to find as much success in the civilian workplace as they have in the military.