Saturday, 12 March 2011

Insight from an Iraq Veteran - Transition from Combat to Civilian Life

The stressful and frustrating transition from combat life to civilian life isn’t easy, and can be made more difficult by financial stresses, unemployment, relationship crises, physical wounds such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), and untreated mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
After navigating and negotiating the dangers of combat, there are hundreds of people returning home to find figurative land mines while trying to transition back into civilian life, returning to or applying for jobs, applying for benefits, or simply reaching out for help.

Every person who has been in combat is significantly changed as a human being and about one third or more of returning vets experience a more severe PTSD. This interferes with our lives, our work and our relationships.

I know to be fact after having served 12 years in the Military, that I have the training to be in the combat zone, but having been in combat has diminished my perception of civilian life, and civilian people. Now, I feel like I don’t have the training or the know how to be a civilian again.
One of the problems with our perception as combat vets is that we feel that there is no safe place anymore and that we won't be understood by families and friends. One of the fears that I still carry, and the fear of a lot of combat veterans is that if I tell you what I really did over there, you’re not going to like me anymore or you're going to judge me. I currently have friends who call me "the merc" simply because I worked as a security contractor in Iraq and Kosovo. And from trying to reach out and navigating around the comments and perceptions made by friends and family, I find it more and more difficult to open up and take the step to transition and heal. I feel that If I tell you the brutal truth and the reality of what happened while deployed, you simply wouldn’t understand. So I can’t say what I really feel and this prevents me and thousands of others who have seen war from transitioning back into civilian life. This prevents us from healing.

Written by a private security contractor veteran from Iraq.

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