Big Lizards has a great entry on military re-entry shock. Well, that’s not what they call it in the military. But that’s what it is.
I have always been appalled, ever since I was a child during the Vietnam War, that the veterans would come home and have no help getting re-established in their communities. Even as a child I knew that WWII veterans had time on their ships coming home and that the Vietnam veterans were picked up and dropped off 24 hours after they were shooting. I figured maybe we should put them on boats.
As a former missionary apprentice with 18 hours in graduate missions, I did a lot of reading/research on culture shock. It was required.
So I was pleased to read in Big Lizards’ entry that the Pentagon figured that out, after Vietnam, and actually went about doing something for it. I know it doesn’t always work out. The military is supposed to stage them in. They arrive at one base, debrief, and are sent to their home base. But I know from the blogging world that often their families show up at that first base, so that the military doesn’t really have any time to re-acclimate to the US, much less civilian life.
I can certainly understand the families’ perspective. He or she has been gone a year. I want to see them.
But I also know that the time it takes to go through those stages of re-aclimation is accelerated by having the steps.
It doesn’t mean the veteran won’t still have nightmares. I have nightmares and I’ve never had anyone shooting at me. It doesn’t mean the veteran won’t still react problematically to things which used to be ignorable. (Car backfiring sends veteran, with family members, to floor.)
But it does mean that they are more likely to recover and recover well if the veteran comes home in stages. I’ve heard lots of fussing about them “being in Kuwait for two weeks before they can come home,” but I smile, relieved that someone has recognized the problem and taken steps to improve the situation.