Coming Home or Coming Unglued—Dis-Integration Disasters

You’re not the same anymore. Home isn’t what it was. Your friends seem frivolous. Your family doesn’t understand you. Everything is just different—the sounds, the smells, even time is different. People are lazy, stupid and inefficient. Plus they aren’t relevant. And you can’t sleep. You sleep four hours here then 14 hours, then not again for 36 hours.

And there is no one to talk to about what you see and how you feel because they really wouldn’t understand. They care, so they’re always asking questions and trying to help, but they really can’t, and that’s annoying…to them and to you. Most of the time the questions just bring up more memory and just makes you close up tighter and then depression seeps in to your ever shrinking world.

Persistent service-related reintegration problems plague our active duty military and veterans. Reintegration failure can manifest as a low-grade, chronic distractedness; outbursts of rage or grief; reckless behavior; loss of interest in normal relationships and activities; addictions or binges; anxiety; pain; and suppressed feelings of anger or misery among other out of ordinary or ongoing negative feelings and behaviors.

If you are retired or separated, you have a lot of resources, from the VA to the VFW. Your church, doctors and other therapists can help tremendously, but you have to reach out. But if you are still on active duty and you want more combat tours—how many of you would lay out the truth to your CO or team leader? Some do and they are relegated to the desk and poor evaluations many times. Many conceal what they are going through and choose to self-medicate and sign up for more tours.

Our Everyday Valor guest for March 13, 2015, was Father Michael Duesterhaus, a chaplain and commander in the U.S. Naval Reserves who deployed with Marine Corps units three times to Iraq and once with the U.S. Navy to East Africa commonly referred to as the HOA (Horn of Africa).

He says the basis of successful reintegration is transition—for both families and the service member. Establishing and utilizing support systems on tour and at home are crucial. After WWII, men came home and had “group therapy,” known as drinks at the VFW. They’d have a couple of beers, mention old Bob who didn’t make it home, shed a few tears, then toast to Bob’s memory and do their best to move on. That esprit de corps has got to be re-established for today’s active duty military and veterans.

In that vein, Kristin Beck has offered to buy a lifetime membership to the VFW for some worthy veteran. Send in your stories and the Chief will pick the veteran who gets it. A Vietnam veteran bought then “Chris, Navy SEAL” a lifetime membership returning from Iraq in 2003 with a “Welcome Home” and a beer. The stories in that VFW were a healing experience for all of us.

The military chaplaincy is an excellent resource as well since it is non-denominational in nature. A military chaplain will respect and maintain his neutral stance toward agnostic, atheist, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, pagans and many more. Basically any religion or no religion, you have a sounding board. The chaplain is a shoulder to lean on and a consultant who keeps no records and holds everything you say in confidence. Forever. No judgment. No bias. No consequences. They are just a support system and someone truly interested in your health and success.

One of our callers today was Phil, the nephew of a 49-year-old retired E-7 diagnosed with cancer. At Everyday Valor, we are seeking out people like Father Duesterhaus who are making the world a better place, and did our caller pinpoint a great cause to get behind! Phil’s niece, a 10-year-old, decided to take matters on herself to help her grandfather, Andy. She figured out how to set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for Andy to help with his co-pays and other bills that are stacking up as he battles his disease.

If every person does one really good thing every day, this world will be transformed. This is our revolution, and you are invited. Leave your footprint this hour, this day. A grateful nation is an active nation. Show your valor. Here. Now. Always.

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