Over the past decade, we’ve seen a tremendous increase in attention to and funding for research dedicated to myriad veterans’ issues. PTSD. TBI. Suicides. Veterans’ employment challenges. Family reintegration difficulties. The list simply goes on and on. It’s both impressive and a bit discouraging that our young warfighters face so many hurdles when they return from combat deployments.
The research and efforts that are now being carried out follow on a substantial and rich foundation of previous studies conducted after World War II and increasingly in the decades following the Vietnam War. And while it would have been nice to have “figured it all out” long before we sent the latest waves of GIs into the mountains and plains of Afghanistan and into the desert and cities of Iraq, the reality is that these issues are complex and growing more complex, it seems, with each passing conflict.
When I began my research into veterans issues, namely the experience of workplace reintegration by Reservists and National Guard servicemembers following extended combat deployments, I saw my efforts as a way in which I could, in some way, extend my own service to this particular population of Americans. After all, I’d spent the entire decade of the 90s serving in both the Army and Navy. Whether on patrol with my infantry scout brethren or flying onboard reconnaissance flights off North Korea and the Russian Far East, I had a front-row seat to many of the challenges facing our servicemembers as they returned from deployment, combat-related or not. The intensity of the more recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan make reintegration infinitely more challenging for those who continued serving when I returned permanently to civilian life.
While most of the attention has focused on the physical and mental disabilities so many veterans are now encountering, as well as family health related issue like domestic abuse, anger issues, etc., far less attention has been paid to the ways in which Reserve and National Guard servicemembers are being reintegrated into their civilian work roles after months away. This can be an extremely isolating and emotional time for these returning veterans, and most organizations are both unequipped (programmatic standpoint) to support these individuals in the weeks and months following their boots-to-briefcase transitions and unaware of the psychological (even at a non-clinical level) challenges of undergoing this type of cultural change.
By more deeply understanding the emotional and intellectual journey of these returning veterans, we will be able to better facilitate a quick return to the productive, positive contributions by these veterans. It’s part of what they want….a return to normality. And it’s clearly what their civilian employers also desire. My research will hopefully help bridge the divide does exist here.
As I wrap up my data collection, if you know any individuals who deployed as a Reservist or National Guard member to either Iraq or Afghanistan, please have them contact me at:
Trevor Nagle, M.S., ABD