I don’t usually go to Business Insider for deep thoughts. But I think this author might just be on to something.
And then you exit the service.
No more intrusive surprise health and welfare inspections. No more grueling runs and setting your speed to the slowest member of your group. No more morning formations. No more of the countless bureaucratic irritations of military life. Paradise, right?
Actually, for many of us, no.
Gone, suddenly, is the cohesive structure that existed to take care of you. Gone is that strong sense of social security. Gone is the sense that, wherever you go, you know where you fit. Gone are the familiar cultural norms. Gone are your friends from your ready-made peer group, who are just as invested in your success as you are in theirs.
Much of the time the service spends its time intruding upon your life outside the normal duty hours. It’s almost always incredibly annoying. And the enforced close conditions with others can be wearing. But on the other hand, if you stick a group of 18-20 year old men together 24 hours a day, bonds of friendship, or at least shared purpose, are bound to develop.
But I suspect that the main contributor to troubled adjustment to civilian life is something else entirely, and rarely is it because of battle trauma. Rather, when Veterans leave military service, many of them, like me, are leaving the most cohesive and helpful social network they’ve ever experienced. And that hurts. Most recent Veterans aren’t suffering because they remember what was bad. They’re suffering because they miss what was good.
Of course, many Veterans just power through and do fine. Veterans on average have better health and earn more money than the average American. But others fall short of their potential, simply because they’re missing something, and they can’t tell what it is.
I remember that same sense of loss when I got out to go to college. I struggled to make friends with dorm residents and classmates. The shift from working toward a unit mission to a pursuit purely of the self was disorienting.
It’s a cliché that people will say the strongest friendships they’ve ever formed were those in the service. But there’s a reason that cliché has evolved.
What say you?