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Posts Tagged ‘reintegration’

History has taught us that people are different when they return from war.  Part of the difference is often called the soldier’s paradox.  After returning from combat, veterans can be emotionally distant, edgy, and angry, but they are also happy to be home.

During this time, veterans may have a short temper and little tolerance for mistakes.  They are often more independent and boisterous than before the deployment.  The transition from the war zone to the home zone can be very difficult.  It also allows an atmosphere where anger, resentment, bitterness, and even depression can occupy our minds if we allow it.  If firm boundaries are not in place, we will abuse alcohol, behave badly, curse and swear, start shouting matches, and spend more time with our battle buddies than at home.

To put it plainly, we stumble.

1 Corinthians 10:32 shares, “Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God . . . .”

This is an important reminder for returning veterans.  We should not falter in our witness.  Even if we are hurting, our actions are examples that other may follow.  It does not matter who may be watching an NCO, an officer, a spouse, a stranger, or your own child.  That being the case, we should not lead others toward sin.  We should instead reflect the love and peace of Christ.  Our actions should point toward the cross and demonstrate a redeemed life.

There are ways to ease the transition home.

Make time for your family.  Soldiers often make strong ties with fellow warriors while deployed.  This was part of your support network while down range, but there is a family who needs you.  Balance time between battle buddies and family.  Be a godly example for your spouse and kids.

Make time for God.  Growth and development is what every parent wants in a child.  If a child stops growing any parent would be concerned.  God wants us to mature and strengthen our faith.  If you are the same Christian you were last year, something needs to change.  Turn prayer, study, and fellowship into regular activities.  In time, you will see the difference.

We all stumble.  But there is a responsibility to get back on track.  Remember that sanctification is the lifelong process of being changed from one degree of glory to the next, constantly growing in Christ.  As military families continue reintegration, pursue the example of Christ.

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Chaplains are pretty busy during Annual Training season in the National Guard.  Tuesday I gave another suicide prevention class.  It’s a requirement that Soldiers get the presentation at least once a year.  The training focuses on the magnitude of the problem, how common issues can drive anyone to the point of despair, and that everyone can watch out for your battle buddy.

While many try to pin the Army suicide issue on multiple deployments, the majority of issues that drive people to suicide are common issues:  failed relationships, financial difficulty, and legal woes.  These are typical factors that we see in the civilian population, at schools, in factories, and even in the church.  PTSD is a factor in military suicide, but it is not the top issue that Time magazine or other media outlets want you to believe.

The fundamental issue to remember is that everyone can save a life.  You probably survived a breakup, be it in high school, college, or at work.  You probably understand what it is like to bounce a check or have a tough time making your paycheck last the entire month.  We are all in the same boat.  We all have the life experience necessary to help people at risk of suicide.

Remember and apply ACE: Ask, Care, Escort.

If you believe that someone is at risk of suicide, ask him/her about the problem.  Find out what is going on in the person’s life.  Directly ask if he/she is thinking about suicide.  Care by listening to the issue.  Find out what is causing the pain and suffering.  Why is the Soldier upset?  Finally, escort the Soldier to a resource.  That can be a chaplain, a medic, a counselor, an NCO, a friend, or a family member.

Don’t leave the person alone.  Make sure that he or she gets help.  It is okay to call a suicide hotline or wake up a supervisor, just don’t ignore the warning signs.

You don’t have to be a mental health counselor to apply ACE.  You don’t have to be an expert.  But you can practice these basic steps in suicide first aid.  Do your part to reduce suicide and help your friends.

If you need immediate assistance these suicide hot lines are always available:

Military One Source – 1.877.995.5247 or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1.800.273.TALK (8255).

 

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The Joint Chiefs of Staff have recently outlined new policies to deter sexual assaults in the armed forces.

One of the major changes will happen at basic training for new recruits in every service branch.  New recruits will receive training on sexual assault policies within their first two weeks on active duty.  Making sure that recruits are educated on right conduct and appropriate behavior will go a long way in the force.  This prevention and education effort should be viewed as an important step in reducing sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military.

Additional policy changes include ensuring that sexual assault cases are handled by officers at the Colonel or O-6 level, and forming a new Special Victims Units across each service branch in order to better investigate assaults and bring more perpetrators to justice.  Cases will no longer be dropped by low-level commanders who can prevent investigations from moving forward with flimsy excuses.  Cases will instead move past the local unit level and be pushed up the chain of command for investigation by senior officers.

While these changes are new and still being fine tuned for implementation, I hope that advocacy efforts will also be a part of the equation.  All of the services need to provide high levels of support through unit victim advocates, sexual assault response coordinators, medical services, legal representation, and counseling.

Veterans and service members can make confidential reports to a chaplain, healthcare provider, sexual assault response coordinator, or victim advocate.  If you need help or have questions you can call 877-995-5247 or click www.safehelpline.org for additional resources.

 

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The VA recently announced that it will hire an additional 1,600 nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers to bolster its staff of mental health providers.  VA officials said they plan to launch an immediate recruiting and hiring effort in its 21 service networks.

Many veterans report difficulty in getting appointments and receiving timely access to the care they need.

I believe that this announcement will make a positive impact on veterans and military families.  Hiring additional staff will go a long way to improve the care and service veterans receive.  It will also increase the trust and confidence that veterans place in VA medical centers.  One bad experience can easily convince a veteran that quality care is beyond their reach, or worse yet, no one cares.  I know service members who say, “if the VA isn’t willing to help me, then why should I even try to get help in the first place.”

Today’s story should be seen as encouragement.  Encouragement that veterans matter.  Encouragement that seeking help will not be ignored.

 

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The headline was small and muted this month, but the Army reported 278 suicides for 2011.  That figure represents Active Duty, Guard, and Reserve components.  While that number may not immediately seem like good news, it is nearly a ten percent drop from 2010.  It is also the first time that number has declined in four years.

I understand why no one wanted to herald the news, but this should still be seen as a victory.  We are making an incredible difference in the lives of people.  Suicide prevention training has taken hold in the force and continues to grow.  Soldiers and families understand that it is okay to talk about deployment issues and concerns.  Stigma and fear continues to decline.  Counselors, medics, chaplains and battle buddies at every level are teaching service members how to address suicidal thoughts.  That being said, there is still more work to be done.

Broken relationships are still the number one reason that Soldiers commit suicide.  It is important that first line leaders sit down with service members at the first hint of marital conflict.  Make time to listen and discover how your Soldiers are dealing with the hardships of life.

Practice ACE:  Ask, Care, Escort.  Ask people how they are doing.  Care about their situation through listening.  Escort people to a community resource when they need help.

Military One Source is available 24/7.  You can call and immediately speak with a counselor or ask for a referral.  The operator will give you several local counseling options and assist you in making an appointment.  Service members can receive 12 free counseling sessions each year.  Military One Source can be reached at 1.800.342.9647.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available to help those contemplating suicide.  You can call 1.800.273.TALK (8255) and be connected to a counselor.  Once you are on the lifeline, a person can decide to speak with a veteran or a civilian.

Army suicides are starting to decline.  Our efforts are bearing fruit in multiple arenas.  One year will may not establish a pattern, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.

 

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Military families and military couples frequently ask how they should reconnect once a deployment is finished.  Families and veterans should keep these five stages in mind.

Preparation.  Service members and families make plans for the return home.  Service members are still deployed, but folks begin to talk about their expectations and wants when they are reunited.  What do you want to eat at home?  Do you want a family get together in the back yard?  Can we take a cruise or take the kids to Disneyland?  Discussions focus on your return home and immediate plans.

Honeymoon.  This is just after the homecoming ceremony when your commander yells, “dismissed”.  The beautiful beginning starts when you get to hug and smooch on your loved ones who were waving signs and flags just minutes earlier.  This is the period when everything is right and perfect in the world.  Service members will go home, kick their feet up, and get some rest.  Relatives and friends are just happy to have their veteran home.  Couples frequently ask family to watch the kids so that they can have a romantic get away the first or second week home.  The honeymoon period can last days, weeks, and hopefully even longer.

Disruption.  This is when challenges starts to appear for families.  Arguments take place and voices start to get louder around the house.  Kids may challenge the order and rules that existed during the deployment because your warrior is back.  They may attempt to divide parents and get what they want instead of following the rules.  Arguments take place over new roles in the home.  The niceness and special attention that couples gave each other during the honeymoon period is now in short supply.  The veteran may be asked to perform an increasing amount of chores and tasks that weren’t important two weeks ago.  There is little or no tolerance in allowing your service member to sleep in each morning.  It’s time to get back to business.

Adjustment.  This is the time when you establish new roles, responsibilities, and goals.  Dad may not know about Friday evening walks at the lake, because this tradition started during the deployment.  Who will pick up the kids from school now that Mom is back?  The kids didn’t help fix dinner before the deployment, but it has been the norm for a year.  Will they continue to prepare meals?  Who will make sure that the kids finished their homework?  Who will tuck the children in bed?  All of these tasks were known during the deployment, but veterans may need to relearn, share, or change some household roles.

New Normal.  This is when changes are still being negotiated and are slowly becoming patterns.  The roles may not be the same as before the separation, but the military family is back in action.  Remember that every deployment is different and the time to adjust will vary also.  Your first deployment was different from your second.  Try not to compare the reunions with each other.

Again, every military couple and family will adjust to reunions in a different way.  But keep these stages in mind when warriors come home.  Soldiers should take the time to rest and relax from that long combat tour.  Don’t sell your leave.  Take it and enjoy the down time at home.  Couples should rekindle the romance that stood the test of time.  Try to catch a Strong Bonds marriage retreat.  And kids deserve some quality time with their warrior as well.  Make each moment count now that your warrior is home.

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