War sucks and nobody gets it. It’s not political - just reality. And yet, somehow we miss it.[i]
This statement lends significant imagery to the reality veterans face when they return home from combat. The essence of who they are is fundamentally altered by the experience. It’s no wonder that many, who haven’t endured this crucible, struggle to understand why their loved ones come back from a deployment as different people.
Tick also begins to extrapolate a key rationale for why so many veterans struggle to integrate into “normal” life when they return home. The essence of their identity has changed. Not only that, they are also forced to complete a jarring transition in who they spend time with. After having been surrounded by those who have experienced and who understand the horrors of war, veterans returning home often feel alone in a sea of strangers.
Some recent statistics put this in context:
Not only are veterans experiencing soul-altering experiences during their service to our nation, they are doing so at a pace that puts greater strain on them and their families than we’ve seen in the past.
Many veterans process these challenges by writing about their experiences. Putting events from military service onto paper is a genuinely therapeutic experience for many people, including myself.
Some significant challenges with this coping mechanism is that it doesn’t always deal with the underlying issues at hand, nor is it always accessible for the surrounding community. The civilian populace needs to be made aware of returning veterans’ mindsets if they are to successfully interact with these service men and women after the fact. Veterans need to be able to be made aware of underpinning issues regarding their experiences if they’re going to make significant progress moving forward in dealing with what happened.
We need a good starting point looking forward if we’re going to resolve these problems. Providing insight on this, Edward Tick says,
In order to help us “go beyond the particular and understand what war is and how it works,” Operation Climb On has put together a team of writers that is going to address the deeper experiences of war. Our medium will be weekly blog posts addressing topics such as demographic changes in the veteran population over time; an inside look into the mind of a veteran living with PTSD; rites and rituals surrounding combat as a rite of passage; the challenge veterans face trying to fit in to the civilian population; the evaluation of interactions between civilians and veterans.
Our writers represent diverse experiences with the military and will be able to provide deeper insight into the underlying nature of the war experience on both the veteran and civilian side of the table. Our objective is to provide a place for veterans and civilians alike to come together and find understanding and healing from the challenges of a nation at war. We’re not trying to make political statements - we’re simply hoping to change how we view the world of the warrior.
We’d love to hear from you. If you have ideas of topics to address or viewpoints that you feel are underrepresented, please get in touch with the OCO team. This project isn’t about us - it’s about helping those who have served our nation and the loved ones that support them on the home front.
[i] Junger, Sebastian. 2014. “Why Veterans Miss War.” TED Salon NY2014. https://www.ted.com/talks/sebastian_junger_why_veterans_miss_war?language=en