NH’s military population is comprised of many who serve in the Guard and Reserves. Many of our state residents aren’t aware that NH’s military servicemen and women are leaving and returning from small and large deployments at various times during the year. Without an active duty base in the state, these Guardsmen and Reservists enter back into their families, neighborhoods, and workplaces without much of a buffer between their deployment experience and the norms and expectations of civilian life. Reintegration is the stage of the deployment cycle where those who have served arrive back home and re-enter civilian life.
Better understanding the realities of the Reintegration stage helps everyone affected by a service member’s return home.
There are lots of social media pictures of the joyful reunions of servicemen and women returning to the arms of their families. And of course these moments are magical. What is sometimes harder is what follows the initial reunion, when reintegrating seamlessly into the civilian world poses challenges related to family relationships, community support, and jobs. Everyone has changed- the service member has had experiences that have changed him or her, the kids have grown, roles in the family have shifted, new neighbors have moved in, the job that existed before now no longer exists- all these changes can cause anxiety and tension, even if they are positive! It’s not unusual for financial problems, communication problems, or relationship issues to surface during this time.
Reintegration has no official timeline. For many, this stage lasts just a few months, but for others, challenges can arise many months or even years after the return. Although many service members and their families demonstrate great resilience during the whole deployment cycle, many others have difficulties. Knowing that this is normal can be helpful, to lessen the confusion and angst felt by those who are struggling with this transition and are wondering why everything isn’t like the storybook images seen on social media.
It helps to appreciate that Time itself can be powerful in this process, allowing for an easing back into things, being patient while adapting to the new rhythms of the home, the community, and the workplace. Understanding that this is a normal and gradual transition, gives space for the reintegration challenges to resolve with time.
What can families, communities, and workplaces do to support a service member and his/her family after a return from deployment? Having realistic expectations about the time needed to adjust is important. Too many Welcome Home BBQs and large parties in the first few weeks can actually be overwhelming. We can express our appreciation for their sacrifice. We can ask about their experience, and listen and try to understand. This builds a feeling of acceptance and appreciation. Effective communication–before, during, and after deployment–is key to a successful transition. If a service member is struggling to communicate, encourage him/her to seek out other family, friends, battle buddies, or mental health professionals for help.
Easterseals NH Military & Veterans Services (MVS) offers Care Coordination to veterans of all eras – from World War II veterans to those who are currently serving. Services are free, confidential, and provided locally – in the veteran’s home or other convenient location. Care Coordinators are community caseworkers with extensive training in military culture. Their job is to do whatever it takes to help service members, veterans, and their families thrive. Care Coordinators help those in crisis situations, and are also available to help families plan ahead and avoid problems when facing life changes and challenges. If you know a service member, veteran, or military family in need, please contact the Easterseals NH Military & Veterans Services Program Coordinator at 603.315.4354.
Veterans Count, the philanthropic program of ESNH MVS, provides emergency financial assistance to veterans for critical and unmet needs. Veterans Count raises awareness about the challenges that can result from military service and raises money to help address these needs. To learn more about Veterans Count or to make a donation, please visit vetscount.org/nh. Or, mail your donation to Veterans Count, Easterseals NH, 555 Auburn St, Manchester, NH 03103.