Difficult Transitions

Transitioning from military to civilian life

I’m feeling frustrated with a recent proposal that addresses issues of civilian and military understanding. I wanted to create a dialogue between military and civilians addressing perceptions and misconceptions about one another as a way of disintegrating borders between military and civilian communities.

I am beginning to think that creating this bridge of understanding is not going to work. After discussing this work with civilian and military friends I think the issue is bigger than I want to battle. I am discouraged by my surrender. However, after discussions with individuals in the military and those that have recently transitioned from military to civilian life, I found similar feelings amongst us. There is a feeling that civilians just don’t care, don’t want to care, and would rather have the media tell them how soldiers ‘really’ are. Civilians with no military experience have no interest in understanding nor do they see why they should find out more about their military neighbors. Some civilians see soldiers merely as a tool that destroys lives in far away countries and they are merely part of a machine that advocates death and war. I understand there are always exceptions to these views but many of these perceptions are presented time and time again during my personal experiences.

Perhaps I am too bias on the subject. Before being involved in the military I had no clue. I had many misconceptions about military people. Most of those misconceptions where rumors from friends who had no military affiliation. Of course, I found that some of those stereotypes proved to be true. And some did not. There are vast differences between individuals in the military whom make up the community just like any other community in America. Time and time again I hear from civilians that they met a soldier who spoke poorly about the military’s role in Iraq or Afghanistan which further ingrains a stereotype about ‘gung ho’ young men who have no sympathy or understanding about the horrors that comes with war. These experiences stick in the minds of civilians where stereotypes are then generated about the military and their collective mentality.

Being exposed to the military I have seen the ‘inside’ and I understand what it is like looking at it from the ‘outside’. Fortunetly, I have the ability to understand  both sides of the military gates and I wish there was more understanding for one another. However,  I feel little attention is given unless extreme negative or extreme positive viewpoints are publicized. I have extreme reservations about doing either or. I am not interested in creating an image of the military and its negative or positive attributes but the individuals that encompass it. That is what is important. Everyone’s story is different. Everyone’s experiences are important and we can all learn from one another whether we agree or not.

I am adjusting my proposal to focus on the transition from military to civilian life, the fears, struggles, realities, methods of coping, and forming relationships outside of the military. Obviously I have issues with it myself. It is difficult finding friends who do not have a negative view about the military and its role in the war. It is difficult to find others who understand what it is like to be part of a community where friends constantly come and go and the unique lifestyle that surrounds it.

It is essential to form communities for military members transitioning from military to civilian life. There needs to be a place where the transition is smooth, supportive, accepting, and strong. Perhaps these groups will spark a larger involvement with civilians in their communities through community involvement that promotes tolerance, understanding, education, and empowerment.

Some resources to start:
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America: http://iava.org

Community of Veterans: http://communityofveterans.org/

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