Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

U.S. Military Service Members' Reintegration, Culture, and Spiritual Development

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

U.S. Military Service Members' Reintegration, Culture, and Spiritual Development

Article excerpt

This qualitative study aims to find common themes that may suggest portrayals of former service members 'psychological development and their reintegration. We have found their cognitive dissonance from experiencing two very different cultures: the highly structured collective culture of military life and the individualistic culture of civilian life. Former service members tend to develop and maintain the strong ideology of "service to others" in civilian life as their goal or purpose of life. It became clear to us how they have reached to this ideology when we used our ethnic backgrounds and understandings as Japanese researchers who came from a society where collective well-being is highly valued. We came to the conclusion that the macroscopic as well as spiritual views would be beneficial to incorporate when counselors, support organizations, or health care providers are assisting former service members' transition into civilian life. Keywords: Reintegration in Civilian Life, Psychological Development, Collectivistic Culture, Service to Others

Although military culture and the workplace are areas of interest for many researchers in various fields of study, few publications specifically focused on military culture are actually available (Redmond et al., 2015). Service members experience enormous cultural transitions at the time they enter the military and then again when they return to civilian life. Since service members have to be conscious of group norms and thinking, it seems difficult to pursue personal freedom and think for themselves in the military. Compared to the past when the symptoms of service members were underestimated and referred to as "shell shock, nostalgia, or combat fatigue" (Comer, 2010, p. 150) in the eras of World War II and the Vietnam War, a great concern for the needs of and care for veterans has risen significantly. Combat related symptoms, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression, are widely recognized now. Nevertheless, society tends to consider this phenomenon as an individual struggle and a macroscopic understanding of service members' readjustment to civilian life is not adequately addressed. This study hopes to address a gap in the body of knowledge on reintegration from the military with the macro level focus.

When service members reintegrate into a civilian culture, it is not hard to imagine that they feel bewildered and misunderstood by civilians who have no substantial experience of the military. The feeling of the gap in performance of presumed norms and roles between civilian life and military life can be manifested in psychological symptoms. The gap can be felt within one's self or from treatment of civilians. As a part of the reintegration process, the military offers its service members a debriefing session after their service in order to reduce and readjust psychological injuries impacted by combat experiences. General debriefing sessions, however, are brief ranging from two to several hours in one day, according to our study participants' statements. The service members express that their adjustment period is not adequately secured (Redmond et al., 2015). Numerous previous studies also address substantial difficulties of reintegration experienced by military members and their families. For example, Palmer (2008) discusses the risk factors for service members and their family when reintegrating into the society include frequent relocation, deployment, exposures to combats, and PTSD. King, King, Vogt, Knight, and Samper (2006) see that it is crucial to assess the psychological risk and resilience factor for service members and their families. Likewise, Joellenbeck, Russell, and Guze (1999) recognize the importance of medical surveillance for service members and their families. Peebles-Kleiger and Kleiger (1994) explained the stress imposed on service members and their families by the unexpected, disruptive, and hazardous duty led into service members' anticipation trauma and their families' trauma. …

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