When a service member leaves the military, they are leaving a unique way of life. Whether it’s the early mornings, the time away from family, or simply the connection to other service members, the daily life of someone who served in the military is not common to those who never served. By any definition of culture, the military is a separate sub-culture: it has its own way of dress, of transmitting information from one generation to another, its own unique characteristics that define the lifestyle.
Leaving that culture can be challenging.
This book, Military in the Rear View Mirror, is the third compilation of articles from the Head Space and Timing blog. This book explores the need to undergo a psychological transition from one phase of life to another. Whether a service member is carrying the impact of past experiences, currently undergoing transition and change, or are trying to establish who they will become, Military in the Rear View Mirror can help service members, veterans, their families, and those who support them understand more about the military mindset.
What is Military in the Rear View Mirror about?
Entering the military is a process of change from pre-military life to assimilation into military culture. That assimilation is made through basic military training, and the individual learns the unique lifestyle that is associated with military culture. Leaving the military is a similar transition; only this time, there is no boot camp for civilian life. Military in the Rear View Mirror provides articles related to that transition: how a service member’s time in the military impacts the present, current transformation, and future development. Additionally, the book begins with a discussion about a serious topic, suicide in the military population.
Honest Discussions about Veteran Suicide
The impact of suicide in the veteran population is widely known. Many of us who have served have “a number;” the number of fellow service members that we have lost to suicide. For many of us, even most of us, that number is greater than the number of those we lost in combat. There have been, and needs to continue to be, entire books written about how to end suicide in the military population. Not enough is being talked about it, because it’s still happening. Until suicidal self-injury no longer becomes an option, more must be done. One of the first things is to have honest discussions about the topic; it’s a taboo subject, one that we don’t like to think about. There are tons of myths surrounding it and people doing things that we think are effective, but they’re really not.This short section includes a couple of thoughts on the topic. We need to learn how to have real and honest conversations about something that most don’t like to talk about, but is a very real and persistent danger in the veteran community.
Who We Were: The Past Impacting the Present
One of the most significant parts of post-military life is an identity as a former service member. There are those of us who someone sees and they can immediately identify as a veteran: we wear the hat, the clothes, we have the gear, we keep the stuff on our desk or hanging on our wall. There are others of us who you think may have served, but aren’t sure. Maybe it’s the way we talk, or carry ourselves. Our demeanor. Then there are those of us who you would have no clue that we had ever served. There’s nothing wrong with any of these styles. As I often tell my clients, if you are happy with the way you are, and you’re not hurting yourself, your family, violating someone else’s rights, or doing anything illegal, then go for it. It’s not up to me or anyone else to judge someone else.
The difficulty comes when our past impacts our present in a negative way. A current or former service member is psychologically impacted by the military, in the same way that a teacher or a construction worker is psychologically impacted by their career choice. It’s a hard job, like many, and it’s dangerous; that changes people. This section looks at how the past impacts the present, and what action can be taken after awareness.
Who We Are: Transformation and Change
I will never be a civilian. Before I joined the military, I was; I became a Soldier when I enlisted. Now that I’ve left the military, I have become a third thing, a mix of soldier and civilian: this thing called a Veteran. I will be a veteran at least twice as long as I was a soldier (God willing) but it will always be a significant part of my identity.
Change is difficult; it’s uncomfortable to leave the familiar and try something new. The change from civilian to soldier was hard and demanding…but it was also required. The change from soldier to veteran was demanding too, but for many of us, the transformation is not complete. We change physically: the extrinsic factors of the military go away. We also change behaviorally, to some extent. What some of us don’t do is change psychologically or emotionally. It’s not required; there’s not some post-military drill sergeant demanding that we change the way we think and feel. Sometimes, we don’t even know that it’s necessary. It’s only when it gets in the way and we find ourselves stuck in post-military life that we have to figure out how to make the transformation complete.
Who We Will Become: Moving Forward in Post-Military Life
Several years ago, I was having lunch with a mentor who asked me how long I’d been out of the military. I responded, “It’s been two whole years!” He laughed and said, “kid, you still have sand behind your ears. Come talk to me when you’ve been out fifteen years.” The thing about the future is that we don’t know what’s out there. Maybe we want to cling on to the past because it’s what we know, no matter how much it sucked. Maybe we’re too overwhelmed with simply surviving in the present to think about what things will be like for us in twenty years. The fact is, however, that we will certainly be travelling down the Veteran road for a very long time.
As I write this, the WWII and Korean War generation is passing. There is not a Vietnam Veteran that is younger than 65; the service members who fought at the height of that war are in their seventies. The future is the unknown land where we’re going to live, so we might as well start to get ready for it.
How Can You Support?
Here are some ways you can help get the word out about the latest book:
- Purchase one or more copies on Amazon
- Write a review on Amazon. An honest one, of course!
- Think of at least three people who would benefit from this book and let them know about it.
- Share news about the book via your social media networks. Tag me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook so I can help spread your appreciation, and show you mine!
- Introduce me to people you know who could book me as a speaker. Anyone who is interested in learning about and talking about veteran mental health is right up my alley!
I sincerely appreciate your support in helping get this book launched with some great momentum. Feel free to leave a comment below or reach out on social media!