There are many ways we thank veterans for their service. From a simple thank you to giving up first-class seats on airplanes; to discounts at restaurants and honoring them at sporting events. They’re all generous gestures and appreciated, but life after the military can be difficult. Therefore, one of the best ways we can thank a veteran is to recognize their value as future employees, colleagues and neighbors.
Transitioning to civilian life after the military can be challenging in any number of ways. Some soldiers return with physical consequences from their service. That could mean loss of limb, hearing or eyesight. But not all consequences are physical. The prevalence of invisible wounds such as post traumatic stress, survivors guilt, and moral injury has increased in recent decades, as we’ve come to better understand some of the psychological impacts of combat.
Data tells us the rate of post-9/11 veterans who return from service with an invisible wound is greater than the overall historical rate. Up to 20% of deployed service men and women since 9/11 report symptoms corresponding to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Still others may suffer from depression or anxiety. Each soldier’s experience is uniquely different, and some manifestations of invisible wounds may not surface for years.
Still other veterans may return from service having avoided injury or consequence of any kind. Yet, this doesn’t ensure a simple transition to civilian life. There are factors related to transition that can impact any veteran – many that civilians might not have considered. A study carried out by the George W. Bush Institute’s Military Service Initiative found that eight out of 10 post-9/11 veterans said Americans did not understand the issues they face.
Attempting to understand some of the issues a veteran might face can help civilians provide the best thanks of all, which is helping veterans become a productive member of the society they served to protect. An employed veteran is one who is better prepared to care for themselves. Not all veterans have medical or mental healthcare through the VA; and not all veterans receive disability or retirement pay. But an employed veteran is one who more readily has the chance to seek medical or mental health services.
Studies have shown that finding work is the most challenging adjustment for veterans leaving service. One of the best ways to thank a veteran is by helping them more easily make this transition. That might mean support services as a friend or neighbor. That might mean helping make connections for possible job opportunities. It might mean serving as a mentor or an advisor.
Even if you didn’t serve in the military and don’t have the same background experiences to draw upon, you have the opportunity to play a significant role for a veteran trying to forge their way into civilian life after the military.
You might be able to help more than you thought possible. With corporate experiences to share, you might have just the advice or insight that can help a veteran make the difficult transition to returning home.