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PTSD, deployment issues awareness

  • Published
  • By Steven Belcher
  • 7th Medical Operations Squadron

Deployers, we’ve all imagined it countless times, that sweet, tantalizing thrill of returning to the life you left behind. However, what comes next can be more challenging than the missions, miles, and metal we are returning from. The process of transitioning from garrison to deployment orientation is relatively well defined: establish mission, cut orders, assess readiness, and give it your best until it’s time to come home. The opposite is less obvious. It consists of unique phases, each with rewards and difficulties.

Remember that life didn’t stop for those who stayed behind. Everyone has changed in some way, including you, and the reintegration process allows you and those close to you, to combine your experiences into an effective tool to live a happy life. The process of reintegration can feel like a journey because you will likely go through several phases. First, is pre-entry. It’s the dreaming phase where you imagine your return and what everyone will be like. Sometimes these expectations are based on a movie ending rather than reality. Second is the reunion. It’s where you come together with your friends and family and enjoy what might feel like the best day of your life.
Third is disruption, in your time away – those close to you have become used to handling things differently (e.g., a family member may have taken on several new tasks, an old friend may have new friends, etc). An important part of the solution, is to recognize the problem and talk about it which brings us to the fourth phase, communication. This ensures everyone’s concerns and needs are addressed and allows for compromise to occur. The final phase is normalcy. This happens after everyone feels content with the situation and their routines become second-nature.

But sometimes, even after fully returning and reengaging, we may realize that what we went through has hitched a ride into our homes. Post-traumatic stress disorder is like an echo in our brain of the events and experiences we survived, but still carry within us. This echo can affect us months and years later.

There are many ways to address trauma, from alcohol, to avoidance, to healing through faith or counseling. Some of these solutions can work for a short period of time, but never address the root of the problem. Think of that echo like a pesky weed, you can rip the stem you see above ground, but the roots are really what you’re after to stop it once and for all. For example, substance use and avoidance can feel good in the moment, but it only prolongs the unavoidable echo. Counseling helps us to stand firm, process what happened, and face it head-on, quieting the echo more and more over time. This process can go smoother with help, and the staff of the 7th Medical Group are ready and waiting to assist at (325)-696-5380.

You are not alone. While wearing the uniform of the US military is a privilege relatively few in our country get to experience, even fewer service members actually deploy. You have joined a very special group and are even more deserving of living your best life. By combining who you were before stepping unto that plane or ship with the experiences (good and hard) along the way, you are capable of even greater accomplishments. Welcome back, and we are lucky to have you.