8 Key Challenges for Military Families After Deployment
Both returning soldiers and their family members struggle with unique challenges when a soldier returns after deployment. The following major themes came up frequently in the interviews.
For returning soldiers:
Normal feels strange. Standing in line to buy milk is a very different feeling from patrolling the front lines in a danger zone. Finding your place in society again can feel difficult. “In a combat zone, what really matters is staying alive. Everything else is superfluous. That’s a hard adjustment to make at home,” says Montgomery Granger.
- Stress effects are cumulative. A potential problem associated with veterans is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. With stress, a number of issues can creep up on you, and lead to a critical stage. Robert White writes, “The surge of adrenaline had worn off and made me angry, then depressed, over something that was really nothing. I learned from a counselor that while I was deployed, I had adjusted to a new normal level of stress, quite a bit higher than normal at home.”
- Where do I belong? A returning soldier may once have been a husband who handled the finances and was the parent the kids preferred to play with. After a long deployment, these roles may change. This causes tension at home.
- The “Combat Edge” remains. Soldiers may still feel tension and fear, despite being in a safe environment. “Once home, I would get upset if we were stuck in traffic. I was constantly seeking escape routes in case of an IED. My wife and family were quick to notice my agitation,” said Mitch “Taco” Bell.
For family members:
Becoming a big spender. One mother noted that her son and his friends purchased large-ticket items after returning from deployment, quickly spending the money they saved while overseas. Family members may disagree about the best way to spend savings, creating tension.
- Facing the anger and frustration. Family members report that their returning spouse was angry and easily frustrated at work. Montgomery Granger writes, “I was also very angry with people not seeming to know or care that a war was going on. After a while, it occurred to me that was why we did what we did, so that people back home could go about their daily lives without worrying about the war.” Likewise, spouses at home experienced anger from being alone for so long.
- Handling the home and children. Helping children adjust to having Daddy or Mommy home again is a significant challenge that can cause hurt feelings for everyone. In addition, spouses may struggle with redistributing household tasks that only one family member held during deployment.
- The aftermath when things go wrong. Many spouses struggle during deployment to handle things they weren’t used to handling alone, such as water in the basement or vehicle repairs. When spouses return, there can still be an air of frustration between from cumulative stress. Deployed soldiers also report feeling helpless when spouses share their issues and they can’t help.