Conflict & Justice

5 pieces of advice from vets on returning to the US after service

Veterans Day.jpg

US Army serviceman Jason Richmond, of Batavia, Illinois, walks through some of the two thousand and thirteen United States flags that are part of the Aurora Healing Fields, to honor veterans.


REUTERS/Jeff Haynes

We train and prepare our military men and women to handle the challenges of war. Yet, returning to the US after serving in a war zone is loaded with challenges, too. And those may be harder to prepare for.

We invited The World's online community of veterans, their families and their friends to share their best advice for newly-returning veterans. 

We've pulled together their wisdom and experience into these 5 tips for picking up with life at home.

1. Ask for help

Rich Williams texted this advice: "Be strong enough and smart enough to ask for help."  And, Ronald Gaete from Maryland advised that newly returning veterans should find a mentor in another veteran who has successfully transitioned back to civilian life and "don't be reluctant to ask for help."

Another piece of advice came from Lynn Higgans in Utah who wrote in with this: "Getting help for PTSD is not a sign of weakness, but a statement of strength. Be brave and get treatment for all your wounds. Soldier on."

2. Get your benefits

"Stand up! Fight for whatever it is you want. Benefits, a job, promotion, college degree; go after it with all you've got. You quit, you get nothing!" wrote Michael Villacres of New York.

Chase Gillespie from Denver advised that returning veterans should be proactive with getting their records in order and constantly follow up with paperwork submissions through the VA. "Whether it be medical, G.I. Bill or service record related, the VA will NOT be worrying about your case on a personal basis."

3. Give yourself time

Several from the community suggested that returning vets should give themselves time.

"Don't try to assimilate immediately," wrote Jane Klingesmith of Colorado. "Give yourself time to ease back into 'normal' life. Don't make any life-changing decisions within the first six months."

Another member of the community from Chicago added that "Everyone's different. Take time to decompress and reconnect. Remember, you are still important. If possible, volunteer and use your experience and drive to continue the mission in a different way. Make new 'glory days' here, where you are also needed."

4. Connect with others for support

Emily Armstrong from Indianapolis wrote us, advising to "make sure you have a good support system and at least one person you can openly talk with and tell the deep truth."

Benjamin Hartford of New Hampshire wrote that "whatever it is you've been through (however big or small, no matter what others say,) you are not alone. Guilt, fear, hatred, lack of emotion. Talk to someone."

Several other people from the community encouraged newly-returning veterans to find resources in their local community to help them adapt and reconnect. "A big challenge is recreating the support network you had when you were deployed," wrote Bill Aheron from North Carolina. "There are lots of great people and organizations out there eager to help, but help them find you."

Jonathan Taylor advised: "Just accept that people can love you without understanding you. And that our duty to our community isn't finished."

5. Get involved, volunteer

Adding to the advice from Jonathan Taylor, several people wrote in suggesting that vets should try to get involved with a local organization.

"Our experiences and expertise help inform community leaders and organizations to make our community a better place," wrote Roberto Fernandez III from Florida. "It also helps with the mental aspects of transition following a deployment."

Rounding things out, there was one piece of advice from Andrew Ralston of Minneapolis that we could all take notice of. "Chill out, you aren't in a war zone any more. Relax and love life."

If you are a veteran or are family or a friend of a veteran, we'd love to hear from you. Join our newsroom and help out in our reporting. Sign up to received our occasional text messages by texting "Return" to 69866. And, if you have advice for our newly returning veterans, add your thoughts in the comments below.

Our friends at The Takeaway and the Center for Investigative Reporting also teamed up to find out from veterans about how they've tackled the challenges of returning home.