Counseling Services

Resources for Returning War Veterans

The War Experience

Although U.S. military personnel receive extensive pre-combat training, war-zone experiences tax service members physically and emotionally in ways for which no training program can adequately prepare them. While not all veterans have experienced combat, all have experienced the stresses of a "no front" war in which serious threats to their lives are present. Among these stressors are:

  • Reality-based fear of their own serious injury or death.
  • Constant concern for serious injury or death of fellow soldiers.
  • For those in combat, the requirement to attempt to kill the enemy.
  • Experiencing the sight, sound, and smell of dead or dying people (e.g., friends, civilians, enemy combatants) with little or no opportunity to adequately grieve.
  • Handling dead bodies and body parts.
  • Observing devastated homes and communities and homeless refugees.

Even military personnel who have not been exposed to such traumatic experiences have endured daily, lower-magnitude events and circumstances which commonly exacerbate stress in war zones. Among these are:

  • Unfamiliar living conditions that include irregular sleep and eating patterns.
  • Heavy physical demands and long work days.
  • Harsh climate.
  • Separation from loved ones and missing significant family events (birthdays, weddings, funerals).
  • Career-related concerns (e.g., delayed graduation from college, losing a job, being denied a promotion).
  • Sexual, gender, or racial harassment (e.g., unwanted comments or sexual touching, gossip and rumors directed toward individuals, sabotaging of work and/or reputation, racist remarks).

While these experiences and conditions many not be as traumatizing as those listed in the first series of bullets, these day-to-day irritations and pressures further tax service members' available coping resources and may increase their chances of developing physical and psychological problems.

Resource:  James Madison University Counseling Center for Returning War Veterans