Leaving or left the Armed Forces?
Struggling to find a way in life?
Navy Veteran Chris Paling offer a few thoughts on the struggles service personnel face when leaving the military.
Many former service personnel struggle to settle back into a safe and peaceful life when they leave the military. Many are left without proper access to resettlement services; suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are unemployed and use drink and drugs to cope; often leading to homelessness.
This is in spite of the much publicised UK Armed Forces Covenant designed to support serving personnel and their families. It often fails to do this, in realty once a person leaves the military they are on their own.
There are plenty of charities to help people out of the the void, from the governments lack of care. But these often promote militarism; they have become part of the propaganda that the military actually cares about its former employees.
Former employees of the military are more likely to get this help if they donate an arm, leg or even all of their limbs. Then they can be sure of an invitation to the Invicta games and a chance to win even more medals.
The following provides some simple but key information to highlight the need to de-programme what the military has done to the people when they were in its charge.
Why does this happen and how can people avoid problems to have a successful life out of the military?
Thousands of Armed Forces personal leave the services every year. Each person has served somewhere of the region of between 4 and 30 years. The military has its own unique:
- language (slang)
- personality and lifestyle
These start from day one; some may see this as ‘brainwashing’ or an institutional way of life, it is indeed how the military operates.
It’s common that living and working this way for many years when people try to live back in the community it often leads to setbacks:
- Feeling isolated
- Not coping with daily living tasks
- A lack of direction
- Excessive alcohol use
- Experimenting with illicit drugs
- Anger management and other emotional distress issues
What can be done to help people have a peaceful and successful life? What are the likely pitfalls?
Three of the biggest pitfalls that affect people’s well-being are PSTD, substance misuse and homelessness. Any of these (or a combination) prevents people from integrating back into new social and workplace environments.
Discipline is one of the first things taught. In basic training, personal are programmed to think it’s this that helped make them good service personnel functioning in the forces. What it really meant was they would follow orders without question. It’s not easy for people who have been through the process to recognise this. Once they have left the military it’s one of the things that slips once back in the community.
There are no organisation or daily orders prepared for a day’s activities, no Sergeant, Corporal or Leading Hand around to give orders; for a successful life people have to assume their own responsibility to make decisions. On the surface this is not always as straight forward as it may seem.
A good example is what’s needed to find a new job. People don’t necessarily have the life skills to be self-focused. They may not understand the need to take practical steps such as
- establishing a routine (waking up early/ eat breakfast/ shower/exercise)
- preparing a timetable for the day
- listing of tasks to be completed that day
- job research/CV building/applications
- networking (don’t’ become isolated)
- gaining civilian qualifications
It’s important (for everyone) in life to set goals and have clear objectives, to make a successful life, goals need to be SMART:
- time bound
Once plans and goals are made it’s important that effort is made to stick to them otherwise what’s the point of making them? At times living back in the community is going to be stressful. Family and friends can be an important part to finding peace. It’s important to take time to make connections with them; they are the ones who will help adaption into a new phase of life.
Trying to find work and establishing new social bonds is difficult. Keeping physically fit is one of the best ways to relieve stress and keep focus, so it’s important to stay active and eat well. All seem so simple? Not so, if it was then I wouldn’t be writing this article!
Often leavers feel they are the only ones struggling to cope, but there are thousands of ex forces personal who are going through, or have been through the process. Veterans for Peace (UK) are all former military men and women who have been through this. It’s important that the people know about the organisation, it can help to prevent isolation and increase support networks. People who want a peaceful life can find a positive outlet and turn trauma and despair into positive action and hope.
Chris Paling is a Veteran of the Royal Navy and now our Midlands Coordinator and a member of LEAP UK.