This started for me as a personal quest to make some sense of my own experience after ‘invaliding discharge’ from the British Army, and it turned into a doctoral research project from there.
It is based on research and experience which shows that time spent in the environment of the armed forces (which is unlike most other environments) can result in a form of ‘reverse culture shock’ for some when leaving, even when they have known that retirement has been coming for a long time.
It is also evident this can be more difficult when dealing with physical and/or mental illness and/or injury at the same time.
Furthermore—and importantly—my experience and research also tells me that a period of revision of your ‘life story’ (in other words your biography) can help you work out ‘where you have been’ and what your experience can mean for you in the future. This is often known as ‘narrative revision’.
Once done, this can be used to leverage more influence over your ‘destination’, based on what you have learnt by doing this. Information, after all, is power; and learning can lead to transformation.
This is something that I have found crucial in my own experience, and therefore recommend to others in similar situations.
These considerations are explored in more detail as part of the thesis I am writing for my Doctorate in Education, but I present some of them here to gauge a reaction.
While I stress that by no means all veterans experience a degree of difficulty upon leaving their military careers behind, it is clear some do. It is people like this I ultimately want to help.
But I welcome reactions from anyone, for example if you didn’t experience any difficulty (please share why that was).
I would also be keen to hear from those connected with veterans (and have views/experience, such as family members, charities etc), or from those simply interested in the broader picture, including those dealing with physical/mental illness and/or injury and not connected with the military.
Similarly, if you are involved in research in this area, I’d be equally keen to hear your perspective and any tips (e.g. references, contacts, views etc).
A note on style
Given the partially academic origins of this site, I have continued the referencing convention I use in my thesis. But rather than provide a full reference list at the end of each post (or on a separate page), I provide links to the relevant article or book whenever I use the reference for the first time in each post. I hope that by doing this I am acknowledging the vital work of others in accepted academic terms, but also indicating that what I say can be triangulated using these references. I hope this will lend a reassuring degree of credibility on one hand, but also provide a source of further reading which is easily accessible without hunting around for footnotes or references lists elsewhere.
Finally, I also hope that by maintaining a degree of academic convention, I am avoiding condescending to the very people I want to help. My experience of being a British Army Education Officer is that every Service person I encountered was eager, able, and willing to get stuck into ‘education’. They did not require, or indeed respond well to being pandered to. In contrast, they did respond well to being treated like the adults they were. Therefore, I do not wish to insult my wider veteran and military ‘family’ by infantilising and attempting to talk down to them now. They don’t deserve this, and I don’t believe it will help. Quite the opposite—it is likely to put them off what I have found to be a significant help in my own transition.
Cancer and an associated psychological reaction led to my ‘invaliding discharge’ from a military career in 2011. This then led to an ‘interrogation’ of this experience, which is soon to be presented in my doctoral thesis. This will include my recommendations for others, some of which I will begin to post here.