There’s no doubt that our country puts tremendous resources, money and training into its military. It’s estimated that each soldier costs the government $340,000 to $2.1 million depending on the type of training and assignment they receive. Basic training introduces an individual to the routine and rigor of military life, while follow-on specialized training ensures that an individual becomes proficient in a particular function or task. As soldiers, we are purposely desensitized to stress until we become accustomed to overriding normal physiological and emotional responses. This gives us the best chance of performing the task at hand, even if it goes against our natural impulses. It also increases the chance of experiencing symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) later on.
After graduating from the United States Military Academy, I attended flight school to train as an Apache helicopter pilot at the age of 22. I am grateful for the education and opportunities the military afforded me, and in particular the friendships I formed along the way. I feel as though the military was painstakingly meticulous about preparing me for any possible scenario on the battlefield, but when it came to the end of my service there was little effort in training me how to reintegrate into civilian life.
I completed my military service at 29 years-old. I had an expectation my nervous system would naturally adjust to meet the lower intensity level of civilian life. That was not the case. In fact, the lower intensity environment highlighted the fact that I was going through my day with an undercurrent of stress present at all times. As soldiers, we are given a great deal of attention and support to ensure that we carry out our mission with the utmost precision and accuracy, but not enough attention is being given to the end of a soldier’s career. Veterans have a unique potential to provide guidance and wisdom to society after their service, and it is a waste of a valuable national resource when we allow our veterans to fall by the wayside. Investing in a soldier’s well-being after she comes home is an investment in the future of this country.
Ancient civilizations recognized the effects of war and how challenging it is for their warriors to reintegrate into society. In ancient Rome, the vestal virgins would bathe returning soldiers to purge them of the corruption of war. The Maasai …