A chaplain once told me reintegration time for military members returning from deployment often can take as long as the deployment itself. For example, if a Soldier deploys for a year, the time necessary for him or her to reintegrate or “adjust” to life back at home and work may take up to 12 months, as well as a small army of networked professionals to help.
Multiple support systems including family, friends, other service members, employers, teachers and the entire network of military organizations are essential to helping those who have served make the transition back to home and duty. Taking advantage of these support systems can be the difference between thriving and just barely surviving.
One of the first opportunities for Colorado Soldiers and Airmen to better understand the reintegration process is the Colorado National Guard Family Programs’ 30-day post-deployment Yellow Ribbon workshop. This one-day event occurs approximately 30 days after the unit’s official homecoming. It provides the service members and their immediate family members the opportunity to spend face-to-face time with reintegration experts, including military family life consultants, education benefit counselors, TRICARE representatives, financial planners and veteran’s benefit advisors.
The most recent workshop, held May 15 for the 3rd Battalion, 157th Field Artillery, also included an exclusive job fair with multiple employers ready and willing to hire veterans. Since a majority of the unit would soon be coming off active duty orders, the job fair, along with some very appreciative potential employers, gave the returning Soldiers an edge on the job market. A few lucky Soldiers walked into the job fair with resumes in hand and were hired on the spot.
Soldiers and families alike who may have spent the past year developing the tight-knit camaraderie they’ve come to rely on when times got tough, now learn to use those skills together and home. Tough times may continue, even escalate when families are suddenly reunited after deployment Yellow Ribbon Workshops are a reminder those “battle buddies” are still accessible despite the geographical distance that now may be between them.
Although Soldiers and families may still be in the early stages of reintegration – often referred to as “honeymoon” stage – getting together with the unit 30 days after returning from war is an essential step to easing service members into the reintegration process. When the honeymoon phase is over, the service members and their families will have developed the life tools they need to tackle – with confidence – the tough issues that may be on the horizon.
However, as the chaplain also noted, it is not simply getting to the end of the year and calling it good that makes reintegration successful; it’s acknowledging and accepting deployment has now become a part of family dynamics.