Written by Sheila Snyder, former SDSU Extension Operation: Military Kids State Coordinator.
Holiday music, hectic shopping days, and military Soldiers returning back to their beloved South Dakota, are all happening this month. Thankfully, Soldiers from all across the state will be home in time for Christmas. Members of the 129th MPAD, 235th MP, and 152nd CSSB Units of the South Dakota National Guard will be joining their families and celebrating this special time. With the Holiday Season acting as the backdrop for the joyous reunions, reintegration of these families will begin.
Reintegration is one of the stages of the deployment cycle, which includes pre-deployment, deployment, followed by post-deployment/reintegration. Reintegration is characterized by the service member’s re-entry into his or her daily life, as it was before deployment. According to the latest research, despite some former beliefs that the reintegration stage lasts several months, this stage can often last for months to years, depending on the person, their family, and other circumstances of their lives. Although families grow and develop resiliency during the time of deployment, still many families find the time of reintegration very challenging.
As the family unit strives to re-form into a functioning system again, it can be a very turbulent time. According to numerous studies, relationship stress and negative outcomes as the family struggles through this time-period, may reach its peak between 4 and 9 months after the service member returns. Re-negotiating of family roles seems to be one of the greatest obstacles. For the service member it can be an unexpected difficult time. The service member is faced with trying to fit back into a home routine that has most likely changed since the service member deployed. Every member of the family has changed in some way through this experience. Becoming a civilian once again is hard work. Those schooled in military culture report that the struggle to reintegrate is often met by record rates of suicide, domestic violence, and divorce. Coming home to a depressed economy where the prospect of finding meaningful employment is bleak, doesn’t help. It appears that veterans struggle to return to civilian life with feelings of being lost because they no longer have a mission, a reason to get from one day to the next. According to experts, this is where the hope comes in, finding a new mission. Those returning members who do best seem to find a passionate cause either to help others or to correct something they perceive as a wrong. Community and a mission can help them adjust to life at home again.
So whether you are a friend, a family member, a teacher, or a community member who cares, here is something you can give them for Christmas and the Holidays. Invite them out to dinner or for a walk, and don’t allow them to isolate themselves. And with some understanding and networking, perhaps you can help them find a new mission, one that just might save them as much as it may help another. Oh, and one more thing, be sure and sincerely tell the service members in your community, how much you appreciate their sacrifices and how thankful you are for their service. It can’t be said enough!