“But the memories, good and bad, are only part of the reason war holds its grip long after soldiers have come home. The war was urgent and intense and the biggest story going, always on the news stations and magazine covers. At home, though, relearning everyday life, the sense of mission can be hard to find. And this is not just about dim prospects and low-paying jobs in small towns. Leaving the war behind can be a letdown, regardless of opportunity or education or the luxuries waiting at home. People I’d never met sent me boxes of cookies and candy throughout my tours. When I left for two weeks of leave, I was cheered at airports and hugged by strangers. At dinner with my family one night, a man from the next table bought me a $400 bottle of wine. I was never quite comfortable with any of this, but they were heady moments nonetheless.
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All of the research and experience seems to point those who leave the job and career they love, including combat veterans, to a driving need for a new “mission.” In addition to the moral injury implication that impacts readjustment in life after war, we all need a purpose. Making a difference for others is critical. Otherwise, whether you are retiring from a long career in IT, as a teacher, as a factory worker, or coming home from war, without a new mission we are lost. Some of us are never happy without a big challenge, the type AAA personality. I fall into that category to be sure. After a few weeks or months of R&R, find your new passion and make it happen. The opportunities to be engaged in the community and the workplace or going back to school are endless. You can make a difference for others in life after war and in retirement from a successful career. Go for it!
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story