Many soldiers dream about returning to war… The sense of “mission” is missed dearly…

by | Aug 18, 2012

“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.

For my friends who are going back to Iraq or are there already, there is little enthusiasm. Any fondness for war is tainted by the practicalities of operating and surviving in combat. Wells and McCarthy and I can speak of the war with nostalgia because we belong to a different world now. And yet there is little to say, because we are scattered, far from those who understand.”

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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!

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

About the author

Steve Sparks is a retired information technology sales and marketing executive with over 35 years of industry experience, including a Bachelors’ in Management from St. Mary’s College. His creative outlet is as a non-fiction author, writing about his roots as a post-WWII US Navy military child growing up in the 1950s-1960s.
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