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Returning From a War Zone: A Guide for Families of Military Members

Returning From a War Zone: A Guide for Families of Military Members

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Returning From a War Zone: A Guide for Families of Military Members
Returning From a War Zone: A Guide for Families of Military Members

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Published by: Canadian_Veterans_Ad on Jan 02, 2012
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Returning from the War Zone
 A Guide for Families of Military Members
September 2010
Your service member is home!
You’ve wondered, worried, felt sad, proud,and lonely You may have had sleepless nightsbecause you were afraid for your loved one’ssafety in the war zone But now you can breathea sigh of relief You and your service memberhave served our country well, and can enjoyspending time together again
Reunions Can Be Happy and Stressul
Although reunion is a happy time, it can alsobring considerable stress — stress you may notexpect You and your service member have haddifferent experiences during the deploymentperiod, and you all have changed as a resultFor example, you’ve all had to learn new skillsas you took on additional responsibilities Itcan take time to rebuild intimacy, and you mayneed to re-examine common goals Even if yourservice member has been called up before, youmay nd that new challenges will arise witheach reunion In order to make the home-coming event as happy as possible, it helps toknow what kinds of challenges you might faceand if your expectations are realistic
This Guide Discusses:
What are common reactionsto war?
What common issues do familiesof returning service membersexperience?
How can you prepare for thisreunion?
How can you positively cope withthe transition?
What are warning signs that yourservice member might needsome outside help?
What are treatment optionsfor PTSD and other mentalhealth problems?
Where can you and your servicemember go for help? 
You are not alone.
Many familieswrestle with reintegration issues The purposeof this guide is to help you work through someproblems you might encounter
Throughout the Guide, youwill fnd live underlined linksto more inormation on ourwebsite:www.ptsd.va.gov
Common WarZone Experiences
Your service member’s time in
the war zone will affect him or her for a longtime Experiences in the military and duringdeployment have helped make your servicemember more responsible, a better leader,and team player He or she may have receivedincoming re Or witnessed the death or injuryof friends or other military personnel, civilians,or enemy combatants Your loved one mayhave received very serious injuries as a resultof a bombing, mine blast, improvised explosivedevice (IED), or accidentBeing in an unfamiliar setting and anunfamiliar culture may have complicated theseexperiences All the while, your loved one wasin full military mindset It can be difcult tochange back to a “civilian” mindset uponreturning home
Being attacked or ambushed
Receiving incoming fre
Being shot at
Discharged weapon
Seeing dead bodies or remains
Knowing someone seriously injured or killed
Percentages are based on a sample of troops serving in Iraq in 2006.
These statistics are presented to help amily members know what their service member mayhave experienced in the war zone. You may fnd that your service member does not wantto talk about this. They may want to leave these memories in the past. They may ear it willchange the way amily looks at them. Or, they may not want amilies to be exposed to whatthey experienced in any way. Oten times they want to keep work and amily lie separate.Knowing why your service member may get upset when asked about their experiences canhelp you better understand and handle their reaction.
Common Reactions to Trauma
Each service member
will havetheir own experiences However, understandthat almost all service members will need timeto readjust after being in a war zone This canbe especially intense during the rst monthsat home These common stress reactions area normal part of readjustment The reactionsdo not, by themselves, mean that your servicemember has a problem, such as posttraumaticstress disorder (PTSD), which may require men-tal health treatment
Most returning service members will suc-cessully readjust to lie back home.
It may takea few months, but, for most, life will stabilizefollowing demobilizationBelow arecommon physical, mental/emotional, and behavioral reactionsthat yourservice member may experience, and that youcan show you understand
Common Physical Reactions
Trouble sleeping, overly tired
Upset stomach, trouble eating 
Headaches and sweating when thinking ofthe war
Rapid heartbeat or breathing 
Existing health problems become worse
Common Mental and Emotional Reactions
Bad dreams,nightmares 
Flashbacks or frequent unwanted memories 
Feeling nervous, helpless, or fearful
Feeling guilty, self-blame, shame 
Feeling sad, rejected, or abandoned
Agitated, easily upset, irritated, or annoyed
Feeling hopeless about the future 
Experiencing shock, being numb, unable tofeel happyYour service member may have unwantedmemories of the war zone If something hap-pens that reminds them of a war experience,they may have a range of reactions, from intru-sive images and thoughts, all the way to a feel-ing of reliving their experiences (“ashbacks”)that are so realistic your service member willfeel they’re back in the warThey may get irritated or react morestrongly to common family issues Angerand aggression are common war zone stressreactions Even minor incidents can lead toover-reactions
Common Behavioral Reactions
Trouble concentrating 
Being jumpy and easily startled 
Being on guard, always alert, concerned toomuch about safety and security 
Avoidingpeople or places related to thetrauma
Lack of exercise, poor diet, or health care 
Problems doing regular tasks at work orschool 
Aggressive driving habits
Understanding theMilitary Mindset
Most service members coming rom warzones will have stress reactions. But only asmall number will develop PTSD. The Armyproduced the “Resilience Training” program(https://www.resilience.army.mil/ )and the Navy andMarine Corps produced theCombat Operational Stress Leaders Guide (www.usmc-mccs.org/LeadersGuide) to help service members and amilies under-stand how a wartime mindset is useul atwar but not at home.

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