Prior to going overseas, I never thought much of the effects doing so would have on my life once I returned home. Once I was back home, I never felt like I had PTSD or anything I would consider an issue. I know everyone’s experience is different, and I won’t argue that some people have a difficult transition upon returning home. That’s not what this article is about. I want to talk about society’s perception of individuals returning from tours overseas.
I had recently returned home from working in Afghanistan as a security contractor and was interviewing for a “regular” job. Once the interview was over, one of the interviewers looked at me almost with a look of pity and asked if I was OK. Thinking she was referring to the interview, I replied that I was a little nervous initially but felt I was able to remain confident and comfortable through it. She then said she meant was I OK after being overseas. At this point, my internal monologue is saying “What the hell,” but I felt she had asked the question with sincerity.
I didn’t really know how to respond, but I didn’t want to leave it with a simple “Yes, I’m fine,” so I explained how I felt I was better from going overseas than I would have been if I had never had the opportunity to go. I don’t feel as if I personally had any traumatic experiences, but I do feel that I was in some trying situations that afforded me the opportunity to see the best that humanity has to offer in the men I was fortunate enough to work beside, and also see some of the worst in humanity with those who opposed us. Am I different? Of course, but is that a negative thing? Not at all. I was able to find out more about myself in my few months in Iraq than I probably would have been able to find out if I’d been at home.
I feel the treatment of veterans returning from war now is better than it was in previous campaigns, but at the same time, there’s room for improvement. I ended up getting that job and never had any issues, but that experience left me wondering if this is a common perception. Is it factoring into why more veterans are or are not getting hired?
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