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Beyond the Battlefield: Why Some Veterans Miss the Life of Combat

Sebastian Junger, one of the documentary filmmakers behind the 2010 documentary, Restrepo, by National Geographic stated during a 2015 TED talk that many of the combat veterans he met during his many months embedded with US forces in Afghanistan often missed combat upon their return. In fact, one of those veterans who endured some of the worst combat, spoke regularly with Junger about how much he missed his time in the Korengal Valley.

This can be difficult for civilians and certainly the family of military members and veterans to understand. This is a complex issue that can have significant implications for veterans and their loved ones. So we thought we would explore some of the reasons why combat veterans may miss combat and what civilians and family members can do to support them.

According to a study published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, combat veterans may miss combat due to the “heightened sense of purpose, accomplishment, and camaraderie they experienced in the military.” The study also found that veterans missed the “sense of control and mastery” they had in combat situations.

A quote from a combat veteran in a Psychology Today article highlights this sense of purpose and camaraderie: “I miss the sense of belonging, the sense of camaraderie, the feeling that we were all in this together.”

The structure and discipline of military life is another reason why veterans may miss combat. The military provides a clear sense of purpose and direction, which can be difficult to find in civilian life. One article published by Military.com interviewed a combat veteran who said, “I miss the structure, the discipline, and the camaraderie that came with military life.” He is not alone, this is a common occurrence among those who have deployed to devastating combat zones.

Combat veterans also miss the sense of control and mastery they had in combat situations. According to a study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, combat veterans may miss the “clear goals, consistent expectations, and immediate feedback” that they received in the military.

Finally, combat veterans may miss combat because it’s where they feel like they truly belong. Serving in the military can provide a sense of identity and purpose that’s difficult to find elsewhere. According to a study published in Military Medicine, “the military provides an environment in which soldiers identify with their job and their comrades, and this is a major factor in the development of their self-concept.”

It’s important to understand why combat veterans miss combat so that we can better support and care for them. By providing veterans with the support and resources they need to transition back into civilian life, we can help them find new sources of purpose and meaning, and ultimately help them heal from the trauma and stress of combat.

Always Forward!

Jaeson "Doc" Parsons
doc@graffitiofwar.com

Further Reading

  • Dozier, K. (2017, April 13). Why vets come home and miss the war. The Daily Beast. Retrieved April 20, 2023, from https://www.thedailybeast.com/why-vets-come-home-and-miss-the-war
  • Nolan Peterson / @nolanwpeterson / January 06, 2016, and Nolan Peterson / @nolanwpeterson. “Why Soldiers Miss War.” The Daily Signal, December 6, 2019. https://www.dailysignal.com/2016/01/06/why-soldiers-miss-war/.
  • Junger, Sebastian. “Why Would Anyone Miss War?” The New York Times. The New York Times, July 16, 2011. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/17/opinion/sunday/17junger.html.
  • Ross, Paula T., Divy Ravindranath, Michael Clay, and Monica L. Lypson. “A Greater Mission: Understanding Military Culture as a Tool for Serving Those Who Have Served.” Journal of Graduate Medical Education 7, no. 4 (December 1, 2015): 519–22. https://doi.org/10.4300/jgme-d-14-00568.1.

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Jaeson "Doc" Parsons

Founder and CEO of The Graffiti of War Project, Doc is a decorated combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom where he was a combat medic with the 54th Engineer Battalion.  He is currently the a journalist for Force 12 Media and is featured weekly on SOFREP.com. Docas been featured in numerous media outlets such as Wired.com, Maxim.com and BusinessInsider.com.  For more information about Jaeson “Doc” Parsons click HERE  or send him an EMAIL.

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