The Military Changes People Even Without Combat

One of the saddest side effects of military service is that it changes people, even in those that have never seen combat they too are affected subtly, but nonetheless, there are effects. Military service changes personality and it is no secret that battlefield trauma can leave veterans with deep emotional scars that impact their ability to function in civilian life. It is truly so sad that these effects are not just always temporary but can last a lifetime.

Research coming out of Washington University in St. Louis has said that military service without combat has subtle effects on personalities and potentially it is harder for veterans to get along with family, friends, and those they work with.

“Our results suggest that personality traits play an important role in military training, both in the sort of men who are attracted to the military in the first place and in the lasting impact that this service has on an individual’s outlook on life,” says study lead author Joshua J. Jackson, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences.

VINCENT “ROCCO” VARGAS wrote a compelling piece about his struggles when he came home referencing his drinking issues and losing his family. He writes on the “5 Stages of Veteran Transition”:

  1. Veteran with entitlement

“This is the one who is always looking for a handout, looking for the government to help them because it’s what’s owed to them for serving their country. This is the one who forgets that his service to the country was a volunteer decision, and nobody owes him anything.

2. Veteran with self-pity

This is a tough one, a lot of us lost friends in some way. This is the one who holds on to the anniversary dates for a reason to get trashed, and feels bad because he is still living. Survivors guilt: the shoulda, coulda, wouldas. This is the one who doesn’t realize he is wasting the very life his friend would have done anything for one more day of. What little respect he is actually showing his friend by wasting his life on guilt and pity. It’s time to grow, time to move forward; if not for you, for them.”

3. Veteran with identity issues

This one holds on to their military years as if that’s what defines him. He holds on to being Infantry as if anyone in the civilian world really cares. These are the Al Bundys of the veteran world – they scored four touchdowns in one game but are now miserable shoe salesmen. They hold on to what they did and don’t realize it honestly means nothing if you aren’t doing anything now.”

4. Veteran who feels like being a veteran makes them better than the rest of society

This veterans feels that because they served, it makes them better than the person who didn’t. They think they are better and deserve more. They don’t realize the civilian world also deals with PTSD, loss, and depression, and that civilians also have transitions in life and fall on hard times. We are all human and all have our own stuff, but most people don’t look down on others for that. They find peace and continue moving forward, building lifelong bonds with people who care and can relate. They live knowing we all have our issues and we all find ways of getting through them.

5. The veteran who gets through these stages to realize he is a civilian now, a civilian who has tools he learned in the military. And that these tools can make him successful. (Source)

There are even more facts of interest to read regarding how the brain of military servicemen has changed after Afghanistan. There are many hardships and compelling facts and stories regarding the veterans of war and veterans during peacetime.

My son, who is Autistic six years ago saluted to passing military men and women near Fort Belvoir (Army Base). VA

I will leave you with what my father used to say an Army Veteran of the Korean War, “Old soldiers fade away …” and when he died I realized that an “Old soldier will never really fade away …” My dad never did he is always present.

To all the men and women that have served our nation thank you for your service and I hope only the best for each and everyone that still struggles with their ghosts.

18 thoughts on “The Military Changes People Even Without Combat

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  1. I do not agree with these findings….but then my experience with the military was from the years of conscription…the nation did owe those people… benefits from my years was my college was paid for under the original G.I. Bill……not all ‘tools’ in the military translate to a civilian success story… service people deserve respect for volunteering to go and serve…..good post be well chuq

    Liked by 2 people

  2. While these ‘stages’ [makes it sound like a 12 step program] may hold true for some, they certainly don’t for me. Now, we could argue that I never truly transitioned to civilian life, as I retired and went directly into being a DoD contractor, supporting defense intelligence here in the States and deployed overseas.

    But those of us who have witnessed unspeakable horrors and daily danger, certainly live with an ever-present shadow that clouds our lives. It never goes away, you just have to learn to manage it. So service can indeed scar people in different ways…a lot of different ways.

    So, I’m not sure it’s necessarily valuable for the author to generalize Veteran’s into 5 buckets. Though I’m not trying to denigrate his attempt.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am in agreement with you and of course, I have never been in the military despite some of the family having gone into the Army and Marines. I know my dad was a refugee from Lithuania pushed out by Stalin into German hands. He was in a subcamp and suffered a lot. When he came stateside he joined the US Army and was a Korean War Vet. He had alcohol problems most of his life because of the untold horrors of WW11, losing his home, being in a camp. I believe joining the Army did not help him much mentally other than being so grateful to Americans and very patriotic. War is a terrible event at any time in our history.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Elizabeth,
    My son, who is Autistic six years ago saluted to passing military men and women near Fort Belvoir (Army Base). VA

    A handsome young man who, clearly, sees the difference between right and wrong.

    It is right for us to honor our military. But entitlement? I think not!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I totally agree with you that entitlement for anyone is wrong. It has always made me angry when people took advantage because they felt entitled.

    Thanks for the sweet comments on my son and yes, he does know right from wrong. You should hear what he has to say right now about Putin!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. If you can believe the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 17-million veterans in the United States today. Seventeen million people is a lot. It means that there are 17-million different personalities, and while some people may exhibit similar behaviors, everyone is an individual with various reactions to their life experiences. I cannot say why Mr. Vargas wanted to bare his soul publicly on this issue but if it did him any good, fine. Personally, that isn’t me.

    I’ll tell you this short story. George McDonald Fraser is one of my favorite authors. He’s deceased now. He wrote several books, but one, in particular, is titled “Quartered Safe Out Here.” Fraser tells the story of his experience fighting the Japanese in Burma. Within this story, he offers an aside to comment on the “new modern army,” and he’s disgusted with it. Paraphrasing now, he assures us that every single veteran of World War II suffered PTSD. Everyone came home suffering the effects of bloody combat. Everyone had nightmares. More than a few developed drinking problems. More than a few experienced relationship problems. What they did, these WW II veterans, is they dealt with their problems as best they could. What they didn’t do, Fraser tells us, is they didn’t go on national T.V. cameras and cry like little babies. They kept a stiff upper lip and didn’t ask for any favors from anyone. They didn’t expect anyone to understand who wasn’t there.

    I want Americans to respect the fact that people are willing to step up to wear the uniform of the armed forces of the United States. I want to see all veterans recognized for having served. But let’s not confuse veterans (those who served) with combat veterans … those who served under the most extreme conditions. Combat veterans are the ones who carry the scars … physical and mental. This is an important distinction because if mental health professionals are actually trying to understand military service in the extreme, then they will have to evaluate America’s warriors separately. But here’s a clue … if the mental health profession is concerned about the impact of warfare and PTSD on America’s populations, as a social issue, then how about this: stop getting this country involved in armed conflicts that are none of this country’s damn business.

    My message to the “homeless veteran” — the 11% of the total of homeless people living under a bridge and panhandling at the exit ramp: get your shit together, soldier. If you were actually part of the world’s greatest armed force, start acting like it. Sound harsh? Life is harsh. Saddle up.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Mustang, I understand what you are saying and what you mean. Simply put you are saying “man up!”

      “What they did, these WW II veterans, is they dealt with their problems as best they could. What they didn’t do, Fraser tells us, is they didn’t go on national T.V. cameras and cry like little babies. They kept a stiff upper lip and didn’t ask for any favors from anyone. They didn’t expect anyone to understand who wasn’t there.”

      That is correct, but I had never thought of it in that light. My focus was on how we the people look at our veterans and how can we help people that gave their all. I also am aware there is no comparison of the vet who was in combat and the vet who was not. When my dad joined the US Army after emigrating here from Germany and being liberated out of the Flossenbürg subcamp Ansbach (he is originally from Lithuania) by American troops the Army sent him to serve in the UK doing communications. They did not want him in combat I guess because of all he had gone through but he would have fought had they put him in that position. He never really talked about what he went through except telling me he used to steal food because my uncle aged 8 would not eat their slop and my dad aged 14 used to sneak into the nazi kitchen and steal food for him. He was never caught but after finding this out it must have guilted him to some degree because he always harped about never stealing. He did it for good reason but he was honorable just the same. My dad made something of himself and his life and he loved this country.

      To your points, you know much more than me and I am inclined to agree with what you have commented here. Thank you for another one of your “teaching moments.” You must have been a wonderful teacher. Lucky us we can learn from your blog[s] writings.

      Thanks for coming by.


  6. My experience is that the sanest people in America today are its’ veterans. They don’t suffer from all the ridiculous PC illusions of the “college educated elites”.

    I watched the final episode of 1883 last night. There was a part when the narrator says that on the Oregon trail, the survivors could tell the doomed by sight, and learned to stay away from them lest tragedy follow them. Veteran’s are those “survivors” on the journey… the rest, potential tragedies.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. My analogy didn’t do it justice. Here’s the quote.

        1883 s1:e10

        Elsa: “To survive the frontier you must learn to recognize those who won’t, and be wary of their doomed decisions. They are to be avoided at all cost, because their fear is tragedy’s closest cousin, and tragedy is contagious in this place.


  7. Like you, I never served. My dad did (and I can be seen in certain photos of a two-year-old trying to balance an Air Force dress blues hat on his nose and forehead). From my dad’s service in the 50’s to his death in 2007, he didn’t talk to me of his service in the Korean Conflict.

    Similarly, my uncle (my dad’s youngest brother) — who I thought I knew fairly well — also served; however, it wasn’t until the funeral that I found out that he was among the Marines at Chosin Reservoir.

    While they both may have experienced the first stage (since they both went to school on GI grants — and my uncle went on to get a Masters), the rest does not really compute.


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