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Military Life and Civilian Life

Military life is mostly distinguished from civilian life. The two, though, differ and converge in a variety of ways. Regardless of the parallels and distinctions, it is also difficult for military veterans to reintegrate into the cultures from which they come. Soldiers' lives are often punctuated with violent incidents that can be life-threatening and life-changing. This is frequently in stark contrast to the civilian life that military personnel was accustomed to prior to joining the military. As a result, officers also face difficulties in making the transition to civilian life. However, the impact may vary from officer to officer depending on the activities they were involved in while on duty. A number of research initiatives have been conducted towards this topic in order to establish the appropriate transition methodology for the soldiers. This paper shall explore these aspects and much more in terms of the transition of soldiers from active service to civilian life.


Our United States military is setting our veterans up for success on their way into civilian life. Military service can be difficult and strenuous on the individuals involved. Soldiers often are subjected to strict routines that tend to affect their way of life and change them permanently in certain cases. They are often in combative scenarios where they are forced to take lives or threatened by the enemy. Some of them are captured and tortured before being released back to their countries. This is but a glimpse of what a soldier has to go through and withstand in order as he performs his or her duties. Several of them have found these situations overwhelming and resorted to drug use to help them forget and cope. An excellent example is the use of opium by the U.S soldiers in Vietnam in a bid to deal with the daily effects of war on the psychology and entire being. This paper shall look at the various aspects involved in the transitioning of a soldier for the military service to the civilian life. It shall highlight the major differences and similarities between the two types of lives, the challenges the soldier faces as well as the effects on the people around them. Penultimately, the paper shall highlight the possible mitigation measures that could be employed to help the soldier assimilate themselves effectively in society. Last but not least, the paper shall conclude the contents with a brief summary of the facts, my stand on the matter and an objective view of the scenario (Walker). Every one of these elements shall be discussed within the context of the department of defense’s plans and actions that are geared to help the soldier transition from military service to civilian life.

Transitioning from Military World to Civilian World

Transitioning from a military world to a civilian world can be a large shock. This is due to the large paradigm shift from the two lives that the soldier would like to reconcile. The subsequent section shall demonstrate the similarities and differences in these situations so that the shift can be appreciated (Anderson).


Civilian life and military life have plenty in common, it I important to understand these common factors so that the transition can be well understood. As a matter of fact, these similarities discussed in this essay form the basis for quick reintegration into society by the soldier. At the very least, the military life and the civilian life both have a routine. Every individual goes to bed and wakes up, this is a natural cycle that is common across professions and individuals. Second, both lives have conflicts that face the individuals and often require resolution so that the person can find closure. Additionally, in both lives, there is a society that surrounds the individual and helps him or her through its various dynamics. The society can be supportive, harmful or even deadly to an individual depending on how he or she interfaces with it. Last but not least, the civilian is always under authority just like the soldier is under the privates and generals within the military structure.


The differences between the military structure and the civilian structure are often in terms of the severity and strictness of the laws and regulations. Essentially, within the military setting, laws and policies are imposed more harshly, the routine requires strict observance and the authority can be absolute and overwhelming. As a matter of fact, I shall use the above cases disused within the similarities to bring out the differences. It is these differences that make the reintegration into the society much harder than is expected. The military routine is often strict and punishable in the case of a breach as opposed to the civilian routine which is flexible and determined by the individual. Second, the immediate society that surrounds a soldier is often comprised of fellow soldiers and the military code of ethics which mean lack of dynamism. On the other hand, the civilian society is dynamic and not uninformed. The authority within the military ranks is often strict as opposed to civilian authority. Insubordination is taken seriously and can lead to dishonorable dismissal. Last but not least, the type of conflicts that the soldier goes through are by far different than those of the average citizen. The soldiers are often witnesses to gruesome scenes of battle that the ordinary citizen only sees in movies.

Challenges in Transition

A successful transition is very challenging, in large part due to the distance between military and civilian cultures (Pease, Billera, & Gerard, 2016). As has been established already, these cultures are distinct and apart from one another in various aspects. From this perspective, the soldier often finds it hard to come from a strict, organized environment, for example, to a new free will environment where people follow routines as conveniently as they can. This affects the soldier and his interactions with his family. He soon expects them to be able to achieve the level of organization that he is used to. The soldier can get brutal and frustrated when the people around him do not respond to him as he is accustomed to in the army.

Figuring Out a New Career Path

Figuring out what job to transition into is often a hard part of transitioning. Security may appear like a simple option but this is deceptive since it is not nearly as strict and combat-filled as the military setting is. The big question then becomes; does your military job have carryover? This lack of smooth transition often leaves the soldier stranded in society and clueless on what to do after his military retirement. From this perspective, it is important that the soldiers are guided properly in their assimilation into civilian life (McCarl).

Pre-Separation Programs

These are programs that help the soldier assimilate into society by counseling him or her before severing from the service into society. This is important in helping the individual establish contact with reality and thus find it much easier to fit in. This often takes the form of a checklist that is accompanied by the DD Form 2648 or 2648-1 that is given to the soldier prior to leaving active service. This is a government effort that seeks to help the soldier come to terms with what they may see and experience in civilian life in contradistinction to military life (Smith-Osborne). As a matter of fact, this is a mandatory exercise by the Department of Defense. Through this program, service members receive a large array of employment opportunities and resources to be competitive in the job market. Additionally, the soldiers receive a class on how to properly document all of their military training on a resume to make themselves more marketable. Last but not least, the soldier attends financial planning seminars and other VA benefits classes. This is a comprehensive suite of activities that are aimed at making the soldier a beneficial member of society. In addition to these pre-separation programs, the government has gone ahead to develop Post-separation programs which are discussed in the subsequent paragraph.

Post-Separation Programs via Veteran Affairs (VA)

After leaving service, the Department of Defense has elaborate Veteran Affairs to help the servicemen after retirement. This Veteran Affairs ensures a number of things such as managing members' health care and disability benefits. Additionally, the VA has educational benefits including help paying for tuition, picking out a school, career counseling among a multitude of benefits. Last but not least, the VA has teamed up with the Department of Labor to give veterans career advice, help building a resume, and access to businesses who are keen on hiring veterans (Smith-Osborne).


At this juncture, it is important to note that there is no guarantee of a perfect transition into the civilian world from the military. However, neither is there a perfect transition between two civilian jobs. Each aspect and context has its issues and challenges that must be considered. As a matter of fact, the transition is not expected to be smooth but manageable. While there is a section of the civilian populace that does not lean towards hiring veterans, the facts remain that veterans are a key piece of our society and are highly valued added. As a matter of fact, they have skills that civilians have not honed yet as an added bonus to their job-specific skills (Pease, Billera, and Gerard).

While the transition for military members out of the service into the civilian populace is a difficult one engulfed in a wing of medical complications, disabilities, and alienation, it is also being eased by the wonderful programs set in place by the Department of Defense. In closing, the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs have set up a myriad of different programs from resume building in TAP class, GI Bill benefits, programs that work with the state like Troops to Teachers.


Anderson, Mary L. Goodman, Jane. "FROM MILITARY to CIVILIAN LIFE: Applications of Schlossberg's Model for Veterans in Transition." Career Planning & Adult Development Journal 30.3 (2014): 40-51.

McCarl, Lindsay. "TO HAVE NO YESTERDAY": THE RISE OF SUICIDE RATES IN THE MILITARY AND AMONG VETERANS." Creighton Law Review 46.3 (2013): 393-432.

Pease, James L., Melodi Billera and Georgia Gerard. "Military Culture and the Transition to Civilian Life: Suicide Risk and Other Considerations." Social Work (2016): 83-86.

Smith‐Osborne, Alexa. "Veterans Return to Civilian Life: A Review of the Factors Associated with a Resilient Outcome and How Social Workers Can Prepare to Help." Professional Development:   The International Journal of Continuing Social Work Education 12.1 (2009): 62-71.

Walker, Felicity. "Experiences of Military Transition." Coventry University, Faculty of Health Life Sciences. Warwick: None, 01 May 2015.

December 15, 2022

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