Military Culture

The Veteran Culture Mikaela Barnett Chaltas School of Professional Counseling Lindsey Wilson College Author Note Mikaela Barnett Chaltas, The School of Professional Counseling, Lindsey Wilson College. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Mikaela Barnett Chaltas, Ashland, Kentucky campus. Email: mikaela_barnett@yahoo. com Abstract The ever changing and evolving culture of Veterans is reviewed and discussed in this paper. This paper has five main parts which include: description of the culture, historical information, stereotypes, important values and beliefs, and counseling approaches.

Keywords: veterans, culture, stereotypes, values, beliefs, counseling The Veteran Culture The Veteran Culture is discussed in this paper. The paper is divided into five sections which include: a. ) description of the culture; b. ) historical information; c. ) stereotypes; d. ) Important values and beliefs; and e. ) counseling approaches. Description of Culture A Veteran is defined by Dictionary. com (2011, Nov. 11) as a person who has had long service or experience in an occupation, office, or the like, or as a person who has served in a military force, especially one who has fought in a war and experienced direct combat.

Culture, as defined by J. P. Lederach, is, “the shared knowledge and schemes created by a set of people for perceiving, interpreting, expressing, and responding to the social realities around them” (p. 9). All definitions aside, Veterans are, as the VA proudly and courageously states on their website, “Men and women who, for many reasons, donned the uniform of our country to stand between freedom and tyranny; to take up the sword of justice in defense of the liberties we hold dear; to preserve peace and to calm the winds of war. ” The United States Military is comprised of many cultures and individuals rom various backgrounds with various belief systems that have put their health and their lives on the line to serve our country and preserve our freedom, as well as the freedom of their families. As stated previously, this group is extremely diverse. They spread across ethnic and socioeconomic lines, which include people from all parts of the United States (Hobbs, 2008). There are approximately 22. 7 million Veterans who have served in the United States Military, aged seventeen and older, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs (www. a. gov, 2010). Many other elements of culture within the Military take effect when one moves from civilian into military culture. Individuals are expected to move fluently from civilian to military life with ease. They must learn and live up to military expectations which impact their family life. They must absorb military acronyms and terms, learn and utilize the military chain of command and protocol, must practice military customs and courtesies, and deal with the endless transitions that enter their lives.

Military personnel and their families are expected to easily adjust to new or temporary family configurations, properly manage their “suddenly military” lifestyle, accommodate physical changes, make new contacts, and cope with any emotional issues that arise from these changes. These men and women are drilled and taught to work together, support one another, and protect each other, as if they become one with their fellow soldiers. They develop a sense of belonging that is hard for them to find outside of their military family.

Military culture also places emphasis on being able to cope mentally and physically when dealing with ones own stress regarding the changes to ones culture and the experiences that also occur within the military, both personal and professional. Both active and inactive military members are trained to “suck…. up” their own problems or difficulties (Bryan & Morrow, 2011). They share a common combat experience and are part of the “warrior culture” (Bryan & Morrow, 2011). Mental health issues and instability are also common in the Veteran culture.

Many veterans are likely to suffer from Depression, Substance Abuse and/or Dependence, various phobias, sleeplessness, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (Palmer, 2011). Some Veterans also have physical disabilities from combat wounds and it isn’t unlikely to manage such pains with pharmaceuticals that also lead to addiction. The stigma that permeates the military culture surrounding mental health and the ability to adjust to any condition within the military is always present, often making seeking treatment taboo (Jarvis, 2009).

Historical Information The United States Military was established in 1775, which coincided with the Revolutionary War. In 1776, the government boosted enlistments into the military for the Revolutionary War by providing pensions to disabled soldiers. In 1789, the Department of War was established, which would later be renamed the Department of Defense in 1949 (www. defense. gov/about/). The establishment of the military brought on the development of the veteran culture. As stated before, Veterans p many cultures and generations (Hobbs, 2008).

The Veterans still alive today have served in the most recent wars being; World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq-Desert Storm, Iraq-Operation Freedom, and Afghanistan. Many older generations of Veterans have expressed their understanding of the younger veterans returning home from war and seem familiar with the problems they face (Hobbs, 2008). Simply speaking, the older generations of veterans can enlighten one to the keen awareness of issues that are present in the Veteran Culture that non-veteran civilians do not have. After World War II, the U.

S. Military began taking the issue of mental illness seriously (Jarvis, 2009). The “breaking down” under the stress of military strains and stressors, and the psychiatric casualty, exposed the emotional side of men and challenged the “warrior” culture which had been built upon bravery, self-mastery, control, and courage under fire (Jarvis, 2009). The military would use the term “exhaustion” when referring to soldiers who experienced mental health issues, hoping this would be a less stigmatizing term when they returned home (Jarvis, 2009. President Roosevelt expressed concern for the men in the military and those coming home from war. He expressed that the “ultimate be done for them” (Jarvis, 2009). The overwhelming number of vets after WWII diagnosed with “neuropsychiatric disabilities” lead to media attention, then ultimately, to screening and better treatment of mental illness. Soldiers were expected to serve shorter tours of duty and provided with readily available psychiatric care on the front lines (Jarvis, 2009. ) Then, post-Vietnam, a major shift occurred in funding the treatment of mental illness within the military.

This continues to be a focus and an area of concern for our veterans and military personal to this very day. Stereotypes As with any culture, stereotypes are common. The media plays a part in stereotyping military veterans and the military culture. Commercials focusing on, “Be all you can be, Army Strong”; empowering people to be one of, “The Few, The Proud”; and to, “Do something amazing” are just a few of those stereotypes that are engrained into the minds of people (Bryan & Morrow, 2011). All of these focus on the strength and agility of the military culture.

Barbara Safani (2011, April 15) pointed out and debunked several common stereotypes used to describe veterans and others within the military culture. She reported that many believe that the people who serve our country are “rigid” and “they don’t think. ” We must always remember that even though there are incidents which may lead the civilian population to trust in these stereotypes, we must all identify that the majority of the military culture love their country and those to which they serve. Important Values As individuals, Veteran’s have varying values due to having come from an array of backgrounds all across the United States.

It would take an enormous amount of time and energy to discuss individual personal values within the veteran culture. As a whole, however, the military helps instill several core values into those who choose to serve this country. The United States Army listed their 7 Core Values on their website, (http://www. army. mil/values/). As with many cultures, they hold these values and practices dear to their hearts. The U. S. Military Values consist of Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage (www. va. ov, 2010). Taking a moment to explain these values in terms of “military language” may help civilians understand the culture in a way that they may not otherwise. • Loyalty: Bear true faith and allegiance to the U. S. Constitution, the Army, your unit, and other soldiers. • Duty: Fulfill your obligations. • Respect: Treat people as they should be treated. • Selfless Service: Put the welfare of the nation, the Army, and your subordinates before your own. • Honor: Live up to all the Army Values. • Integrity: Do what’s right, legally and morally. Personal Courage: Face fear, danger, and adversity, both physical and moral. These vast groups of individuals share a common bond as they experience the inner culture of the US Military. Veterans share a common “language, symbols, and gathering places” that people who are not Veterans do not understand (Hobbs, 2008). Counseling approach issues There are several approaches to counseling veterans and others within the military cultures that have proven successful. These often depend upon what type of treatment and the severity of the issue being treated.

Many therapists use Reality Therapy, Choice Therapy, and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), and medication to treat symptoms related to various mental health concerns within the military/veteran culture (Palmer, 2011). It is common knowledge in the mental health profession, that many mental health issues within this culture are often co-morbid with others. This makes treating the mental illness complicated at times. The Department of Veterans Affairs (Feb, 2010) has a vast database of information for treatments and places that provide treatment, depending on the depth of the presenting issues.

There are Outpatient Services offered for Veterans where mental health counselors are available (Department of Veterans Affairs, Feb, 2010). Suicide prevention programs with a hotline available for those on the verge of self-harm, along with information on the warning signs associated with suicide. There are also a vast number of peer support groups available for those needing a regular outlet for processing of the issues they face. According to Nick Palmer (Oct. 2011) the most important aspect of treatment is the support system.

He stated that the people and professionals close to the veteran or active duty soldier can help them recognize their symptoms and reinforce therapeutic interventions needed for them to seek assistance if and when it is needed. He also stressed that individual therapy sessions were of utmost importance, as well as marital or relationship counseling, and systematic family interventions, which could make the difference between life and death for many veterans from this culture experiencing mental health issues. References Bryan, C. J. , & Morrow, C. E. (2011).

Circumventing mental health stigma by embracing the warrior culture: Lessons learned from the defender. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 42(1), 16-23. Culture. (n. d. ). Dictionary. com Unabridged. Retrieved November 09, 2011, from Dictionary. com website: http://dictionary. reference. com/browse/culture Department of Veterans Affairs. (2008, Aug. ) Suicide prevention: men and women veterans: know the warning signs of suicide. [Brochure]. Department of Veterans Affairs. Department of Veterans Affairs. (September 2011). The Veterans Day Teacher Resource Guide.

Office of National Programs and Special Events. Website: http://www. va. gov/vetsday Hobbs, K. (2008). Reflections on the culture of veterans. AAOHN Journal: Official Journal of the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses, 56(8), 337-341. Jarvis, C. (2009). “If he comes home nervous”: U. s. world war II neuropsychiatric casualties and postwar masculinities. The Journal of Men’s Studies, 17(2), 97-115. Lederach, J. P. (1995). Preparing for peace: Conflict transformation across cultures. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. Palmer, Nick. (2011, October 28).

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: Understanding and Treating Veterans. Ashland, KY. United States Army. (n. d. ). Living the army values. United States Army. Retrieved November 7, 2011, from: http://www. goarmy. com/soldier-life/being-a-soldier/living-the-army-values. html# Veteran. (n. d. ). Dictionary. com Unabridged. Retrieved November 09, 2011, from Dictionary. com website: http://dictionary. reference. com/browse/veteran Veterans Affairs National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. (n. d. ) Recovery: a guide for Veterans, family members, and healthcare providers. [Brochure]. Veterans Affairs National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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