Posted by: annemartinfletcher | April 21, 2011

Why is the transition from warrior to civilian so hard?

CNN reported the story of a Marine’s suicide, one that the Department of Defense will not count as a casualty or a military suicide. Please view the video report, then return here.  One big question haunts Marine’s suicide: Why? –

In the report, CNN quotes one of Clay Hunt’s friends. “Someone described him as an American badass with a heart of gold,” she said, and laughter echoed through the pews. “I think this (description) sums him up rather well. Clay chose to live his life for others. His passion and selflessness were an inspiration to all who knew him.”

Choosing to live your life for others, such as helping in Haiti after your tours in combat zones, and putting yourself in danger to do so, is very much part of being a warrior. It is not an obvious part of average American life.

I wonder if repeated exposure to elevated levels of adrenaline can reset a warrior’s brain chemistry?

Once a warrior has sought help, such as Clay Hunt sought, the road to effective treatment is still risky and long. Medications are slow-acting, have side effects, and may involve several “trials” before the patient and doctor can choose the both the right medication and the right dose. Discouragement, survivor’s remorse, and relapse might all have played a part in Hunt’s death. Maybe he suddenly hit the bottom of a pit that he just couldn’t crawl out of one more time.

Is there anything else that Clay’s friends could have done for him? We all wish we knew the answer to that. I would like to remind returning warriors of their strengths and abilities to withstand that “pit” one more time. Steven Pressfield, a popular writer of military history and historical fiction, says it much better than I can:

Coming Home

By STEVEN PRESSFIELD | Published: APRIL 18, 2011

Chapter 23   Coming Home

But what about us? What about the soldier or Marine who steps off the plane from overseas and finds himself in the scariest place he’s seen in years:


Has everything he knows suddenly become useless? What skill set can he employ in the civilian world? The returning warrior faces a dilemma not unlike that of the convict released from prison. Has he been away so long that he can never come back? Is the world he knows so alien to the “real world” that he can never fit in again?

Who is he, if he’s not a warrior?

The answer may not be as far away as he supposes.

The returning warrior may not realize it, but he has acquired an MBA in enduring adversity and a Ph.D. in resourcefulness, tenacity and the capacity for hard work.

He may find that the warrior skills he has acquired are exactly what he and his family need. And more: that these skills possess the capacity to lift him and sustain him through the next stage of his life and through every succeeding stage. The war remains the same. Only the field has changed.

The returning warrior possesses the Warrior Ethos, and this is a mighty ally in all spheres of endeavor.

via The Warrior Ethos: Coming Home.


  1. As an Honorable Discharge Marine since August of this year I am struggling to get my mindset right. I feel like its the world against me. I have had good job interviews and doing school but nothin feels right. Nothing makes me feel the happiness I felt like putting on that uniform and going and serving my country. I take meds for ptsd but life is still blurred. I find myself getting more and more deppresed at the end of each week, day, and sometimes every hour. Im not a punk and would never kill myself but i would be nice for someone to tell me how to fix this mental maze of bull spit.

  2. Dear Andrew,
    I wish I knew. If you need help convincing employees to hire you, you might look for information at the link “Americas Heros at Work” in the sidebar under “Resources for Soldiers and their Families.”
    If you need a new mission in life, returning Navy Seal Eric Greitens set up a foundation for vets to contribute (physically, not financially) to the USA here at home. Try this link to The Mission Continues:
    If you live in California and would like to try civilian healthcare instead of the VA system, then you might be eligible for Operation Mend (link in the sidebar under “Resources”).

    It is hard to go from a team that cares about each other and values sacrifice, to a culture that bombards us with only financial measures of effectiveness. Breathe. Exercise. The media is not always right (nor is my blog). I hope you will find an external focus for your mental and physical skills.

  3. I also just received a notice about this group on the East Coast. They hire disabled vets to do coastal clean-up, and it sounds like they have five “ships” to do it. They are a non-profit start-up, so I have not checked out their financial statements, like I do for most charities I publicize.

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