SOUTHWESTERN MILITARY FAMILY MARKETPLACE
The Southwestern Military Family Marketplace held its second annual event where a variety of entrepreneurial ventures by the Military and Veteran communities were promoted at the fundraiser. Admission was free at the Royal Canadian Legion, in Burlington, Ontario. Aside from their businesses, Veterans discussed their service and family members spoke highly of spouses, parents, children, and grandchildren in the Forces. Sincere thanks to Ms. Sabrina Spadafora for her direction of the fundraiser and Ms. Donna Pickering, from the Military Family Resource Center, in Hamilton, Ontario, for endorsing this event.
The event exemplified intrapersonal and interpersonal components between active personnel, released members, and their families. For example, consider the relocation process that occurs after one’s social location moves from a Military to a Veteran community. For those Canadian soldiers who have released from active service, reintegration is twofold. The re-entry process back into civilian customs requires the navigation of several pathways such as employment and education as a Veteran. Naturally, this process is likely to be consequential on entire social ecologies.
REINTEGRATION FROM SERVICE
Hobbs (2008) wrote that soldiers reintegrating into civilian life are “no longer true civilians, ex-soldiers enter the culture of veterans.” The statement reflects the influence military cultures has on the beliefs, norms, and values of its members. However, when soldiers eventually release from service, they often never genuinely leave. Instead, they become Veterans, who “have their own language, symbols, and gathering places” (337).
The culture shared by Veterans often develops organically from shared experiences. It becomes far more likely that Veterans will be capable of successfully navigating their reintegration when social/environmental resources, including socioemotional supports, are present. This is especially important for those in later adulthood (Marini, Fiori, Wilmoth, Pless Kaiser & Martire, 2019). However, as a new generation of Veterans emerge from recent global conflicts, the specialized needs of this culture must be acknowledged by social systems; notably in healthcare and education.
Although a contrast is often emphasized between psychological and social needs, these resources are necessarily interconnected in the reintegration process and must be examined as such. Drawing from the integrative theory of communication and cross-cultural adaptation advanced by Kim (2001), individuals transitioning into an unfamiliar setting are: (1) necessarily “strangers,” (2) who are at least minimally dependent on their new setting to meet their personal and social needs, and; (3) must engage at least minimally in this unfamiliar setting. Embedded in the theory are at least three assumptions: (1) balancing internal and external conditions are inherent across the life span; (2) implicit and explicit communication is the driving force of social interactions; and (3) gradual maturity in terms of communication and social competency result in the development of a new cultural identity and encourages social efficacy.
MILITARY AND VETERAN FAMILIES
Commensurate with the complexities of affect, cognition, and behaviour, human experiences involve both intrapersonal and interpersonal processing. Reviews of the literature have consistently emphasized the importance of family composition as a significant determinant of health and well-being in the Canadian Armed Forces (Therrien, Richer, Lee, Watkins, & Zamorski, 2016). As patterns in the life course change, the ability or inability of a family system to draw from intra- and interpersonal resources are likely to determine function or dysfunction. Therefore, the experience of stability or emotional duress are not exclusively individual experiences and must be understood as part of a larger social process.
Reduced forms of social interactions that enrich the fabric of social life was exhaustively discussed by Putnam (2000). Since the 1950s, it was argued that aggregate losses in membership among various civic organizations, such as legions, have significantly eroded social capital, which has harmed both social relationships and the general political environment. Certainly, when individuals believe that they lack resources to address actual or perceived threats, withdrawal may reduce or eliminate the potential benefits of social support.
If we accept the premise that supportive communities comprise a key component to improved biopsychosocial health and the potential for spontaneous recovery (Shay, 2002), the purpose of legions becomes apparent. However, how have Millennial Veterans and their Baby Boomer or Generation X comrades changed the social place of legions in Military and Veteran communities? Do legions remain a mechanism of social support, or are other means more relevant to this new generation of Veterans?
Hobbs, K. (2008). Reflections on the culture of Veterans. American Association of Occupational Health Nurses, 56(8): 337-341
Kim, Y. Y. (2001). Becoming Intercultural: An Integrative Theory of Communication
and Cross-Cultural Adaptation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Marini, C. M., Fiori, K. L., Wilmoth, J. M., Pless Kaiser A. & Martire, L. M. (2019). Psychological adjustment of aging Vietnam Veterans: The role of social network ties in reengaging with wartime memories. Gerontology. 10:1-11.
Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York, New York, United States: Simon & Schuster.
Shay, J. (2002). Odysseus in America: Combat trauma and the trials of homecoming. New York, New York, United States: Scribner.
Therrien, M. E., Richer, I., Lee, J., Watkins, K. & Zamorski, M. A. (2016). Family/household characteristics and positive mental health of Canadian military members: Mediation through social support. Journal of Military, Veteran and Health. 2(2): 8-20.