The process of training and deploying, and the worry while people are away, creates very high expectations on all sides when people return – of spouses, families, children, of a perfect life generally. Of course there is no such thing; plus both those deployed and waiting at home have been through difficult times, and need to readjust: children and spouses to their parent being back at home, the re-imposition of normal military life, and to the lack of hoped-for perfection… It can be an anti-climax, with people over-reacting.
Military units after operations return remarkably good at their operational role, but need to relax back down to less intensive peace-time levels. All too frequently, ill-advised changes of command and personnel, create unnecessary and often unpleasant tension, which will be far worse for individuals or units returning to chains of command that didn’t deploy, which can seem determined not to acknowledge their operational experiences, to discount them, and to impose seemingly unnecessary peacetime regulations.
Advice for family members
Your military loved one returns expecting a wonderful rosy life full of all the things they spent the operational deployment dreaming about…. You in turn have been so worried about this person that it’s hard to understand why they seem distracted, uneasy – or in other ways not the person you expected to return home…
They should realise that you’ve had a tough time too – but they might not. You should realise this too, and accept that it’s not going to be easy for you. Talking about this will be essential.
But if you left the regimental area and returned to your home in UK at the beginning of the deployment, back sure you come back to the regiment well before your loved one returns. The regiment will have a system for preparing everyone for the return, a series of fun, well-organised ‘welcome home’ socials for everyone, and help with coping thereafter. This is definitely the time to enjoy the sociability of army life, catch up on the war stories and be part of it all.