US Returning Soldier Acclimatization Therapy

Yesterday the news headlines read ‘US Soldier Suicide Rate Soars!’ It’s a horrible tragedy that soldiers returning from extended tours of duty overseas are given little support and training so that they may happily reenter civilian life.

Several years ago, I returned to my hometown after being away for 10 years. The last year of my absence was spent on a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in a developing country. Granted I only had to battle homesickness and the likes of cholera and ringworm, not al Qaeda or Iraqi insurgents.

Nevertheless, I understand that it’s a difficult transition to make: being worlds away under the most extreme of circumstances, only to be thrust back to your hometown where friends and family might not realize what you’ve been through, much less appreciate the sacrifices you made for them.

I recommend the Department of Defense put together a Returning Soldier Acclimatization Therapy program similar to the one outlined below. In the absence of such a program, returning soldiers can follow the program themselves. Having a mentor to point them in the right direction every now and then would be useful also.

To begin with, I’d assume that returning soldiers would have many strong feelings about what they’d seen and done while overseas. These feelings need to be worked out either by talking or writing about them. Talking and writing about feelings brings them out into the open and releases them. Talking could be one-on-one with a therapist or friend, or with a group of other veterans to provide support. Writing could be in the form of a journal or letters to friends and other vets. Writings could be shared or not. The important thing is that these feelings need to be expressed and individuals need to know that what they are feeling is OK.

Returning soldiers also need to remember what they used to do before being in the service that made them happy. They should focus on doing things and being with people they enjoy. If they instead turn to alcohol, drugs, too much television, and other addictions, then their transition to ‘normal’ civilian life will take much longer.

Once an individual focuses on what they naturally enjoy doing, they will find a sense of purpose that they can then follow to make a living and to help and relate to others. The perfect profession is one that you’d do regardless of whether or not you received payment. My advice is to follow your passions!

Individuals should also reconnect with their sense of spirituality. For some this might be attending church or church groups on a regular basis. For others it might be daily prayer or meditation. Others might find fulfillment in a hike through the woods or a walk through the park. Whatever spirituality means to you, you should connect with it. In making this connection, we are reminded that there is more to our lives than just ourselves and that we are a part of life.

Returning soldiers should also undertake an ideal diet and exercise regimen. On a basic level, they should eat a balanced diet and not overeat, and should exercise a few days a week.

However, it’s my guess that most returning veterans will need more than just a balanced diet and more than just casual exercise. They might require the healthiest diet to detoxify their bodies, remove residual stress, and promote optimal mental health. The healthiest diet is an organic vegetarian diet that is supplemented with fresh juices (see In addition to this diet, taking a multi-vitamin, B-complex, and multi-gram doses of Vitamin C several times throughout the day will support optimal physical and mental health. To benefit from the physical and mental benefits of exercise, exercise should be performed daily for at least 20 minutes. Scheduled exercise in addition to daily casual hikes in nature will provide the most benefit.

Because the military provides so much structure, it would be beneficial for returning veterans to provide themselves with a similar amount of structure until they feel they’ve made a transition to normal life. Again, addictive and slothly behaviors such as watching too much television and sleeping in to the late hours of the morning should be avoided. The following is a nice schedule to follow until one feels at home in their surroundings (insert employment hours as needed):

1. Wake up when the sun comes up (ensuring eight hours of sleep)
2. Take multi-vitamin, B-complex, & 2000 mg of Vitamin C with plenty of water
3. Make a large glass of fresh juice with a base of one pound of carrots or sweet potatoes
4. Make a large breakfast
5. Meditate, read, pray, journal, or listen to music to connect with life and let breakfast settle
6. Go for a walk outside or exercise for at least 20 minutes
7. Work on projects or think about what you like to do and do it
8. Take multi-vitamin, B-complex, & 2000 mg of Vitamin C with plenty of water
9. Make a nice lunch
10. Work on projects or think about what you like to do and do it
11. Do as the free and wealthy do: take a power nap (no more than 30 minutes, and nap no later than 4pm)
12. Work on projects or think about what you like to do and do it
13. Make plans to visit with family and friends
14. Take multi-vitamin, B-complex, & 2000 mg of Vitamin C with plenty of water
15. Have dinner with family and friends
16. Take a leisurely walk with family and friends
17. Don’t watch TV before bedtime
18. Think about all you are thankful for
19. Meditate, read, pray, journal, or listen to music to connect with life
20. Go to bed at a decent hour and make sure to get eight hours of sleep

Above all, take your time, laugh, play, and be happy! 🙂

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