How to Stay Connected to Military Culture After EAS (End of Active Service)
It will come as little surprise that military and civilian cultures differ greatly. While the American military culture reflects the broader American culture, it also has developed its own ways of getting things done, which do not easily translate into civilian life. Like all strong cultural influences, the military culture becomes part of each member’s identity, especially when they serve a long and honorable career.
Staying connected with military culture after the End of Active Service (EAS) can be a challenge. While some aspects of it—especially the hierarchy—will be left behind, others will remain a strong part of each former military person’s life. The connection is not only flying your service flag, although that will probably be part of it. Former service people can remain connected in a variety of ways.
Although the flag is not the only way to remain connected, the flag remains a strong symbol of that culture. Flying the flag can remind both the former service person and others, regardless of their political views, of the reason for service.
The flag is a powerful enough symbol that people have risked their lives while held as prisoners-of-war to make and possess a flag. The flag for them stood as a reminder of what they were fighting for, and the quiet acts of defiance in the camps where they struggled until liberation.
One significant part of military culture which becomes ingrained in each service member is discipline. Discipline is heavily reinforced throughout the military, from KP for minor infractions to courts martial for major ones. While sanctions remain for violations of duty in civilian life, the sanctions are not necessarily as rigorously enforced as in the military, and the rules may not be as clear-cut.
In civilian life, you will need to maintain self-discipline at a level which fits you well, but that also allows you to work with others. In the military, people learn that external discipline is the first step to self-discipline. Work to make sure that you reinforce your self-discipline internally to maximize your success in life.
In the workplace, you may find several challenges to negotiate, especially if you are not working for a company which makes special efforts for veterans. The quality of your work and the focus you bring to it will be the key reminders of your military background in your workplace.
Other aspects of military culture, however, may have to be watched as you interact with your colleagues. The interpersonal communication you have with them will be crucial to your success, and being unaware of your company’s corporate culture and other civilian norms can be troublesome.
One thing you will notice is the informality. Most people will probably prefer using first names, and avoiding “Sir” and “Ma’am.” Follow the lead of your co-workers to learn these aspects of interpersonal communication in your workplace—following the lead is something you learned in the military, after all.
Email and written communication in the military tend to be more direct than the civilian world. Be careful in your communication not to come off bossy, even if you retain that directness.
These challenges aside, however, your discipline will shine through in your work, and you should earn the respect of your colleagues.
You will find a strong, supportive connection by joining a local American Legion or VFW post. In this country which rightly celebrates diversity, there is a time and place to be with people who have lived shared experiences.
Whether you served tours in combat zones or not, being with former military people will help keep you in touch with the culture in which you served. Through these groups, you can help other veterans and your community.
VFW members and donations help support service people and families in many ways. The VFW provides housing assistance, VA benefit help, family support, emotional and counseling programs, and scholarships. The ethic of service instilled during your time in the military will continue afterward.
Each year, four days of special patriotic importance take place. Most communities will have celebrations for some or all of these days. You may be able to take a strong role in some of these and help ensure they are recognized properly.
While many people use Memorial Day as “just” a long weekend, you can help people also focus on the reason for that long weekend—those who have fallen in the nation’s service. For example, Fort Ticonderoga, one of the oldest places of military significance in the country, has a full Memorial Day program every year, including ceremonies at the old Revolutionary graveyard.
Flag Day on June 14 is another, more quiet day. Fly the flag and attend local ceremonies. June 14 is also the Army’s birthday, and you may be able to attend events at a nearby Army installation.
Independence Day is, of course, the patriotic holiday for all. If your town has a parade, veterans will no doubt be included, and you can be part of that. Contacting the parade committee, or the local VFW or American Legion will help you be involved and connected. Fireworks end the day in many places.
Be aware, however, that some veterans with post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) struggle with fireworks. The noise and perhaps even the smell of fireworks can serve as a trigger for a PTSD attack. Being aware does not mean avoiding fireworks, necessarily, but simply respecting your neighbors—or gently reminding them to respect you, if you find at attack can be triggered by fireworks.
The final patriotic day is, of course, Veteran’s Day. Veteran’s Day may be the single biggest event helping you keep connected with military culture. Most localities will have programs for the day, and many will involve ceremonies at schools. If your local schools don’t have Veteran’s Day programs, you can work with the local American Legion or VFW post to create appropriate programs, both as school assemblies and classroom presentations.
Veteran’s Day is the day after the Marine Corps’ birthday. Local celebrations of that day may also be taking place.
Remaining connected with the culture which has formed a major part of your life is important. You can find many resources locally and nationally to ensure your connection remains strong throughout your life.
About the Author
Jordan is a devoted military wife, mother of two, and American History buff.