Written by Lt. Col. (Dr.) David F. Tharp, a licensed psychologist for both the Veterans Administration (VA) and the United States Air Force. See his full online biography.
When I played football in school, I always wanted to play the home game. I had the fans, the support, the surroundings – everything was to my advantage. I loved the cheering crowd, my field, my home. And that is why I love playing a home game.
But when it comes to war, I'm all about playing an away game. I don't ever want to experience it on my home field. I want that game to always be over there, away from my loved ones. I don't want it to come to my background, my life, my hometown. I joined the military to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and my territory, including my family. So, I'm all about the away game.
Unfortunately, too frequently after deployment, veterans struggle with thoughts of what happened in the war zone. As a matter of fact, many WWII and Vietnam veterans never speak of what they experienced. They keep it away from their home field. But the challenges and symptoms and problems did come home, even though they wanted desperately to keep it away.
What about you? Are you playing a home game, or an away game? Are you dealing with issues in your life by not talking to your family about them? Are you trying to protecting them? Did you intentionally decide not to talk about what happened in-theater to protect your home?
I did. I didn't want to bring it home – I wanted it all to be kept away. And then reality hit.
One way to keep your military experiences from intruding is to take them to a friend or professional who can maintain confidentiality. The right person can help you work through your memories without having to carry the weight of them. Trained personnel do not shoulder your stories in a personal way. However, I've seen many spouses and significant others have difficulty with what their loved ones bring home. The veteran is often afraid he or she will be judged or looked down upon for what happened during deployment.
If you are in this boat, keep it away by coming home to a professional or trusted friend. There is no reason to keep your experiences to yourself when help is just a phone call away. Part of service is allowing others to serve you. So, I say bring it Home and protect your home field advantage at the same time.