Military Culture and Community Reintegration Training Reflections

November 23, 2015

On November 19th, New Vitae Wellness and Recovery and Marywood University were proud to cohost a conversation with Richard C. Hamp, SGM (Ret), the Director of the Bureau of Programs, Initiatives, Reintegration and Outreach for the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.  Mr. Hamp reviewed the challenges associated with navigating military culture and the specific hurdles that military personnel face after leaving the armed forces.

Mr. Hamp began the conversation with a review of military structure, highlighting the sacrifices associated with induction and the importance of teaching teamwork skills.  Hamp discussed the mission statements and special operations associated with each branch, including the Army and Marine Reserves as well as the National Guard.  Hamp reviewed the ideals, core values, and warrior ethos that is instilled early in basic training.  All branches focus on the values of courage and commitment as key ideals.  Reflections and personal remembrances were shared by Veterans in attendance that emphasized the value of teamwork and support.  The "mission first” mentality, Veterans as brothers in arms, and the concept of selfless sacrifice were all discussed and explored.

Hamp also identified the challenges associated with transition from active service into civilian life.  The moral imperatives taught at induction are carried with Veterans and former military participants throughout life, and are not negated by a decision to leave the military.  However, personality changes may be encountered with each Veteran's deployment into a war zone.  While some may prefer to rely on their Veteran brothers and sisters for help and companionship, others may seek the “normalcy” of lives away from military culture.  Until recently, there was little support offered to Veterans who were transitioning back into civilian life.  Fortunately, a number of helpers, including employers, health care providers, family members, and allies can assist with this transition.

Hamp made specific suggestions to assist military personnel who are returning to civilian life.  Employers can recognize the unique benefits of hiring Veterans and former military men and women, including the ability to work as an integrated team to solve complex problems.  Healthcare providers need to be sensitive and responsive to the possibility of Veterans experiencing polytrauma (multiple injuries), drug and alcohol use, and anger or other mood challenges.  Doctors, therapists, and other supports can assist with finding a way to navigate through these challenges, assisting with supports for self-expression, checking in or “circling back,” and focusing on developing meaningful, respectful relationships.  Family members can help by continuing to provide loving encouragement through personal challenges.  Other allies can volunteer to work with organizations that provide direct assistance for those who have served and those who continue to serve in the armed forces.

Toward the end of the conversation, Hamp reviewed the basic principles of the Office of Veteran Affairs Wellness Initiative.  The VA is focused on providing training for Mental Health First Aid to assist Veterans who may be contemplating suicide.  Sadly, 22 Veterans commit suicide each day.  The Wellness Initiative plans to decrease that number by providing additional supports to facilitate physical, spiritual, and emotional wellness.

New Vitae is honored to be one support for Veterans and former military men and women.  We are able to assist with the provision of individualized residential and clinical supports to facilitate wellness and encourage community connections.  Through our DMVA appropriation, we are able to assist Veterans with low- and no cost service options. 

Many attendees utilized the discussion to obtain their NASW continuing education credits.  New Vitae Wellness and Recovery staff and all of the audience participants extend our sincere thanks to Mr. Hamp for the discussion!

Pictured: Richard C. Hamp, SGM (Ret), speaking to attendees

"Mount Trexler Manor has given me the help and support I needed. They have made me feel safe when I haven’t in the past. I have been able to stay out of the hospital."

- Stephanie J. (resident)