With 600,000 veterans of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom enrolled in higher education with the Post-9/11 GI Bill, recognizing and responding to their predictable adjustment issues is imperative. Existing qualitative research has identified some transitional issues encountered by small groups of veterans. Because of qualitative research’s limited generalizability, however, themes may be viewed as more generalizable when corroborated by student veterans in different regions. In order to provide an in-depth description of the themes related to the post-deployment adjustment process, the first author conducted semi-structured interviews with 19 student veterans from a Southwestern community college who were returning to civilian life after deployment to Afghanistan or Iraq. The first author and research assistant analyzed data using the grounded theory approach (including open coding, constant comparison, and axial coding), which resulted in the emergence of seven major themes. Themes consistent with prior research include (1) bridging the gap between military and civilian life, (2) rebuilding a support system outside of the military, (3) readapting to the culture of civilian life, and (4) finding meaning in a new life perspective and purpose. Themes not indicated in previous research are (5) battling the stereotypes, (6) taming the fight-or-flight response, and (7) attitudes about mental illness carry over to civilian life. Based on the results of this review, recommendations are given for college campuses to support veterans in transition.
Student Veterans, Adjustment, Post-Deployment, OEF/OIF, Grounded Theory
Words fail to fully capture it, but we wish to thank the veterans of the OEF and OIF conflicts. Like the generations before yours, you bore the burden without fully knowing the cost. As we learn more about welcoming you home, let us help you not only to adjust but to thrive.
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Recommended APA Citation
Kato, L., Jinkerson, J. D., Holland, S. C., & Soper, H. V. (2016). From Combat Zones to the Classroom: Transitional Adjustment in OEF/OIF Student Veterans. The Qualitative Report, 21(11), 2131-2147. https://doi.org/10.46743/2160-3715/2016.2420