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

Author Bio(s)

Lorrie N. Kato, Ph.D., received her Master’s degree in psychology from Pepperdine University and completed her doctorate in clinical psychology from Fielding Graduate University in 2010. She has been a community college psychology instructor since 2003, and she continues to instruct at Los Angeles Harbor College, Wilmington. Dr. Kato has experience working clinically in hospital settings, nursing homes, adult day care centers, and in Head Start programs. She worked as a research assistant at UCLA and was trained to conduct a battery of neuropsychological assessments. Dr. Kato has published and presented in the areas of neuropsychology on visual organization and intelligence and on the adjustment process of student veterans. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: lorriekato@gmail.com.

Jeremy D. Jinkerson, M.S., received his Master’s degree in clinical psychology from Mississippi State University and is completing his Ph.D. in clinical psychology with a concentration in neuropsychology at Fielding Graduate University. He has been practicing clinically for seven years and is a Licensed Psychological Examiner. Mr. Jinkerson was selected into the U.S. Air Force Health Professions Scholarship Program and hopes to begin serving in summer 2016. Mr. Jinkerson has published and presented in areas including meaning making, psychotherapy outcome, diagnosis and assessment, worldview, trauma and moral injury, posttraumatic growth, military and military spouse adjustment, psychological practice in the military, and neuropsychological correlates of personality disorders. Clinically, Mr. Jinkerson’s emphasis areas are evidence-based treatment of combat trauma and the integration of spiritual issues in therapy. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: jeremy.jinkerson@gmail.com.

Sarah C. Holland, M.A., received a Master’s degree from Gonzaga University in counseling psychology and is presently completing her Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Fielding Graduate University, where she concentrating in forensic psychology and neuropsychology. Ms. Holland is a Registered Psychologist in Alberta, Canada and works for a regional school board. Ms. Holland has collaborated on forensic research projects including anti-androgen pharmacological treatments for paraphilia disorders and developing an actuarial adolescent sexual offending risk assessment. She has also works on neuropsychological research projects including neurological functioning in children with learning disabilities, brain-based cognitive interventions, adaptive deficits, and a neuropsychological framework for diagnosing intellectual disability. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: sholland@email.fielding.edu.

Henry V. Soper, Ph.D., received his Doctorate degree in Physiological/Comparative Psychology from the University of Connecticut in 1974. He completed his internship at the Camarillo State Hospital and Developmental Center and his post-doctoral neuropsychology fellowship at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical School. Dr. Soper serves as core clinical faculty at Fielding Graduate University, where he initiated and oversees the neuropsychology concentration within the clinical psychology Ph.D. program. Dr. Soper also serves as an adjunct graduate faculty for the Brooks Institute of Photography and maintains a private practice in neuropsychology. Dr. Soper is a diplomate of the American Board of Psychological Specialists, Forensic Neuropsychology, and the American Board of Forensic Examiners. Dr. Soper has published and presented in multiple areas related to neuropsychology, including ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, memory, neurological disorders, and forensic neuropsychological practice. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: hvsoper@fielding.edu.


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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