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Veterans to Civilians: Communication Challenges and Culture Shock Ashley Horton Queens University of Charlotte



Abstract The present study examines the role that Culture shock and Reverse Culture shock has on Post 9/11 Veterans that have returned from a combat deployment to the U.S. The study interviews U.S. veterans that have deployed to a combat zone for Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) which includes smaller, related missions. The goal of the study is to determine if the veterans interviewed have or are experiencing any communication challenges as a result of Culture Shock and/or Reverse Culture Shock after deploying to a combat zone such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait or Africa. This information will allow the study to uncover some of the communication challenges veterans are dealing with, what issues might be causing those challenges, what could be done to reduce the impact of said challenges, and what might be done to prevent the same challenges from occurring in the future. During the research process, it had been determined that Culture Shock has been defined similarly in various studies whereas Reverse Culture Shock has not been studied as largely as its predecessor. Reverse Culture Shock lacked sufficient research to contrast the current study against, however, the definition of Reverse Culture Shock pointed out key symptoms and behaviors that were relevant for the interviews and the purpose of this study. The study cannot be generalized, but can be used to further examine what types of shock veterans are exposed to and to broaden the scope in which Reverse Culture Shock is analyzed. Both theories lend themselves to this study when testing the research question and analyzing the findings. Keywords: Culture Shock, Reverse Culture Shock, Post 9/11, Veteran, Shock, Communication, Challenges



Introduction Culture Shock According to Carne (2011), the origins of the Culture Shock theory are credited to Kalervo Oberg. Dutton (2011) and Dutton (2012) examine Obergs studies thoroughly and explained how much of Obergs research was based on social relationships and their impact on individuals, in particular immigrants, in a new cultural environment (p. 111-129). In Carnes (2011) research, it is determined that Oberg defined Culture Shock as phenomena precipitated by the anxiety that results from losing all our familiar signs and familiar social intercourse (p. 177). Gaw (2000) supports this theory in his research by stating, Culture shock is primarily a set of emotional reactions to the loss of perceptual reinforcements from ones own culture, to new cultural stimuli which have little or no meaning, and to the misunderstanding of new and diverse experiences. The researchers studies concluded the Culture Shock, a result of one being immersed in a new culture, could completely shock and change someones immediate well-being. There were several significant emotional and physical changes that were noted in the Culture Shock studies which are later defined by Gaw (2000) and Furnham (2011).



Symptoms of Culture Shock Gaw (2000) further defines Culture shock as encompassing feelings of helplessness; irritability; and fears of being cheated, contaminated, injured or disregarded (p.13). Adrian Furnham (2011) contributed specific symptoms experienced as a result of Culture Shock which complement Gaws (2000) research. Furmham (2011) identified six notable symptoms commonly identified in individuals experiencing culture shock. They are: 1) Psychological Strain 2) A sense of loss and feelings or deprivation 3) Feeling rejected or rejecting 4) Confusion and feelings of surprise 5) Anxiety 6) Indignation and impotence The combination of studies on Culture Shock have found similar traits which help this study determine if veterans are facing this phenomena as a result of returning from combat deployments. Research suggests that Culture Shock may not be the only theory playing a role in veterans difficulty transitioning and re-integrating in to American society.



Reverse Culture Shock Reverse Culture Shock is similar to its predecessor, Culture Shock, with comparable characteristics. However, the definition of Reverse Culture Shock confines this phenomena by determining it happens to individuals that return to their home culture after being introduced or immersed in to an entirely new culture for an extended period of time. An extended period of time can be defined as six months or more for the purpose of this study. Gaw (1995) defines Reverser Culture Shock as the process of readjusting, reacculturating, and re-assimilating into ones own home culture after living in a different culture for a significant period of time (p. 2). The study conducted in 1995 focused on U.S. students that studied abroad and, upon graduation, returned back to the U.S. and experienced what Gaw (1995) defined as Reverse Culture Shock. Adler (1981) had begun to note symptoms that accompany Reverse Culture Shock in his research such as academic problems, cultural identify conflict, social withdrawal, depression, anxiety, and interpersonal difficulties (p. ?). These symptoms align closely with that of Culture Shock which will be important to consider throughout this study. Gaws (1995) research, combined with Adlers (1981), found other common characteristics such as returnees havebeen reported to experience alienation, disorientation, stress, value confusion, anger, hostility, compulsive fears, helplessness, disenchantment and discrimination (Gaw, 1995, p. 3). While Reverse Culture Shock has not been largely studied yet, Gaw (1995) acknowledges that there is no correlation to depict who will be affected by Reverse Culture Shock and who will not. It was assumed that there is no guarantee that any random returnee from a foreign culture



would be exempt from this phenomenon. Christofi & Thompson (2007) share the concern about lack of research behind Reverse Culture Shock as they examine exchange students and their disillusionment with their home country upon their return to their home country (p. 53).



Literature Review Culture Shock and Reverse Culture Shock in Students Arline Edwards-Joseph (2012) conducted a study on Caribbean students that experienced Culture Shock and the study yielded five major themes that emerged with the same feelings described in Furahms (2011) and Gaws (2000) research. Edwards-Joseph (2012) states the emerging themes are loneliness and feeling of not fitting in (alienation), anxiety and depression, value systems and cultural differences, cultural identity, and environmental factorsemerged from students who experienced culture shock (p. 716). Another study conducted by Seiter and Waddell in 1989 was mentioned in Gaws (2000) work. Gaw (2000) uncovered that during Seiter and Waddels (1989) study of students reentering their home countrystudies suggest returnees possibly undergo identity changes resulting from their intercultural experiences aside from normal maturation change (p. 7) Siok Kuan & Chng (2006) conducted studies that yielded similar results relating to identity crises (p. 464-465). This information complimented Gaws (2000) work on reentry difficulties amongst students returning to their home country. One example used in Gaws (2000) work was that of a Japanese family returning to their home country. They sufferedschool phobia, adjustment [their] home country social expectations (i.e. social rules and customs), fear of rejection, [possibility] of ridicule for being foreign and performance anxiety (p. 7). This type of dilemma was common amongst returning students and it was reported that many tried to maintain or trim aspects of themselves learned in [the] new culture (Gaw, 2000, p. 7).



Other changes that Gaw (2000) noted about students with Reverse Culture Shock were physical changes, behavioral changes, interpersonal communication style changes, language competence,accent changes and career value changes (p. 7). Gaw (2000) noted that many of the students felt they held different self-identities up returning to [their] home culture (p. 8). Thus resulting in the conflicts mentioned above. Culture Shock and Reverse Culture Shock in Veteran Students Many of the effects of Culture Shock and Reverse Culture Shock are witnessed in veteran students that have been several years removed from [the] academic campus[several] had to take many remedial courses to get back up to speed (Reynolds, p. 1). Colias (2013) interviewed a male veteran that stated, You feel you know all this stuff and its hard to listen to people tell )you things The veteran said, [Ive] built up this idea in [my] mind that the civilian world is going to be so much easier the male veteran said (Colias, 2013). Gullahorn and Gullahorn (1963) relate this type of expectation upon returning to ones home culture as expecting to return to an unchanged home as an unchanged individual (p. 33-47). When those expectations are violated, the person would then experience Obergs definition of Culture Shock as previously defined. However, Gaws (2000) research suggests, that those who are more cognitively prepared for the cultural differences.[they could] potentially minimize culture shock (p. 7). With all of the potential challenges veterans face when returning to school in the U.S., service members described in Reynolds (2013) study experience alienation among classmates, [and] a sense of withdrawal (p. 1). This results in the alienation felt by many student veteransdue to such publicity regarding the traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder thousands have been diagnosed with (Reynolds, 2013, p. 1).



Carne (2011) studied Post 9/11 Veterans returning from war and their experiences when returning to college. In the study, Carne (2011) noted that Student veteransmay experience a pattern of specific challenges related to common cultural experience. In PTSD and TBI veteran transition publications and studies, culture shock or reverse culture shock is being used with an almost expected intuitive or metaphoric understanding of the term, presenting no research about the associated challenges culture shock or reverse culture shock presents for this group (p. 2). Putts (2014) examines the symptoms of PTSD and psychotic disorders and the symptoms share an eerie resemblance to those of Culture Shock and Reverse Culture Shock (p. 83-89). Abeyasinghe, de Zoysa, et al (2012) further analyze PTSD and compare it to various other disorders, but acknowledge that there are other factors worsening the symptoms that are not being studied. (p. 376-381). Carnes (2011) study suggests veteran students [struggle] with reverse culture shock and reintegrating their home culture while at the same time transitioning in to college (p. 6). Both Gaw (2000) and Carne (2011) emphasize the lack of research done on Reverse Culture Shock; in particular with veterans returning from war. In Edwards-Josephs study (2012) there was evidence suggesting that those who chose to go overseas for educational purposes might be less likely to experience Culture Shock or Reverse Culture Shock. The implications for voluntary travel overseas by Edwards-Joseph (2012) also suggest that one travels for personal growth (p. 717). There may be a correlation with military veterans that voluntarily enlist into service for personal growth versus individuals that chose to enlist to avoid a negative lifestyle or traumatic experience. This has not been studied heavily before, but may be relevant in this study.



Edwards-Joseph (2012) did identify five stages of acculturation which support the Reverse Culture Shock experience noted by Gaw (1995) and Adler (1985). These stages are: 1. Physical Changes 2. Biological Changes 3. Cultural Changes 4. New Set of Relationships 5. Psychological and Behavioral Changes This study will examine if returning combat veterans experience all or none of these phenomena and to what degree. Challenges with these stages can relate back to Culture Shock and Reverse Culture Shock. Pendersen (2004) supports this notion by observing a psychological concern, characterized by symptoms such as anxiety, depression, sleeping problems, fatigue, irritability, loneliness, forgetfulness, nostalgia, and feelings of not fitting in. This has often viewed as characteristics of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in veterans returning from war. Edwards-Joseph (2012) continues to explain that these changes are results from external changes and differences in the physical environment such as climate, food, transportationbelieved to be the pioneer of the concept of culture shock (p. 719). Culture Shock and Reverse Culture Shock on Post 9/11 Veterans Colias (2013) explains that because the federal government invested millions of dollars in to their training, one would think experienced combat veterans would be ideal candidates to fill jobs. But when they leave the military, many find themselves struggling to find work, taking lesser paying jobs or any menial work where they can find it (p. 23). Colias



(2013) interviewed a female veteran who described her experience transitioning in to the civilian world as a really poor transition. The [government] show them how to put on suits, but they dont really help them identify the types of jobs they can do (p. 23). Colias (2013) identified that the issue re-integrating back in to society wasmost acute for veterans in their early to mid-20s. Most were not even old enough to enlistthe problem seems to be a combination of youth, lack of education and lack of work experience outside the military (p. 23). Where the Culture Shock and Reverse Culture Shock theories do not specifically identify any age group to be particularly prone to shock, age may be of relevance in this study. Communication Barriers for Post 9/11 Veterans Resnik & Allen (2007) look deeper in to other forms of communication challenges that may be related to shock in some form. The researchers explain, Redeploying home can be challenging and many veterans have readjustment issues such as marital difficulties, financial difficulties, alcohol or substance abuse problems, medical problems, and behavior problems such as depression or anxiety (p. 991). Resnik & Allen (2007) touch on the concept of reintegration and the merging of veterans back in to the civilian communities. The researchers note that Community reintegration can be viewed as the return of individuals to their age, sex, and culturally appropriate role functionactivities integral to the successful fulfillment of social roles, that together, speak to the extent of an individuals reintegration in to society (Resnik & Allen, 2007, p. 992). For the purpose of this study, reintegration (in to society) is defined as an individual being placed in to their expected social roles as defined by Resnik & Allen in 2007 (p. 992). The



ability for a veteran to reintegrate after returning to the U.S. from a combat deployment show limitation in attention and ability to learn [which] can affect all areas of life, including ability to live independently, be employed, be in school and drive (Resnik & Allen, 2007, p.996). Thus resulting in challenges to be placed back in to the same social roles a veteran may have held prior to their military service. In the study, Resnik & Allen (2007) focus on specific areas of a veterans life to see what has been affected or what has changed since returning from their deployment(s). Interpersonal relationships showed significant amounts of difficulty with veterans who experienced physical and emotional trauma suffering from high frustration levels, poor anger management skills, impaired ability to perceive social cues and impaired social pragmatics (p. 1000). Veterans in the study were noted as experiencing frequent social isolation, apathy and withdrawal from others (Resnik & Allen, 2007, p. 1000). Another aspect of communication that was affected for veterans was a noticeable inability to share or contribute emotionally, emotional distance, and the expression that maintaining old and new friendships difficult (Resnik & Allen, 2007, p. 1000). I guess I dont have the same interests that everybody else would. I cant seem to get used to what I used to beused to like talking about with my friends or family... explained a female veteran in Resnik & Allens (2007) study (p. 1000). Relating all of the above to Culture Shock and Reverse Culture Shock, it seems plausible that the unmet expectation of being unchanged faced with the expectations of ones home culture can produce the same symptoms as the theories of shock as defined above. Its relevant that PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, and other physical injuries are exacerbated by these



circumstances, but there is evidence that Culture Shock and Reverse Culture Shock could be impacting veterans more severely than previously believed. There is not enough research on this particular subject at this time, but is suggested for further investigation in future studies.



Research Question Based on the literature review above, the following research question is tested: What communication challenges are vets facing after returning to the U.S. from a combat deployment (OIF/OEF specifically)? Why? The RQ examines what challenges veterans feel they are experiencing and relates those experiences to the definitions and symptoms defined for Culture Shock and Reverse Culture shock. This will allow the researcher to determine if either type of shock is present and if there is a correlation between the experiences described and any key points during the veterans deployment or return to the U.S. The question is built upon the research on both kinds of shock as well as shock experienced by national and international students as well as the small amount of research suggesting that Culture Shock may be present in combat veterans. This can be measured by comparing and contrasting the answers given by the vets against the research on each type of shock.



Methodology Objective The objective of this study was to examine the communication challenges faced by Post 9/11 combat veterans and to determine if their challenges have a relationship with Culture Shock and Reverse Culture Shock. The literature review on both types of shock strongly suggested that veterans could be experiencing minor to severe shock when entering a foreign country and returning to the U.S. The literature further suggested that Culture Shock and Reverse Culture Shock can inhibit ones ability to communicate effectively as a result of experiencing shock symptoms. For the sake of the study, the participants will be veterans that served in an overseas combat deployment post 9/11 in any branch of service, regardless of age, gender, race and religion. A combat deployment will be defined as a veteran having served overseas in OIF/OEF and/or smaller missions related to these combat deployments. This definition will not require that veterans have actually encountered physical combat such as firefights, hand to hand combat, and other violent encounters. There are other aspects of a deployment and military training that can inhibit ones ability to be an effective communicator once returning to the U.S. Participants A sample of ten Post 9/11 combat veterans was recruited via Facebook, Twitter, email and referral to volunteer for a one-on-one interview with the researcher. The research developed a script to recruit the volunteers online. A follow-up script was created and sent after each of the participants had interest in participating. The script specifically asked the veteran to specify if



they were a Post 9/11 combat veteran to ensure the appropriate candidates were being selected for the study. The veterans were not discriminated against for gender, ethnicity, age or branch of service. The participants had to be able to volunteer of their own free will without the assistance of a care giver or supervisor in order to ask questions specifically related to communication issues that are not caused by a noticeable physical and/or cognitive disability. Many studies have focused on the physical impact on the brain and body to cause physical and/or cognitive communication challenges whereas this study will explore the less obvious issues related to communicating. Procedure The researcher submitted an IRB Exempt application to the IRB board at Queens University of Charlotte to approve the scripts, questions, and validity of the study. Once the IRB approved the application, the script to recruit volunteers was placed on Facebook and Twitter. Veterans that applied were asked to share their full name, phone number and email. The researcher confirmed receipt of the volunteers information and informed the volunteer they would need to send three dates and times to meet with the researcher in person or via Skype. Once the date and times were received, the researcher scheduled each interview in hour long intervals per volunteer. A confirmation email with the date and time was sent the night before the scheduled time of the volunteer to remind them of the meeting and to ensure there would be participation. The volunteers also received a copy of the Informed Consent document to read, sign and send back prior to the interview. A copy of the IRB Exempt application, informed consent, and interview questions can be found in the appendix.



The veterans were contacted directly by the researcher to conduct the interview. All of the interviews were done via Skype per request of each veteran. The interviewer informed the veteran that they would be reviewing the informed consent together to ensure the veteran had an understanding and was able to ask questions or withdrawal from the study if they desired to. Prior to beginning the questions for the interview, the researcher verified that they were the only person in the room, there was no one else that could hear the conversation, the doors were closed and locked and all information would be placed in to a locked safe and the researcher was the only one able to access the information. The researcher explained to the veteran that they would be the only person knowing the veterans identity and explained they would have confidentiality with the information they shared. The researcher asked each veteran if they understood or if they had any questions. The interviews did not begin until the veterans acknowledged full understanding of the Informed Consent and the nature of the study. The veterans were asked prequalifying questions asking them verbally if they were a Post 9/11 combat veteran. If any were to answer no, they would have been disqualified and the interview would have been concluded. All ten of the veterans were Post 9/11 combat veterans, they shared the year they were deployed, how many deployments they served, what branch, age, gender and additional demographic questions. Once the demographic portion was complete, the interviewer moved on to the nine questions created for the study. The researcher defined what communication was based on the study so the veteran would have a mutual understanding. Each veteran was told they could ask to have the question rephrased, any word defined, or the question restated at any time.



The veterans had the opportunity to talk as little or as much as they wanted to answer each of the nine questions. At the end of the questions, the researcher asked the veteran if the veteran if they had any additional information they wanted to share in relation to the questions that were previously asked. Once the opportunity to ask questions was concluded, the researcher asked each veteran if they would agree to be contacted if further information was needed from them. The researcher reminded them that they could ask for a debriefing and review of the study once it was complete. The participants must be able to volunteer of their own free will without the assistance of a care giver or supervisor in order to ask questions specifically related to communication issues that are not caused by a noticeable physical and/or cognitive disability. Many studies have focused on the physical impact on the brain and body to cause physical and/or cognitive communication challenges whereas this study will explore the less obvious issues related to communicating. Risks There are no known risks to the participant. The researcher did acknowledge there may have been unforeseeable risks as noted in the Informed Consent form. The researcher identified hotlines and 911 as an alternative if the veteran needed any kind of assistance or help at any time. The veteran was reminded of these resources before conducting the interview. These resources can be found listed in the Informed Consent in the Appendix. The veteran could have experienced uncertainty about a question in the interview which may or may not have triggered certain symptoms (i.e PTSD). The interviewer reinforced at the beginning of the interview that they do not need to answer any question they dont feel



comfortable with nor are they expected to endure any mental or physical stress. None of the veterans expressed any discomfort or issues with mental or physical triggers during the interview. The veteran was allotted the opportunity to provide any information related to assistance they may need in case it becomes necessary and the researcher may act in accordance with their needs. Analysis The researcher used the prequalifying and demographic information to determine the average age of the veterans, the average number of years spent in service, and charted the frequency of how many tours were served and during which years were the tours served by each veteran. The researcher used the information collected from each veteran to find commonalities in communication challenges, to see if any specific barriers could be identified, and to determine if culture shock or reverse culture shock was a factor in the veterans challenges to communicate with others. This will allow the researcher to determine if there can be any suggestions for further research and/or improving communication challenges with veterans.



Findings Demographics A total of ten Post 9/11 combat veterans were interviewed. Two interviews were done via phone due to technical difficulties and the remaining eight were conducted via Skype. The veterans that were interviewed had deployed to an overseas combat zone between 2004 and 2011; the years deployed varied for each veteran. A total of six veterans said they volunteered for the deployment(s) whereas four felt they did not volunteer. The veterans that said they did not volunteer expressed that they were in the military prior to the U.S. declaring war on terrorism and received orders saying they had to deploy rather than being given the option. Due to the nature of the U.S. military being an all-volunteer force, the question as to whether one volunteered could be deemed irrelevant for this study. The findings were calculated with simple statistics where it was applicable. The average age for the veterans was 28.4 with the ages ranging from 28 to 47. A total of seven veterans identified themselves as Caucasian, one as Alaskan/Native American and two as other. A total of eight veterans served in the United States Marine Corps and two in the army. One identified that had re-enlisted from the Marine Corp in to the Air Force. The average time in service was 10.7 years served. The countries deployed to were Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, East Africa and the border of Jordan and Syria. The average number of deployments overseas was two with the minimum being one deployment and the maximum being four. The location of each veteran was not identified to ensure confidentiality and the location of the veterans current residence was irrelevant for this study.



Themes A total of nine questions were asked and several themes emerged. The themes are as follows: Question 1 What expectations did you personally have (prior to being trained) about the culture you were deploying to prior to reaching that destination? a. Follow-up Question: Where did you deploy to? (If not mentioned) The veterans had anticipated deploying to a third world country and explained they third world meant poor and underdeveloped. The extent of how underdeveloped was unknown. A few veterans also identified they thought the residents of the foreign country would be brutal or like savages that were ready to kill anyone. Question 2 What expectations were you taught to have about the culture by the U.S. Military during training? The veterans identified a variety of things they learned through the military before being deployed in a to a foreign war zone. The veterans identified being taught the basics about the countries religious and personal customs, what the culture would be like and how it was different from the U.S., basic language relative to the country they were deploying to, and how they were supposed to perceive the residents of the territory they were deploying to. One interesting development was that eight out of ten veterans had been taught to perceive the people overseas. Veteran number 7 said, [We were] taught to consider everybody



our enemy. We were taught to be courteous and respectful, but assume everyone there was trying to kill us. Whereas, Veteran 5 said, [We were taught that] these people are regular people, not every person in Afghanistan wants to kill you. They want to live their life and be left alone. Dont treat everyone like an enemy. The contrasting difference between the education the two veterans, and other veterans, received seemed to have changed as veteran 7 had served his deployments much earlier on in the war whereas veteran 5 experienced her deployment several years later. The two types of educational thought about the people varied between each veteran. Question 3 Did the culture you were deployed in differ from your expectations that you knew or learned? a. Follow-Up Question: If yes, what was different? Two out of ten veterans expressed that their experience when arriving to the foreign war zone did not differ from what they had expected. The remaining eight veterans agreed their experience differed from their expectations. Veteran 3 expressed, Looking back, it seems like the country is just full of people doing the best that they can in a bad situation. I dont necessarily think everyone is set out to be bad people, but when their family members get killedthey want revenge on who kills your family just like anyone wouldin particular an invading country. Veteran 5 also expressed that during her deployment she felt, They just want to be your friend and know everything about you. She said she was surprised that,they were so sweet



and loving. Veteran 5s experience refers to encounters with the females of Afghanistan more so than men. All of the veterans were surprised at how under-developed and poor the countries were and how poorly the women were treated in each of the countries. All but one veteran felt the people were more educate than they had anticipated. The remaining veteran felt the people he met were very uneducated. Question 4 What expectations did you have (personally) about what home would be like for you once you returned from your combat deployment? All of the veterans expressed that they didnt think going home would change or be any different from the way it was when they left for their deployment. In regards to what the veterans thought wouldnt change, all shared the idea that they would be the same person with their family and friends and they would be able to go back to work and pick up where they left off. A few veterans admitted they knew some things might be a little different, but they werent sure what. Question 5 What expectations did the military teach you to have about home post deployment? There was a unanimous opinion from the veterans that the married vets received more attention and help to prepare for going home and readjusting with their families. Only two of the veterans were married when they returned from their deployment and the remaining eight were single. The two married veterans said they were told to expect their families to be able to function



independently since the family had been on their own for so long. They were also told to understand there will need to be a period of adjustment to allow the spouses and children to get reacquainted with the veterans again. The single veterans expressed that they received little to no help transitioning and understanding what changes they should expect once they returned to the U.S. The single veterans said they had short debriefings, mainly about finances and a few documents about the Department of Veterans Affairs, but all said none of the information was helpful or significant to them. Question 6 Did your experience at home differ from the expectations you held before returning back home? a. Follow-up Question: If yes, what was different? One veteran provided significant information that will be further discussed in the analysis portion of this study. Veteran 3 stated, I didnt care for the stuff they [military personnel] told my wife to expect. Veteran 3 shared that his wife had been told to avoid communicated about anything related to the deployment which made them both feel as if they were walking on eggshells. Veteran 3 said, if they told you not to say those things then why are we married if we cant communicate anymore? I wasnt happy with what they asked her to do. We werent happy on either end.



Other veterans said they noticed differences in their personalities and there were things others noticed and had to point out to them. Many expressed their surprise as to how hard it was for them to readjust to being back in the U.S. Veteran 2 expressed, Being immersed in the culture for so long and coming backit was a real shock. Question 7 Since returning home from your combat deployment(s), have you experienced any of the following emotions? 1) Anxiety 2) Depression 3) Isolation 4) Irritation 5) Anger 6) Self-doubt 7) Fear The veterans reported feeling some degree of all of the symptoms. A few identified feeling the symptoms prior to deployment, but the symptoms worsened after they returned to the U.S. None of the pre-existing symptoms disappeared upon returning to the U.S. Question 8 Do you feel you are better able to make personal connections (i.e. personal or intimate) since youve returned from your deployment?



a. Follow-up Question: If no, what makes you feel that you are not better at doing this? Only two vets said they were better able to make personal connections successfully after their deployments and one stated they felt they had become better at it. Most found that they had experienced, or are experiencing, challenges and have no idea why there is a problem. Veteran 7 stated, I feel worse at it. The [military] makes you get the job done; nobody has time for small talk. Its all about whats going on and how is it getting done; thats it. Everything is treated this way and I think it bled in to my social abilities. Were so brass and crass in the way everybody [in the military] delivers their message. One vet did state that seeking out and actively participating in therapy has helped his ability to connect with others to a small degree. Question 9 Prior to returning home from a combat deployment and reflecting on your experiences being home post deployment, do you feel there is something you could have benefited from to help you transition back home more easily? a. Follow-up Question: If yes, what do you think helped you make an easy transition back home? b. If no, what do you think would have helped you? All of the veterans stated they would have wanted someone to talk to, such as an advocate or another combat veteran, which could relate to their experiences and offer helpful advice. Interactive role playing was suggested by a few veterans as well so they could practice



how to respond to various situations at home much like they did when preparing to deploy to a war zone.



Discussion The purpose of this section is to analyze and discuss the findings in order to answer the research question and determine any implications about shock and its effect on veterans. When analyzing the demographics, ones age during the deployment may have played a role in how well one readjusted back to the culture in the U.S. During the interview, Veteran 3 felt that those veterans who were older had a greater sense maturity and understanding to be able to cope with the shock and recover at a faster rate. This particular sentiment was not tested for this study, but could be used to determine if there is a difference in age, maturity and readjustment for future studies. There was a significant difference in the perceptions and attitudes about the foreign culture when studying the veterans who had deployed closer to 2003 versus the veterans that deployed closer to 2011 and beyond. Those who went into a combat zone closer to 2003 to 2006 felt the war was the most intense and held more negative views and perceptions about the culture and anticipated a more hostile environment. Those who deployed closer to 2010 and 2011 declared they were more open minded as to what they would encounter overseas and didnt feel as negative about the culture they were deploying to. It is possible that these attitudes over various timeframes could be related to Obamas efforts to remove military personnel from war zones and end all of the existing wars overseas. This particular subject could be tested in future studies. The themes that emerged in questions one, two and three were related to what the veteran had expected to experience when deployed to a combat zone, what they were taught to expect and what they actually experienced once arriving to their designated location. In contrasting the



themes, a majority of the veterans had expected the countries to be poor, slightly underdeveloped, and not very civilized. The veterans were shocked by how impoverished the country was once they had arrived and it was worse than what they had expected. The military taught the veterans some of the values that each culture held and basics about the language so they could communicate independently if needed. The veterans didnt know what to expect about personal and religious customs. The veterans stated the military did its best to train them on what to expect with cultural norms so the veterans could be as diplomatic as possible while still performing their required job responsibilities. All of the veterans said they were taught to be courteous and respectful, but those who deployed closer to 2003 were taught to view everyone as the enemy that is trying to kill them. This sentiment still echoed in the veterans continued thoughts about the country they deployed to. Those that deployed closer to 2011 were taught not to trust everyone, but not to treat everyone as the enemy. This sentiment was less common among the veterans. The veterans stated that these views had drastically changed over the course of the war and could also be reflective of the efforts to pull troops from overseas war zones. Perceptions on how the views about war have changed over the last 12 years could be studied further at a later date. All of the veterans felt that what they had expected about their deployment(s) rang true once arriving to their designated combat zone. However, they were all surprised to some degree by the hospitable nature of the local residents as well. Only some of the veterans actually experienced hostile forces overseas, but all were taught to expect a violent environment at all times. The veterans views of a hostile combatant was what they were taught to expect and that expectation was only met some of the time and under extreme circumstances such as a suicide bomb, military assault, and other various forms of combat outside of a normal, civil interaction.



It could be suggested that the expectations of some of the veterans were violated which may have caused Culture Shock to some degree. Questions four, five and six analyzed what the veterans personally expected when they returned to the U.S., what they were taught to expect, and if their experience upon returning home met their expectations or not. The most common theme from all of the veterans was that they all felt that nothing would be different when they returned to the U.S. During the interview, Veteran 6 stated, I thought it was going to be like a vacation or a party every single time. Veteran 7 expressed, I was expecting everybody to be there. I was expecting to really enjoy my life after going through some really hard times. Veteran 10 shared similar sentiments, I thought I would have been able to transition normallythat Id just come back and everything would pick back up where I left off. However, only a few veterans actually felt like most of their expectations had been met upon returning home. A majority of the veterans expressed that when they returned to the U.S. that everything was different for them and in ways they did not expect. This is where some of the veterans felt their problems and challenges with communication had started. It can be suggested from the evidence in contrast with the research on shock, that the veterans expectations about returning to the U.S. was violated therefore Reverse Culture Shock set in. Another important trend to contrast was what the military taught the veterans to expect when going home. Only two out of ten veterans were married during their deployment, but all ten veterans felt that there was a heavy emphasis on helping married veterans transition and adapt to their lives at home whereas the single veterans were given little to no information to



prepare for their reintegration. This was seen as a major problem when each of the veterans, married and single, reflected on their education about returning home. Based on the discussions with each of the veterans, they felt they received an intense, but necessary, amount of information about the country they were going to deploy. All of the veterans felt they did not receive the same amount of information going home. The veterans expressed they were taught about culture, customs and lifestyles overseas and about what kind of personal and group expectations they should have to go on a deployment and be effective. The veterans felt that while not all of their expectations were the same when they were overseas, they felt prepared and less shocked by what they experienced. Therefore they felt they were better able to transition in to the new culture and perform their required duties for their job. The difference in how they were trained to go home was a huge issue for a majority of the veterans. The amount of training received by each veteran was different, but all of them expressed it wasnt enough. Veteran 4 stated, The [military] didnt really teach [me] anythingI got a lot of outside opinions, but nor formal teaching about what to expect. You go through a month of readjustment training and get told to be a normal citizen and to control your anger. You get told dont freak out and dont do what you did in combat. Thats about it. Veteran 3 said, We were told that nobody owes us anything. I dont think they [military] did a good job at all about setting expectations coming back. I was a little older and mature.I wonder about the young guys who have never been away from home and were sheltered and now have to come back. Veteran 10 shared similar sentiments, They put us through some classes on getting back in to the civilian life. Not helpful. They talked about finances, how to deal with ita lot didnt



apply to me because I was single at the time; most of it was directed towards married guys. They talked about how to deal with wives and kids and not to expect to go back to the way things were before. A veteran also said he felt the debriefings they received were directed towards married military members as well and found the information useless. These sentiments were expressed in all of the interviews and in summarizing these responses it appears that lack of training and preparation has had a huge impact on the veterans communication thus creating challenges that could have been avoided. Not having the appropriate expectations and training has led to surprise, confusion, anxiety and fear once the veterans returned home. These are all significant characteristics of both types of shock. In looking at the definition of Culture Shock and Reverse Culture Shock, it does appear that the pre-transition back to the U.S. could have been more effective had the veterans been taught what to expect and how to readjust. The veterans feeling that their home life had changed and everything was different reflects the idea of losing what was once familiar to them as stated in the literature review on the two types of shock. Addressing the symptoms and known characteristics of shock in advance may have lessened the negative impact on the veterans abilities to communicate with their loved ones, friends, and families. This is a subject that could be tested in future studies. As a result, the veterans felt there was a lack of readjustment training and proper education on things like shock, a majority expressed feeling symptoms of PTSD which closely relate to the symptoms identified in the research on Culture Shock and Reverse Culture Shock. Analyzing PTSD and its symptoms in comparison to shock are suggested for future studies.



Question seven listed the seven most common characteristics for shock to see if theres a correlation between shock and the veterans challenges after returning to the U.S. Nine out of ten veterans said they experienced anxiety after their deployment. If any expressed having anxiety prior to their deployment, they all stated it was worse upon returning to the states. Six out of ten veterans felt depression to some degree. Each veteran varied on how frequent they felt depressed and how intense the feeling was. All of the veterans that felt depression said it was only present after their deployment. Seven out of ten veterans experienced isolation either by isolating themselves from others or feeling isolated by others. All of the veterans felt some form of isolation only after their deployment. Isolation can lead to symptoms such as anxiety, communication apprehension, irritation, anger and depression. Nine out of ten veterans felt irritation and all of them stated it was noticeably worse after their deployments. Eight out of ten veterans expressed increasing amounts of anger after their deployments. Some stated they felt some degree of anger prior to the deployment, but it was more prominent after returning to the states. Seven out of ten veterans said they experienced self-doubt, but did stated they did not feel it was specifically related to the deployment. Several of the veterans expressed that self-doubt is just a part of life and they wouldnt consider it to be a problem. Finally, three out of ten said they felt some degree of fear that they had not experienced prior to deploying. For the purpose of this study, fear could have been defined more clearly to better determine if it was or was not a symptom being experienced. The results found in question seven would suggest that the symptoms reported by each of the veterans could have been present prior to the deployment, but regardless of pre-existing



symptoms, anything the veteran experienced was significantly greater post-deployment. Some of the veterans suggested they felt their symptoms faded after a lengthy period of time. Lengthy was not defined by the veterans. The evidence found does support that none of the symptoms listed disappeared after a deployment therefore the symptoms were new or exacerbated at some point during and/or after the deployment. This information supports the idea that culture shock and reverse culture shock are present and can possible worsen the symptoms of PTSD and other psychiatric conditions for veterans. Question 8 analyzed how the veterans felt about their ability to communicate and connect with others in personal and intimate relationships. Two of the veterans expressed they were better able to make relationships; one sought help through therapy and the other expressed a deep desire to connect and learn how to do it better. The remaining eight felt they had more of a problem connecting with others and many felt they didnt know or understand why. Veteran 1 stated, I feel kind of distanced from people because I cant relate with them as much. This thought was a common theme among the eight veterans that felt they have been struggling with communication and relationships. All of the symptoms listed in question seven were related to how the veterans felt they were unable to communicate. Many expressed anxiety when trying to talk to new people and depression when they feel they have failed at being useful or needed by others. Feeling isolated from others often causes the veterans to disconnect and avoid communicating and therefore isolating themselves. Many veterans felt heightened irritation and anger when trying to communicate with non-military people and other symptoms listed were triggered as a result. This supports the research question in that there are existing communication challenges as a result of improper training and the presence of Culture Shock and Reverse Culture Shock.



Finally, question nine asked the veteran to identify anything he or she felt would have been helpful to them to make the transition back to the U.S. easier and possibly reduce the amount of communication challenges they have been or are currently facing. Many of the veterans suggested they would have liked to role play to practice how to respond to situations with family and friends. Veteran 4 talked about role playing to prepare for his combat deployment and how much it had helped him be ready to do his job. Many of the veterans expressed this may have helped them understand the types of changes they would be faced with and they thought they would have been less surprised. Other veterans expressed the desire to have a fellow combat veteran or advocate available to talk to them instead of hotlines and strangers at the doctors office. Veteran 5 expressed, There were no real resources for people struggling. You basically had to do it on your own. When youve never felt these things before or have never been through this beforeyou dont want to just call someone and say Hey, I want to kill myself. You dont WANT to call somebody. I wish I had an advocate, someone to talk to. All of the responses given by the veterans are implicative about the types of symptoms they are experiencing, what is triggering the symptoms, and how they do or dont cope with the issues. The findings in question nine further support the presence of Culture Shock and Reverse Culture Shock in veterans returning from a combat deployment.



Conclusion In conclusion, the research and evidence found during the study strongly suggest that Culture Shock and Reverse Culture Shock symptoms are present in veterans that return from a combat zone and are significantly related to the communication challenges veterans are faced with as a result. While not all of the challenges veterans cope with are related to or a result of Culture Shock, it can be suggested that the characteristics and symptoms of shock can exacerbate any other condition the veteran is dealing with. As some of the studies in the literature review suggest, preparing individuals for their return to their home country or state has helped them prepare, cope, and anticipate change which reduces the likelihood of experiencing shock. It can be recommended to further study the impacts of shock on veterans and implement training and education for the veterans before returning home to decrease the chances of experiencing shock and to improve their overall well-being by removing additional stressors on other possible issues. Limitations One limitation is the study is not generalizable. The sample size used is not meant to generalize shock and veterans, but can be used as a foundation to produce further research on this subject. Another limitation was the time allotted to conduct the interviews and the research. While the information found during the study is useful and implicative of Culture Shock, more time allotted to conduct more in-depth interviews and follow-up meetings could have enhanced or changed the results of this study. Cost and location is a limitation as all of the veterans lived in a variety of locations across the U.S. The researcher did not have the financial ability to travel to each of the veterans and some of the veterans could not financially travel to the researcher resulting in Skype and



telephone interviews. However, the cost of the phone calls could not be compensated and inperson interviews could have yielded more significant results. Recommendations It is recommended that this study be continued and focused more specifically on Culture Shock and the time before the veteran returns to the U.S. The hope is to identify specific areas in the veterans training that are lacking or ways the training could be improved to help the transition when returning home. Further studies may be able to identify more specific triggers, events, or situations that could be addressed when implementing Culture Shock training postdeployment. A final recommendation is to study veterans that have already returned from a combat deployment and elaborating on the questions provided and developing additional questions to gain more specific information. The hope is to find ways to reduce the impact of shock and decrease the stress being placed on the veteran while they are readjusting to their home environment.



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Appendix Chart 1

Participant Details
# of Gender Age Deployments Years Deployed
Veteran 1 Veteran 2 Veteran 3 Veteran 4 Veteran 5 Veteran 6 Veteran 7 Veteran 8 Veteran 9 Veteran 10 Male Male Male Male Female Male Male Male Male Male 29 28 47 29 28 29 33 33 41 28 1 2 2 2 1 3 3 1 1 1 2007 2006, 2010 2006, 2007 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 2011 2003, 2005, 2010 2003, 2005, 2006 2003 2004 2004

Volunteer Status
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes No No Yes

Time in Service
8 8-Present 29 8 7.5 12-present 12 4 17.5 6.5



Table 1
Veterans Age Range # of Veterans 1 1 2 3 3

Age 47 41 33 29 28

Graph A

28 29 33 41 47 0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 1



Table 2
Number of Deployments Served Per Year # of Year Deployments 2003 3 2004 2 2005 2 2006 3 2007 3 2008 1 2009 1 2010 2 2011 1

Graph B

3 2.5 2 1.5 1 0.5 0 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 1 Deploy. 2 Deploy. 3 Deploy.



Table 3
Ethnicity Types Caucasian Alaskan/Native American Hispanic/Latino African American Other # of Veterans 7 1

Graph C

7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0




Table 4
Question 7 Responses Symptoms Yes No Anxiety 9 1 Depression 6 4 Isolation 7 3 Irritation 9 1 Anger 8 2 Self-doubt 7 3 Fear 3 7

Graph D

Fear Self-doubt Anger Irritation Isolation Depression Anxiety 0 2 4 6 8 10 No Yes



Graph E

Male Female