Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Veterans-Mental health, Adjustment (Psychology), Veterans-Education, War neuroses, Operation Enduring Freedom, 2001- - Psychological aspects, Iraq War, 2003- - Psychological aspects, Meaning (Psychology), Life, Veterans, Military, Transition, Reintegration, Meaning in life, Combat, Iraq War, Afghanistan War, G.I. Bill


This study was undertaken to explore the experience transitioning out of the military for veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The study paid particular attention to the role of meaning in life in this transition. Twelve veteran participants were recruited to participate in this qualitative study through posting of call for participants through veterans organizations, craigslist volunteer ads, and snowball sampling methods. The study collected demographic information, military service history, responses to the Meaning in Life Questionnaire, and qualitative responses to a semi-structured interview consisting of six questions. The interview topics included: Describing experience in the military, thoughts and feelings upon separation, supports and challenges in transition, impacts of service, and meaning in life. The major findings of this study focused on veterans' experiences transitioning from the military to civilian life. Returning to school played an important role for these veterans in their transitions. All participants had utilized veteran education benefits since transitioning out of the military. Family, friends, and faith can serve important supportive functions, especially when these functions support the veterans' integration of their military service into a broader identity. Feelings of difference and resulting isolation were common among these veterans as a result of their combat experience, and all veterans noted it is impossible not to change after serving in combat. Some veterans shared their combat experiences helped to mature and crystalize their understandings of meaning in their own lives, while others shared they were searching for a sense of meaning or purpose in life.




iv, 60 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2011. Includes bibliographical references (p. 51-53)