Leeds Beckett University
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Life After Combat: A qualitative intrinsic case study exploring the impact of military experience on British Army veterans Coldstream Guards

posted on 2022-06-15, 14:32 authored by Charlesworth, Brian
‘Life after Combat’ is a qualitative study exploring how the military experience of ex-infantry soldiers impacts on their civilian existance upon leaving the army. The participants (four male infantry combat veterans) were selected from those who had served in military conflict since the 1970s, including Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. This study employs a constructionist approach with its research methods developed through a process referred to as ‘emergent design’, whereby the researcher responds to the unfolding process and constantly adapts the method to suit the task. Semi-structured interviews were coded in the style of grounded theory and the resulting themes were provided for participant validation, from which four individual in-depth intrinsic case studies were created. Having served in the army myself, the whole research process was influenced by my ‘insider researcher’ perspective. The insider perspective is further enhanced in a biographical chapter presenting my experiences of life after combat and the challenges I encountered in the transitional process from soldier to civilian. Findings A number of key themes were identified under three main sections, pre-service, in-service and post-service. Pre-service: Rite of passage. A place to grow. Joining the army was reported as an opportunity to belong to something bigger and build a positive sense of self. In-service: Personal growth. Sense of comradery. Sense of meaning and purpose. In-service experiences were reported as holding a strong sense of comradery and mutual support, living within a ‘we’ oriented culture, and fulfilling existential needs through generating meaning and purpose. Post-service: Post Trauma Growth. Loss of identity. Loss of comradery. Post-service themes showed a strong sense of loss as a result of the cultural changes encountered in the transition to civilian life. Conversely, there were reports of post trauma growth (PTG), where veterans built on their strengths to navigate the challenges of re-entering civilian existance. Conclusions The research benefits and therapeutic value of veteran-to-veteran collaboration and dialogue were highlighted. The veteran was portrayed as holding ‘insider knowledge’ that non-military ‘outsiders’ tend to lack, which can lead to an ‘empathy gap’ between the civilian and the veteran. These findings suggest that there may be opportunities to enhance veteran services through developing veteran-to-veteran contact and support, and to promote an awareness amongst serving personnel of the potential challenges transitioning into civilian life can hold.



Brendan Gough; David Carless; Kitrina Douglas

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Leeds Beckett University

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