Kate Hendricks Thomas, PhD is a behavioral medicine researcher and Master Certified Health Education Specialist. She studies evidence-based mental fitness and peak performance and is the author of three books – Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance, Bulletproofing the Psyche, and Invisible Veterans.

She has written about something she knows intimately on several different levels. As she reflected on “The Two Liminalities of War” in Neither Here nor There: The Many Voices of Liminality, she did so as a seasoned, twice deployed Marine to Iraq. She knew first hand the liminality of being downrange. And she knew the liminality of returning to a civilian culture that can seem incredibly alienating. Though our military service personnel are extraordinarily prepared to go to war these days, the same success cannot be claimed for homecoming and reintegration. New ways must be found to give the same degree of success in addressing reintegration stress and actually preparing for it with resiliency cultivation. She writes:

“A major reason why service members avoid treatment is that recommendations to seek it often come from civilian mental heath providers. Because warrior cultures have their own temperaments, members are typically exclusive and mistrustful of outsiders with different life experiences. The military is an insular world, and well-intentioned providers are simply not a part of it. Research has shown that after deployments, service members separating from active duty feel incredibly disconnected from civilians.

The way back for warriors in our own time parallels ancient rites of passage. We need to re-establish our sense of community and belonging, the role of ritual elders to transition the warrior home, spiritual resources for purification and healing of the soul, opportunities for story-telling, and we need to improve the general population’s understanding and awareness of the warrior’s journey. In this way, the inevitable liminality of war may avoid becoming permanent, and what should be the solace of homecoming may not become a second liminaity – sometimes deadlier than the first.”