Stories of transition: US Veterans’ narratives of transition to civilian life and the important role of identity

September, 2018

This article explores research that centred around the transition stories of US veterans.


Introduction: To date, investigations of Veterans’ transition to civilian life after military service have tended to focus on the experiences of those with mental or physical health difficulties or on employment challenges and homelessness. This study aimed to gain a deep understanding of Veterans’ transition to civilian life, the challenges they face, and the adaptive and maladaptive ways in which they manage them. Methods: A narrative approach was used to afford the Veterans an opportunity to share their experiences through their transition story. Six male Veterans residing in the Chicagoland area who had left the military between 1 and 12 years earlier were interviewed using a narrative approach. Results: Narrative analysis led to the emergence of three master narratives: narratives of the challenges, narratives of readiness, and narratives of continued military values. The narratives the Veterans shared highlighted not only the importance of practical readiness for transition but also the need for a fundamental addition to how Veteran transition is considered that includes psychological considerations of the impact on identity and the potential for existential crisis. Discussion: Appraising transition only in terms of measurable factors such as employment, living conditions, and health likely overlooks those experiencing psychological challenges and sub-clinical mental health difficulties. The proposed fundamental addition has implications for work with Veterans in various health care settings and for existing transition programs, including a consideration of the role of identity.

Full Reference

Keeling, M., 2018. Stories of transition: US Veterans’ narratives of transition to civilian life and the important role of identity. JMVFH, 4(2). Available at: <>.

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