Thursday, April 22, 2010

Greeting Homecoming Veterans

What are helpful tips for greeting a veteran who has just returned home?

Here are my paraphrases of some tips I have heard. For most ideas I have no original source. A few ideas came from former Sergeant Andi Westfall, who served with the National Guard as a medic during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Take initiative talking to them, then treat them like a typical friend. You want to spend time with them. Do not wait for them to start a conversation.

Remain active. Your interest is real. Do not let them deter you if they test the genuineness of your support.

In a general way ask them to talk about experiences. Listen and empathize. You want an honest answer. Do not analyze or judge.

Be prepared to feel emotional responses to what they say without reacting emotionally. You can demonstrate that they can fit in at home even after emotional events. Do not lose your calm.

Talk about how you have been enjoying the present moment and following short-term plans. Home is where the heart is. Do not fan the flames of the many worries and memories born away from home.

Only ask specific questions if you are sure the answer will make you both smile. To help start a friendship you will ignore your natural yet rude curiosity. Do not follow curiousity; follow empathy.

Avoid asking general questions. You trust their choices about what to talk about. Do not accidentally put them on the spot with a request to form a plan, judgment, or opinion--or put into words something newly discovered.

Avoid stealing ownership of their emotions. You respect their humanity. Do not help them put a name to a feeling or (even jokingly) suggest what they "should feel".

No comments: