* Dr Nikki Lloyd-Jones is heading the research project at Glyndŵr University.
Armed Forces leavers across the region are being sought for a project which will take their picture and tell their story.
The project is the latest development in a research venture led by Wrexham Glyndŵr University Senior Lecturer in Nursing Dr Nikki Lloyd-Jones.
Dr Lloyd-Jones spent two years on the research and is now looking for Armed Forces leavers who would have their picture taken and talk about their experiences leaving the forces to help spread the word about its findings.
A series of recommendations have been made following the research, which are intended to improve the way communities in North Wales work with veterans and those leaving the Armed Forces.
Funded by the Forces in Mind Trust, the research looked at some of the difficulties and tensions veterans can experience when living a civilian life.
With 51,000 veterans in North Wales – or nine per cent of the over 16s population – it is hoped the research can be used by local councils, the NHS, third sector support organisations and others to help support veterans in their transition to civilian life.
Dr Lloyd-Jones said: “We spoke to 30 veterans across North Wales, beginning with an open question about their life since leaving the Armed Forces. I’d like to thank everyone who took part for their help.
“These conversations were meant to reveal something about the everyday decisions participants made, to let them tell us about their experiences of moving to civilian life in their own way – and to give us an insight into some of the challenges those leaving the military might face in conversations with civilians.”
The research picked up on certain themes which came up in conversations with people who were ex-Armed Forces. Three aspects of military identity were identified from the conversations.
These were: “it’s drilled into you” – the way that basic training instils a sense of following direction without question and a sense of order, authority and discipline; “mission command” – a way of analysing, planning and working towards an outcome where each participant plays a role – and “we have each other’s back” – a unique bond and sense of belonging which strengthened group dynamics.
Researchers then examined challenges which people faced as they moved from the military. These included moving forward into civilian life – gaining financial security; changing pace and getting used to the lack of structure and direction faced in civilian life; and putting down roots – something many military people, used to going away on tour, found hard to get used to.
Other challenges included the way military personnel had become accustomed to ‘living the moment’ – coping with combat situations with a heightened state of alertness, dark humour and other methods which can be difficult for those outside to understand.
Finally, participants also identified the experience of being a veteran itself as a challenge – with the implications the word has of an identity between military service and civilian life.
These challenges – and the way that ex-military personnel respond to them – were then used to guide the report’s recommendations.
Dr Lloyd-Jones added: “There is a lot of work being done with the veteran community in North Wales. Our study mapped out some of the challenges that veterans perceive with the change of lifestyle and context they face leaving the military and the decisions they have to make.
“Tackling these changes isn’t just a case of veterans adapting to civilian life, however, but also about how the civilian community as a whole can adapt to - and work with - veterans.
“That means that change doesn’t just need to come from organisations in direct contact with veterans, but also from policies which take those needs into account as part of a wider framework.”
Anyone who wants to find out more about the research, including those who took part – and anyone who wants to have their picture taken and tell their story can contact Dr Lloyd-Jones on firstname.lastname@example.org
* To find out more about the Forces in Mind Trust, click here: http://www.fim-trust.org
And to see more about how Wrexham Glyndŵr University works with service leavers who want to study at the institution, please visit: https://www.glyndwr.ac.uk/en/ArmedForces/