116th Annual Conference - Bellingham, Washington
Friday, November 9 - Sunday, November 11, 2018

Veterans’ Transition

Alice Sylvester, University of Phoenix

This paper compares the movie Heroes Don't Come Home to the real-life experiences of nine war veterans who have successfully reintegrated into the civilian workforce. Numerous factors played an integral role in these veterans' success, deconflicting the tangled misconceptions associated with veterans, war, and PTSD. Heroes do Come Home!


An unprecedented number of veteran's transition from the U.S. military into the civilian workforce every year.  The movie ‘Heroes Don't Come Home' chronicles the life and friendship of two young men, who they were, and whom they became through life's journey.  One of the young men joined the marines, went to war, and returned home plagued with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  The film portrayed a young man emotionally broken, a loner, who abused alcohol, and unable to maintain a relationship.

However, this situation is not an accurate representation of veterans because all veterans do not always struggle in the reintegration and transition process. Further, all war veterans are not afflicted with PTSD, and others experience milder cases but adapt very well. The film seemed to focus on the negative aspects of veterans returning home from war as do current literature focus on veterans’ unemployment.

Veterans bring a diverse set of skills, experience, and expertise to the civilian workforce, which contributes to success in the recruitment and selection process for some veterans (Clemens & Milsom, 2008; Colomb, 2017).  Much of the current literature and film focus on the negative aspects of the transition of veterans and subsequent unemployment.  Literature and film focusing on the positive aspects of veterans' transition are limited.

While reviewing current and historical literature, the review helped to identify gaps about veterans who successfully reintegrated into the civilian workforce in which film and literature play an epic role.  Film and mass media literature can play an integral role in bridging the gap by writing and publishing literature and developing film focusing on the positive aspects of veterans' transition and reintegration success. By contrast, extrinsic motivation, influence people to behave in a certain manner by external factors, such as tangible rewards to include pay, status, awards or recognition, or a comprehensive package (Ryan & Deci, 2000).  Extrinsic motivation particularly has a powerful effect on human behavior. Therefore, those are the elements of motivation and self-determination displayed by the veterans in this study.  The film and literature industry choose to portray the aspects of veterans' journey, which illustrate a tale of confliction between portrayal and human motivation.  

The film ‘Heroes Don't Come Home' failed to capitalize on such characteristics of veterans returning home from the war but rather chose to feed into the PTSD frenzy, shedding a negative light on veterans, which sometimes hurt them in the employment selection process.  Self-determination is a powerful antidote for any situation that a veteran or anyone may face and these brave souls whether the challenges through (a) intentional preparation, (b) overcoming the challenges of transition, and (c) taking advantage of the resources afforded to veterans in the transition process. Current films and literature neglect the portray the positive aspects of veterans' transition.

Therefore, in this paper, the real-life experiences of war veterans who have reintegrated successfully are compared with the movie ‘Heroes Don't Come Home.' The intent is to deconflict the tangled misconceptions associated with veterans, war, and PTSD.  Because Heroes do Come Home!