Tuning in to transition
A new small-screen ten-part series promises to keep the nation hooked on a thrilling drama that highlights the challenges Veterans face in their transition back to civilian life,
but what’s the reality, asks Rhicha Kapila, partner and head of the military department at London-based law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp
Hot on the heels of gripping BBC drama Bodyguard, which shone a light on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a new military-focused A-list drama, Homecoming, is set to debut on Amazon on Friday 2 November.
In the series, the character of Heidi Bergman, played by Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman, Erin Brockovich), is a caseworker at Homecoming Transitional Support Centre, a Geist Group facility that helps soldiers transition back to civilian life. Walter Cruz (Stephen James) plays a charming soldier back from war in desperate need of such help. The facility is overseen by an ambitious businessman who appears more concerned with defence funding than actually committing to helping soldiers. Four years later, it transpires Heidi starts a new life and begins to question why she left the Homecoming facility in the first place. The psychological thriller continues as Heidi begins to realise that there’s a whole other story behind the one that she’s been telling herself. It’s a tantalising storyline.
There is little dispute in reality that, after a period of active duty, rehabilitation is crucial for Service personnel, but there isn’t a perfect retreat or support centre actively in situ upon return or discharge to address those challenges. The reality is that most Service men and women have to find their own way.
Being part of the Armed Forces becomes a way of life for many, and although they are highly skilled in their professional roles, they are often not prepared for the return to civvy street. There is often a period of cultural readjustment that is somewhat daunting, but it is important to keep a channel of communication open with other Veterans who have gone through a similar experience.
In reality, those with injuries – both hidden and physical – face additional challenges during their transition period, not just a cultural adaptation. This is normally because the injury has forced an early retirement, which means less time to gain additional military skills, qualifications and resettlement opportunities. Further, there is less time to process the emotional and practical considerations during a forced transition, not just for those serving, but also for their families.
In the trailer Heidi is shown saying to Walter during a counselling session, ‘Homecoming is a safe space for you to process your military experience and to think about what happens next.’ The concept of a ‘safe space’ is an attractive one. It is important for injured Veterans to pause and allow some time out for self-care and rehabilitation, to re-value and think through their next steps before embarking on a second career and lifestyle. It is all achievable with the right support.
Homecoming has made me consider whether our British soldiers are receiving enough transitional support. We know that the new Defence National Rehabilitation Centre, Stanford Hall Estate, promises great things. There are more than 2,000 military charities and organisations to help with issues such as finance, housing, employment, CV writing, interview tips, and physical and mental health. It’s picking the right support for the individual that’s tricky, but the Veterans Gateway aims to deliver on that. While many Service personnel leaving the military may initially struggle, with appropriate support most do make the transition successfully.
The solution to a positive civilian transition probably isn’t based on a thrilling drama focused on a privately run counselling retreat for returning war Veterans, but Homecoming will certainly deliver in terms of raising awareness of the support that is currently accessible to our British Armed Forces personnel and what other steps could be taken to help in that transition. It really is a must-watch.
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