A couple years back, I was invited by my friend and colleague, Dr. Rory Cooper, to participate in a "Wounded Warrior" training program held at Walter Reed Army Hospital. Dr. Cooper, a military veteran, and expert in disability issues, has aligned the amazing work he is doing at the University of Pittsburgh's Human Engineering Research Lab with the VA and participates regularly in military training programs.
Given my work in social capital, Dr. Cooper felt that this information would be vital to the wounded veteran who is leaving the service and re-connecting to the greater community. Needless to say, when someone joins the military they become immersed in a military community that dominates their social capital network and, in a way, meets their every need. Then, when the veteran decides to separate from their military "family," the challenge of community integration becomes a huge issue. This is further exasperated when the veteran has been wounded.
The session we did at Walter Reed Army Hospital truly opened my eyes to this dilemma and how hard it can be to realign to civilian life when the mainstay of one's social capital is left behind. Certainly many people experience this challenge when they must relocate for job or lifestyle reasons and finding new friends (social capital) becomes one of the most difficult issues. For the returning veteran, this challenge can be monumental.
As a follow-up to our session, I was further invited by Dr. Cooper to write a chapter in his newest book, "Promoting Successful Integration," that explores some of the strategies and actions the veteran can do in building a new life in their community. The chapter I did with my colleague, Melva Gooden-Ledbetter is titled, "Community/Peer Support and Service." The book was just released by the Office of the Surgeon General, Falls Church, VA, and we are incredibly proud to have been included.
There is no question that the power and potency of social capital in helping people build a more successful life applies to all aspects of experience.