Rethinking veteran return trips from a relational perspective: partner’s role in challenging military discourses

Siri Driessen, Jeannette van Brenk, Nicole Immler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

The voices of women with a military partner are often unheard in research on military deployments and their aftermath, even though partners are seen as key pillars of support to military veterans, both by military institutions and society. Research on the experiences of partners is usually done from a clinical or psychological perspective, studying (secondary) traumatization, moral injury, or/and the consequences of living with someone suffering from PTSD. However, how partners themselves assign meaning to military deployments is often overlooked. We engage with this paradox by empirically studying organized group return trips to Bosnia. Recent developments indicate that military organizations gain more interest in partners’ experiences–at least on paper. Since 2023, the Dutch government has granted hundreds of Dutchbat 3 veterans (those stationed in Srebrenica in 1995) and their partners the opportunity to return to Bosnia, as a gesture of recognition and care. We analyse the role of veterans’ partners in changing hegemonic narratives on return trips to Bosnia, and add a gendered perspective to this field of research. While military discourses on the return trip mainly focus on improving the wellbeing of veterans, our research shows that partners are pertinent to invoking repair of the suffering experienced. Recognition entails renewing social relationships. By applying a relational approach, we show the return trips’ potential to renew conversations between couples. However, we also demonstrate that attempts to counter hegemonic narratives often result in a confirmation instead of a transformation of earlier acquired perspectives.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCritical Military Studies
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 Mar 2024

Keywords

  • Veterans
  • gender
  • narratives
  • partners
  • return trips

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