TLDR - Things have changed quite a bit since the US pulled out of Vietnam in 1973.
Since that was included in the OP it’s still kind of on topic. Buckle up. All of this is from my US Army perspective. Big chunks of it are driven by DOD level policy or federal law but differences can still apply between services.
Vietnam was a long time ago and big chunks of the military were draftees who served as individual replacements rotating in and out of units deployed forward. PTSD hadn’t even been introduced as a recognized mental disorder yet. It was first recognized in DSM-III in 1980. For most draftees who served in Vietnam, redeployment was so close to their separation that the issues were likely to be comingled. We’re now a volunteer force. There’s quite a bit less comingling of reintegration after deployment and separation. The dominant model is now rotating units in and out as organizations. We’ve got a couple decades of research focus on PTSD to guide policy.
Something like what you described is pretty routine for a farewell IME. It was less formal in my non-mobilized Guard time simply because of time constraints. My Reserve time was all in a combined Active Component/Reserve Component (AC/RC) organization. Most of that was mobilized here in CONUS. Soldiers departing the unit got a lot more focus, especially on the mobilized side of the house, where time was less of an issue and the AC Brigade Commander and Command Sergeant Major worked a couple buildings away. Even our non-mobilized troops got more attention than my Guard experience because of that extra AC focus. What you described isn’t a different military culture. It’s US Army culture without the conditions of a draft and individual rotations interfering.
There’s also a lot more time and effort put into those transitioning out of the Army now than the thread might lead you to believe. It’s important to note that coming off active duty is not the end of the military commitment for most who only serve one term. It’s the end of their active duty commitment with most still having a reserve component obligation. That creates a mixed category that I’ll ignore aside from this mention.
Here’s the process as laid out for Soldiers assigned to Fort Riley. The first step is the Soldier For Life - Transition Assitance Program workshop to help those coming up on separation prepare for the civilian job market. A broad overview of SFL-TAP is here. It’s required to complete that 12 months before separation date. It’s preferred that it’s done by 18 months prior or 24 months prior for those retiring. A lot of civilians with relatively limited job search experience could benefit from a good chunk of those workshops IME. The parts they wouldn’t benefit from are skewed heavily towards the military specific resources available to assist throughout and after the transition.
There’s a number of post-separation benefits, services, and support resources available. Some that haven’t been mentioned are the VA’s Home Loan Program, veteran hiring preferences for federal and some state jobs, and priority service at state employment agencies. There are also a multitude of small programs. An example is something like Troops to Teachers that helps some meet state requirements and become teachers. A broad tool to access both information and get other services (like non-medical counseling services) outside the VA model is Military One Source. Access to Military One Source used to continue for 180 days after separation. In the last few weeks it was extended to 365 days. Our two large private veterans organizations, The American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, can also be valuable resources in helping navigate the chaos of the small programs and bureaucracy of the VA. There’s also some indirect support. DOD markets the advantage of veterans to civilian employers. There have also been successful efforts to encourage public universities to reduce their costs for veterans using the GI Bill thus increasing it’s value to the troop using it.
There was also quite a bit of discovery learning and change to reintegration after deployments as we struggled through periods of high deployments. I’m most aware of the RC side of the house because of my experience. Maybe Bear_Nenno will wander in for the AC side of the house. In many ways, the AC has fewer challenges since their troops are still together near peers and support services.
For Guard and Reserve troops that are more dispersed, Congress legislated and DOD implemented the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Programin 2008. While the focus was on improving post-deployment reintegration that affected pre-deployment and deployment tasks. The program started early and went after the troops were back to living at home and serving one weekend a month. Along with some of those mandatory reintegration tasks it involved optional support services like making available free relationship retreats. Some states in the National Guard included complementary programs to support their troops. Congress has since made Yellow Ribbon a permanent requirement.
As the years went by time at the demobilization stationalso increased. Early in the Global War on Terror outprocessing for demobilizing RC troops was very busy and task oriented. A couple of chaotic days of waiting in long lines to frantically check all the boxes on the checklist and you were home still a bit jet lagged. From personal experience, it sucked. Attention was given to slowing the schedule to try and let troops catch a breath, actually receive the information, and spend some time with their brother and sister warriors decompressing. Attention was given to quality of the processing and not just throughput. ISTR funding for some unit recreational activities coming into the mix too but my duties were on the mobilization side of activities by that point in my career. In FY 2014 they started requiring the full multi-day SFL-TAP workshop for all RC troops without a civilian job to go back to. (Obviously the 12 month requirement didn’t work for RC troops on one year mobilization orders.) Even those with a job got expanded briefings versus the older requirement. The availability and quality of information on the web resources given for follow up was consistently being improved IME.
There wasn’t a clean spot to put in the Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness program. It’s not reintegration or separation specific. It’s a program to try and improve psychological resilience during service. I’ll just leave a link since I’ve probably already lost most readers due to length.
I first held up my right hand in 1988. I spent a lot of my earlier time in uniform around Vietnam veterans (and one Korean War veteran.) Their personal postdeployment reintegration and military separation stories frequently were as horrible as those so far in the thread. My old Platoon Sergeant could easily have been a suicide by cop statistic from his own description of an incident not long after separation. A small town cop who’d known him since he was a kid took a big personal risk in saving him. It’s not 1973. There was still lots of room for improvement as I retired in 2015. Not all attempts to address the issues have worked. Things had changed and were continuing to change for the better IMO as I hung up my spurs.