No Place for a Warrior
The big badass war ends suddenly and the soldiers now struggle to survive and/or find a purpose.
"I fought for humanity! We lost millions in the Xindi and Romulan Wars. And for what? For the Federation to sit me in the captain's chair to fraternize with the enemy?"War Is Hell, so logically peace ought to be better. Not in this case. For the professional soldier or sailor, peace means they're suddenly out of a job and have to find their way in a world that may have changed dramatically while they were away fighting. They may lack salable skills (that is, ones other than fighting) and struggle to keep food on the table, and may also be dealing with the afteraffects of their war experiences. On the flipside, the civilians may find that the loved ones who come back from the war are not the same people as the ones who left. One Internal Subtrope of this common in Wooden Ships and Iron Men works (and many Space Opera series inspired by them) is for officers serving in peacetime to be put in reserve on half-pay. This was Truth in Television for navies during the Age of Sail, the British Royal Navy being most often cited, and it tended to mean near-poverty for those without other sources of funds. Closely related to Stranger in a Familiar Land and The War Just Before. Compare And Then What?, Won the War, Lost the Peace, and Victory Is Boring.
— Captain Balthazar Edison, Star Trek Beyond
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Anime and Manga
- Rurouni Kenshin takes place eleven years after Japan's Meiji Restoration, and many of the characters, good and bad, are former samurai who are having a hard time fitting into a Japan that has little need of them, having abandoned feudalism and modernizing into a capitalist Industrial Age state. Himura Kenshin himself is basically cool with peace and hopes to never kill again, but doesn't have a clear goal about how live peacefully and still has the problem of escaping from deeds he committed in his backstory. Other samurai devolve into countryside bandits or yakuza or rebel against the government in hopes of restoring the old order.
- Kick-starts the main plot of Berserk in the backstory. After the decades-long war between Tudor and Doldrey (Midland in Berserk: The Golden Age Arc) is over thanks to the Band of the Hawk, Griffith is knighted and it seems his plans to rule the country by marrying princess Charlotte are coming to fruition, so Guts decides this is the best time to leave to prove himself Griffith's equal. Griffith is easily bested by Guts when they duel again, leading him to sleep with Charlotte, getting caught and imprisoned, and the entire Band of the Hawk become fugitives. When Guts and the Band get back together, Griffith is rescued but has been irreversibly crippled by his jailors, leading him to sacrifice his friends to ascend to demonhood.
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: After the first season ends with humanity no longer forced to live underground by the beastmen, the cast of Hot-Blooded mecha pilots find themselves seriously bored with their desk jobs.
- In Pumpkin Scissors, a devastating war ended abruptly, leaving numerous soldiers on the ice, including one of the main characters.
- Vinland Saga: Blood Knight extraordinaire Thorkell the Tall finds himself facing this problem. He's so desperate for a good fight that his Establishing Character Moment is to defect to the enemy since they're weaker, then joins Canute, the underdog of the political factions. Unfortunately, once Canute is crowned there isn't much left for Thorkell to do.
- Alix: One story has a Roman governor whose city keeps the original Trojan Horse. The Trojans' descendants spend the whole book trying to destroy it, and when they succeed (causing the governor to commit suicide), ask themselves what they're supposed to do now. Lampshaded by their backer who snarks that a warrior's true worst enemy is peace.
- In The Transformers (IDW), the Autobot-Decepticon War finally came to an end. This results in an entire race that spend billions of years fighting not being sure what to do now. This spilled into two series: Robots in Disguise, with focused on Cybertrionians rebuilding their society, and More Than Meets the Eye, where the protagonists left in order to embark on a quest to find the legendary Knights of Cybertron. In both series the characters don't have a clear idea on what to do now, especially the Decepticons.
- Bait and Switch (STO) fics beginning chronologically with "A Changed World" deal with Kanril Eleya, a captain who came up during the Klingon and Iconian Wars of the preceding decade and has been at war or nearly so for most of her career, having to make a difficult transition to peacetime and in particular the Federation being allies with the Klingons again (further complicated by her General Ripper tendencies towards the Klingon Empire and especially the Orion species which is part of it).
- I Am Skantarios: After Skantarios finally achieves his goals, he takes up the Call to Agriculture in the palace and tries to reconnect with the wife he hadn't seen for years. The garden quickly gains the nickname of "Imperial Desert", and Skantarios is more than happy to return to campaigning, recognizing that he simply isn't suited for anything else.
- Juvage suffers from this in Pagan Vengeance. Once he's finally killed the man responsible for his family's death (a very long journey that involved his being Made a Slave, then a hitman, then a warlord, then killing Genghis Khan and marrying his daughter before reuniting with his sister), he realizes his whole life is nothing but misery and violence. He orders his men to sack a city they didn't even need to, and the defenders' Better to Die than Be Killed attitude only confirms that viewpoint, and asks his sister to kill the man responsible for it all, i.e. him. She refuses, so he forces her to do it with his captive biographer Constantin's help. She goes to die, her faith destroyed, and Juvage's army selfdestructs while Constantin escapes with Juvage's daughter in the hopes of giving her a good life, as he'd asked (it's implied Skantarios is descended from her, making him related to both Juvage and Genghis Khan).
Film — Live-Action
- In Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Jack hopes HMS Surprise, having lost the trail of the French privateer Acheron, can reach home "before peace breaks out with France, God forbid." Truth in Television: in those days the Royal Navy largely demobilized between wars and beached its officers on half-pay, a pittance one could barely survive on.
- Star Trek Beyond: This comes up in the case of Captain Balthazar Edison. A former MACO, he fought in the Romulan and Xindi wars only to be Kicked Upstairs to a captain's chair once the Federation was founded. A military officer in an organization that was no longer military, a soldier in a Starfleet that was now keyed for explorers, he began to resent his new life and the Federation especially after his ship USS Franklin went down on an uncharted planet beyond the nebula and their unanswered distress calls made it seem like the Federation had forgotten them.
- First Blood is about John Rambo, a Vietnam vet struggling with severe PTSD issues, who makes the mistake of drifting through a small town where the sheriff doesn't like drifters.
- Timothy Zahn's novel Cobra, as a deconstruction of the Super Soldier concept, spends only a couple chapters on the Dominion-Troft War with the rest of the book following the Cobras when they return to civilian life. They have serious trouble reintegrating: protagonist Jonny Moreau is ostracized by friends and neighbors fearful of his cybernetic enhancements, then accidentallynote kills a couple teenagers who tried to run him down with a car. The Dominion government finally repurposes the Cobras as guardsmen on new colony worlds.
- David Drake's RCN series, being a Space Opera inspired by classic Wooden Ships and Iron Men literature, features this.
- Daniel Leary and his crew are beached on half-pay when the Republic of Cinnabar and the Alliance sign a truce in The Far Side of the Stars and his corvette is sold out of service, though fortunately its buyers hire the crew on to run it for them as a private yacht.
- Other officers end up in similar straits after a new peace treaty is signed between books seven and eight, but Daniel escapes it: he's now independently wealthy thanks to prize payouts and his share of his deceased uncle's shipyard, and in any event he's made himself so indispensable to the Navy as a troubleshooter that they keep his entire crew on active duty for the next two books. By ''The Sea Without a Shore', though, even he's been put in reserve, and when he gets a private job, a bunch of his old crew (and some new characters, including one Midshipman Lucinda Hale who had the misfortune to graduate from the Space Cadet Academy just as the war ended) jump at the chance to set sail again.
- Alexis Carew: HMS Nightingale ends with Alexis being messaged that her ship has been declared surplus to requirements due to peace between New London and the Republic of Hanover, and she and her crew therefore beached on half-pay. She laments that she can resume her life as a minor noblewoman on her (very patriarchal) homeworld Dalthus, a life that she now cares very little about.
- The air force novel Hullo Russia, Goodbye England begins with a much-decorated RAF bomber pilot struggling to find a role in post-war Britain after the excitement of flying missions over Germany in WW2. After seventeen years of working as a mercenary and flying covert missions for employers including the CIA, the RAF head-hunt him to fly the front-line jets that would have delivered Britain's nukes to Russia.
- Downplayed in Harry Potter: During Harry's fifth year, he starts secretly coaching several other students in practical magic combat, as the Ministry-approved curriculum is worse than useless. The next year, with Umbridge gone there is no reason for the DA to continue, but several of its members regret this, notably Neville and Luna (Neville because it gave him some much-needed confidence and training, Luna because she felt it was like having friends).
- The not-quite sequel to A Separate Peace is actually called Peace Breaks Out, and deals with a young veteran returning to Devon as a teacher, dealing with the effects of the war. It also deals with the attitudes of the students who were facing the near certainty of military service but with no more enemies to defeat, there's no need for it, which leaves many of them wondering what they'll do now.
- Craggy-jawed stiff-upper-lip British icon of boys' adventure stores, Biggles had this problem twice. First in 1918, when peace abruptly broke out and the combat airmen of the Royal Flying corps were surp[lus to requirements. He became an adventurer and pilot-for-hire until 1939 when his luck was in again. In 1945 he was again jobless and looking for things to do.
- In Forever Free (the sequel to The Forever War), the veterans are suffering from the time dilation that gave the war its name. They've returned to a "home" that is hundreds, or in some cases, thousands of years removed from what they remember. They find it so hard to fit in that a bunch get together to leave the galaxy completely.
- The backstory of I Couldn't Become a Hero, So I Reluctantly Decided to Get a Job involves this. Raul was training to be a heroic knight to fight the demon lord. Once that path is cut short as the same demon load is defeated, he isn't able to find a job where his considerable fighting skills are seen as a plus, and he doesn't have any practical business skills, forcing him to settle for an entry-level position at an electronics store.
- John Watson in Sherlock begins the series as a severely depressed war veteran, living in government-provided housing without any purpose and implied to be suicidal. At first the audience is led to believe he suffers from PTSD. Later on, however, we discover that John is actually an adrenaline junkie who is struggling to adjust to life without the feeling of constantly being in danger - which leads him to take up with a brilliant but dysfunctional druggie psychopathic detective, Sherlock Holmes.
Sherlock: Seen a lot of action?John: Far too much.Sherlock: Want to see more?John: God, yes!
- This is a regular problem on Highlander. Immortals tend to get obsessed with various causes and when the associated conflict ends, they have a hard time adjusting. Most choose to seek new conflicts and they end up fighting the same battles over and over, just in different wars. Duncan was saved from this when he met the monk Darius who convinced him of the folly of doing so. In many episodes, Duncan has to face an old friend or ally whose obsession with refighting the old battles has gone past the Moral Event Horizon.
- Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury has B.D., who fought in the Vietnam War, and used to be known to never remove his helmet. In civilian life, he coached Walden U's football team, which was stacked with thugs and convicts. It took the loss of one leg in the Gulf War, and some counseling at the Vet Center for B.D. to settle into being a family man. B.D.'s fellow soldier, Ray Hightower, has it worse, taking multiple deployments to worldwide hotspots rather than endure the boredom of civilian life.
- In Eberron, this is a common characterization element of the warforged. A race of Mechanical Lifeforms created to fight in The Last War, they have only recently been granted status as persons rather than military hardware. In many cases war is literally all they have ever known, causing them to feel lost and confused without it. It doesn't help that peacetime has also introduced the warforged to Fantastic Racism: not only are they large and intimidating in appearance, but their ability to work without rest leads many to see them as Job Stealing Robots. Needless to say, when The Remnant appears in Eberron it's almost always composed of warforged.
- Gaius Marcius Coriolanus from Coriolanus was a Roman general with a love for war more than anything who, after a victory against the Volscians, was given political power. He grew bitter towards the democratic system and winds up joining with the Volscians, finding more kinship with his enemy Tullus Aufidius than he does with his friends and family back home. His family begs for him to return home away from the fight and succeed. Coriolanus learns to live with peace and makes a treaty between Rome and the Voscians, only to be killed by a broken-hearted Aufidius.
- In Mother Courage and Her Children, one of Courage's sons (Eilif) becomes a soldier. During wartime, he killed some peasants and stole their cattle. As soon as peacetime starts, he does the same exact thing since killing peasants and stealing their stuff has been a part of his job throughout the war. Because it's peacetime, however, he gets executed.
- The opening cutscene of Z: Steel Soldiers has Captain Zod becoming angry at the prospect of a lasting peace treaty between Megacom and Transglobal, fearing it will see him and his men being demoted to security guards in a two-bit shopping mall.
- Kicks off the plot of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. Edward Kenway was working as a privateer for the British during the War of Spanish Succession, but the end of the war spelled the end of his dreams of having riches enough to retire on. He, among other sailors in the same situation, turned pirate after that (which is Truth in Television).
- Terminal Lance #157: "War and Peace" has Marines getting rather bewildered at the prospect of serving in peacetime. The author himself joined up during the War on Terror and served in Iraq, and comments in The Rant that he has absolutely no idea what serving in peacetime is actually like (he had already mustered out by this point).
Max Uriarte: The military is one of those things you join with a purpose. I don't believe I could possibly know or understand every reason people embark on such a life-altering event, but I know one thing: I joined to go to war. In 2006, the war was in full swing and I wanted a part of it. It goes without saying, then, that I have no idea what the Marine Corps is like in peacetime. In my head, it's something like Heartbreak Ridge meets everything I actually know about garrison Marine Corps.That is to say: I imagine it's a place full of bullshit and bad acting.
- A Scotsman in Egypt: After defeating most of Scotland's immediate enemies, Domnall has a much easier life, even being called Domnall the Lewd (in jest). Up until he's given documents proving Denmark was indirectly responsible for the death of his father and uncle, prompting him to start a near-genocidal war against them. It was a ruse by Aodh to get Domnall back into a military mindset, thankfully in time to beat the Ukrainians and later Timurids. He confesses to Domnall much later, and is reassured that his brother doesn't hold it against him.
- Discussed in the Extra History mini-series on the Sengoku Jidai, when, after ending the centuries-long Japanese civil wars, Toyotomi Hideyoshi has to deal with hundreds of thousands of unemployed armed men whose only marketable skill is fighting battles.
- Veterans' benefits such as the American G.I. Bill were created as a solution to the problem of reintegrating veterans into society, as well as providing an incentive to recruitment.
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