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.note They may also be dealing with the aftereffects of their war experiences. Perhaps they will go looking for another war and become mercenaries or get involved in extremist politics. Or they will find a hardscrabble job or end up as beggars. They're likely to be found in the Legion of Lost Souls or as a Private Military Contractor. Naturally they may be a Shell-Shocked Veteran. On the flip side, 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. Subtrope of No Place for Me There. Compare And Then What?, Born in the Wrong Century, Klingon Scientists Get No Respect, Outdated Hero vs. Improved Society, So What Do We Do Now?, Victory Is Boring, Won the War, Lost the Peace, Prefers Rocks to Pillows, Former Regime Personnel, and of course Glory Days. Can lead to a soldier going From Camouflage to Criminal. May be experienced by the Returning War Vet or Colonel Kilgore. Compare Oppressed Minority Veteran, when the veteran is mistreated because of their identity status.
- 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.
- A recurring theme in Boruto, where Naruto's concept of "Ninja" as a social class is becoming increasingly redundant — not only is the world largely at peace, but Magitek is slowly being developed which allows anyone to use ninja-like abilities without training. Even children born to ninja families after the war's end are impacted by this, with some of them deciding that the "age of heroes" their parents lived through was much better than the present day and that the only way to make the world fair again is to plunge it into war once more.
- DD Fist of the North Star: In a world where the post-apocalyptic situation in Fist of the North Star didn't happen, Kenshiro and all the other warriors are out of place in modern Japan and have trouble finding work. Trying to use their martial art skills often leads to trouble.
- Mobile Suit Gundam Wing has Wufei Chang, pilot of Shenlong Gundam. His entire life revolves around his warrior ethos from his home colony, and in both the sequel manganote and Endless Waltz he joins factions fighting against the tide of pacifism, partly because he thinks it won't work, but also because it would eliminate the need for warriors like him. (He gets it sorted out eventually.)
- Negima! Magister Negi Magi: This is a problem Setsuna Sakurazaki constantly worries about. She doesn't have any good qualifications besides her skill with the sword and thinks that she is kind of useless after peace is established, especially compared to her classmates who have already figured out their future career choices. Evangeline listens to her concerns, calls her a moron and a bore, and proceeds to lock her in several wrestling moves.
- In Pumpkin Scissors, a devastating war ended abruptly, leaving numerous soldiers on the ice, including one of the main characters.
- 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 to 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.
- 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.
- 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 spends 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 of 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 (by the author of I Am Skantarios). 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 the khan's 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 self-destructs 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).
- A Scotsman in Egypt plays this for drama. After finally proving he's a worthy king by having defeated the Mongols, the Russians, and the Milanese, Domnall becomes affectionately known as Domnall the Lewd. His brother Aodh, knowing that prolonged inaction will be very bad for Domnall's mental health, engineers a war against the Danes to keep him busy. He confesses to Domnall much later, and is reassured that his brother doesn't hold it against him.
- The Mountain and the Wolf: The Wolf is already hard to tolerate even at his most useful (that is, when planning a siege or Combat by Champion is involved), but he becomes unbearable after Daenerys is crowned Queen and his every suggestion is along the lines of "keep making war" or making Daenerys The Dreaded.
- Some characters actually speculate if the Wolf's abrasively insensitive manner towards his allies is a calculated insult designed to start fights, or if being an asshole to everyone he meets is second nature to him and he doesn't care who he starts a fight with.
- When he hears about fellow No Place for a Warrior sufferer Robert Baratheon, he has nothing but contempt for him because according to the Wolf, Robert should have moved on to conquering other lands once he'd secured the throne of Westeros).
- The reader knows that the Wolf's been acting on both sides to see as big a battle as possible, bringing the Golden Company's elephants to Westeros, unleashing a Sea Monster to halt the Iron Fleet's massacre at Dragonstone, making it look as though Cersei attacked Daenerys after surrendering. The situation is "solved" when Daenerys catches him trying to steal the Iron Throne and attacks him, but is killed in the process, but a few weeks later he's back and demands the whole of Westeros fight him.
- In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ultron claims that Steve Rogers defines himself completely as a soldier and as such secretly doesn't even want a world at peace, because such a world would have no place for him. This is supported by Steve's hallucination under Wanda's influence, where his worst fear appears to be a world at peace where he has nothing to fight and so can be with Peggy — though it's also made abundantly clear that he's got PTSD. He gets better.
- Ultimately, the plot of Die Hard with a Vengeance is Simon Gruber trying to steal $150 billion in gold with former communist soldiers and agents (mostly East German) intended to infiltrate U.S. and British agencies who were left jobless after the Berlin Wall fell. They're described as "an army without a country".
- 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. The entire situation is best summed up in one line:
Rambo: Back there I could fly a gunship, I could drive a tank. I was in charge of million-dollar equipment. Back here, I can't even hold a job parking cars!
- The titular Major Payne is a veteran killing machine that starts the film drummed out of the United States Marine Corps because it's peacetime. After a short period of Heroic BSoD and nearly getting put in jail by being absurdly brutal when he tries to become a policeman, he accepts a job as an ROTC Drill Instructor.
General Decker: The fighting is no longer done on the battlefield, Payne. Now all the blood is shed in the halls of Congress. Warriors like us are becoming dinosaurs.
Major Payne: [with a begging undertone] There gotta be somebody that needs some killing.
General Decker: Sorry, Major. There's no one left. You've killed them all.
- In Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Captain Jack Aubrey hopes that the 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.
- Patton: General Patton is a superb leader of men and warrior, but he constantly makes mistakes in the diplomatic side of his duties, saying things that infuriate people. After the war in Europe ends, a comment he makes causes him to be removed from command of the Third Army and denied a combat command in the Pacific.
Capt. Oskar Steiger: [re: Patton] The absence of war will destroy him.
Patton: There's only one proper way for a professional soldier to die: the last bullet of the last battle of the last war.
- Defied in The Prince and the Pagoda Boy: Long Dinh, the titular "prince" (though now king) knows that he would have Won the War, Lost the Peace because his barbaric ways are only suited to wartime. As such, he opts to keep the nation in a state of perpetual war so that he will remain in power.
- In Ronin (1998), the soldiers of fortune are all ex-Cold War operatives from both sides of the "recent unpleasantness" trying to make few bucks now that peace has arrived.
- Shooter: The lead character never adapted to civilian life after leaving the service, lived in isolation, and maintained his skills. He also was rather accepting of a special mission from the government, given his disillusionment with the government after being abandoned behind enemy lines, as well as subscribing to some conspiracy theories.
- 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.
- This is strongly implied to be part of the backstory of Colonel Tall in The Thin Red Line. At several points, his lines indicate that he had been actively hoping for the chance to lead men into battle, only to be forced to wait decades for it until the United States became involved in World War II.
Lt. Colonel Tall: I've waited all my life for this! I've eaten untold buckets of shit to have this opportunity, and I don't intend to give it up now. [...] You don't know what it feels like to be passed over. You're young. You're just out of the Academy. You've got your war. This is my first war!
- 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.
- In Belisarius Series, Anastasius once tells Valentinian that their real problem is not the possibility of being captured and tortured to death by the enemy, for that will sort itself out. The real problem is what to do when the war is over.
- 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 surplus 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.
- Some of Agatha Christie's works set in the Genteel Interbellum Setting feature the kind of daredevil young men who been quite at home carrying out commando raids during the war and are now utterly purposeless. One character is quite sympathetic to them (in a way oddly prescient of the way Vietnam soldiers would feel disenfranchised) and feels the government gave them a raw deal.
- 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.
- 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.
- This becomes a major concern for Sousuke as Full Metal Panic! progresses. Sousuke begins entertaining thoughts of living in Japan with Kaname indefinitely as his "mental permafrost" starts melting; but at the same time, he's developing just enough social awareness to realize how difficult it would be for a Shell-Shocked Veteran who Sacrificed Basic Skill for Awesome Training such as himself to actually live a civilian life for real.
- 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).
- Kind of a theme in The Heroes with two notable examples:
- Old Soldier Curnden Craw thinks throughout the novel how much he wants to retire from fighting (his catchphrase is actually "I'm too old for this") and become a carpenter, the job he was supposed to become in youth, but then got called up to fight. At the end of the novel, the war has ended and Craw is making a dismal effort at carpentry when he's approached to join the surviving members of his crew as military advisers for the new regime, and he jumps at the call/gladly abandons civilian life.
- Brenner der Gorst starts out the novel as a disgraced royal bodyguard who sees the war as a chance to redeem himself, either in the form of having his position restored or dying gloriously in battle. Increasingly, Gorst is revealed as a repellent Blood Knight. At the end of the novel, Gorst is restored to his position but is in hell as he only feels alive on the battlefield.
- Horatio Hornblower. Hornblower is shown eking out his half-pay during a truce with France. In his case, he had it less bad then some as he had the talent to be a professional card sharp at a club.
- 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 lord 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. Several of Raul's former comrades cannot cope with a world that doesn't need heroes and try to reignite the war so they can be heroes again. Raul rebukes them and points out they are not acting like heroes.
- 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.
- 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 World War II. 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.
- This occurs to a character in the Doctor Who novel Judgement of the Judoon. The character is mentioned as having fought in a war and been good at it, but came home to peace and found himself unable to adjust. He ends up betraying the heroes at a critical moment.
- The Spider Robinson short story "Not Fade Away" is a very touching piece about the very last warrior anywhere ever, alone and useless in a universe finally at peace with itself. The last doctor in a universe with no more injury or disease finds a way to heal the warrior's torment.
- The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier applies this trope to an entire society. The Alliance and the Syndicate Worlds have been at war for so long that everyone who can even remember peacetime is long dead; when the end finally comes, the nominal winners are left with literally millions of unemployed veterans, an economy that's headed for a painful recession because there's no more demand for war material and a political system that was already under strain and now has no common enemy to unite against. "So What Do We Do Now?" is the driving question of the whole story arc. The losers are even worse off, but a lack of wars to fight is the least of their problems.
- In the McAuslan short stories, we see Captain Errol, the former commando and special services soldier for whom WW2 was the happiest time of his life. In a battalion making the transition from wartime service to peacetime garrison, all he can do to break the boredom is to make mischief. Author Avatar Dand McNeill loses touch with him, but twenty years later, as a newspaper journalist, he is reviewing pictures of a post-imperial civil war in Africa and sees a familiar face in a group of mercenaries.
- 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.
- In Sharpe, Richard Sharpe spends some time eking out on half pay during the truce with France. He tries to make a fair go of it after Waterloo and the end of his formal military service but realises he is not cut out for civilian status. Like so many career soldiers cast out of rapidly shrinking armies after June 1815, he travels to South America to re-enlist in the wars of national independence going on there.
- A Song of Ice and Fire:
- King Robert Baratheon is a major sufferer of this. He was an excellent military leader but a crappy peacetime king, and over time he sank into alcoholism, depression, and apathy because of his inability to do what he did best, (fighting) or to truly deal with various factors working together to make his life miserable. (Said factors included him being unable to get over the death of the woman he loved, a Decadent Court which he despised, and his horribly unhappy Arranged Marriage.)
- The expanded universe also deconstructs this in its lengthy and detailed backstory. Westeros is a society where the two main routes for social advancement are proving one's self in war, or an advantageous marriage. So when there are lots of warriors without a war, war tends to be created. Probably the most infamous example is the Blackfyre Rebellion. Generations of Westerosi under Targaryen rule had tried to conquer the neighboring kingdom of Dorne until King Daeron II put an end to that by putting together a couple of Arranged Marriages between his family and the royal family of Dorne and making a few fairly minor concessions to the Dornish in the peace treaty. All the War Hawk lords who had been fighting in the wars with Dorne were suddenly warriors without a war and they hated it, so many of them promptly supported the King's half-brother, the Warrior Prince Daemon Blackfyre, when he led a rebellion and attempted to claim the throne, knowing Daemon would favor war instead of diplomacy.
- Steel Crow Saga: Discussed between Tala, who's been in La Résistance since she was a child, and her closest confidantes, who worry that she's taken on her most recent mission in part because she wouldn't know what to do with herself now that the war is over.
- In the Doctor Who episode "A Town Called Mercy", The Gunslinger, an alien cyborg soldier-turned-assassin, describes himself as a "creature of war" and wonders what purpose he can serve in a peaceful world once his purpose is fulfilled. The Doctor convinces him that he can still be a protector and preserver of peace, and he takes on the role of Sheriff of a Wild West town.
- 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 and has gone past the Moral Event Horizon.
- In "Loyalty" from Horatio Hornblower, officers of the Royal Navy are shown to be struggling to survive on half-pay during the truce with France. Horatio has to pawn many of his possessions, including his coat in the middle of a freezing winter, but can't get a good price because every other officer is doing the same. Luckily, he can occasionally supplement his meager income by playing cards.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Galadriel became so consumed with her quest of seeking Sauron that she turned into a Knight Templar after centuries spend in faraway lands searching to bring an end to the evil that took her brother from her. When Elrond asks her to lay her sword down and heal her wounded soul in Valinor, she quickly states that she is nothing without her sword.
- During the time frame of The Mandalorian, The Empire has fallen, and the Rebel Alliance has disbanded. Cara Dune is a former Rebel soldier who doesn't want to just be part of some senator's security detail, so she chooses to live in the Outer Rim as a gun for hire. The season 1 finale reveals that her home planet was Alderaan, so she doesn't even have a home to go back to.
- The Pacific: When Eugene Sledge returns from the war, he has a lot of trouble readjusting to civilian life. Not only is he a Shell-Shocked Veteran just like his dad feared he would become before he signed up, he also finds normal living to be trivial. When an unemployment officer asks him what his marketable skills are, he can't think of anything other than "killing japs".
- 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 detective, Sherlock Holmes.
Sherlock: Seen a lot of action?
John: Far too much.
Sherlock: Want to see more?
John: Oh, God, yes!
- Spartacus: Blood and Sand: In the "War of the Damned" season, Agron tells his boyfriend Nasir that he has no useful skills besides fighting, so he secretly doesn't want the Rebellion's war with Rome to ever end, and he'd like to eventually die in battle. Agron's arms get crippled, preventing him from wielding a sword again, which devastates him. He eventually comes to terms with this, and Nasir helps him participate in the final battle by strapping blades to his arm and shield. When the Rebellion loses, he and Nasir go into hiding, unsure of their future but determined to face it together.
- Star Trek:
- Star Trek: The Next Generation:
- This is why there are Klingons who don't like the peace treaty with The Federation, as it means one less war for them to fight.
- In "The Hunted", Roga Danar, a genetically engineered Super-Soldier for war is kept in a lunar prison during peacetime and escapes. And it turns out he's only one of hundreds of other soldiers who were turned away because they couldn't readjust to post-war life.
- Both Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine repeatedly have discussions between the Federation main characters and high-ranking Klingons (Martok, Gowron) regarding Klingons who are unhappy with the Khitomer Accords, missing the glory days of war and conquest. A couple of well-placed Founders take advantage of this and instigate a war between the Klingon Empire and the Federation.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation:
- Iron Maiden: The song Fortunes of War from the 1995 album The X Factor draws considerably from this trope, lamenting a soldier's station in society after an unpopular war.
After the war, what does a soldier become?
- 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 the backstory of Battletech, the SLDF exiles found themselves in this position. After abandoning known space in order to keep their skills and machines out of the hands of the inevitable Succession Crisis, the exiles settled an unknown world far outside the reach of the Inner Sphere and tried to build a new society from the ground up. Unfortunately, all of the exiles were veterans of the 14 year-long Amaris Civil War and many had never known anything but war, which made transition to peace difficult. Within a decade, the SLDF had split itself up in factions and started the Exodus Civil War, which itself was only ended by The Clans, a society that was constantly on war-footing and saw fighting and battle as a natural form of stress relief.
- In the Eberron setting for Dungeons & Dragons, 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.
- In Warhammer 40,000's backstory, this was one of the Primarch Horus Lupercal's concerns during the height of the Imperium of Man's glory during the 31st Millennium. Yes, the Great Crusade is nearly complete, and nothing can stop mankind from conquering the galaxy, but what role will the thousands-strong Astartes Legions play once the Great Crusade is over? How is a Transhuman Super-Soldier who's been physically and mentally conditioned to be the perfect warrior going to have any sort of role in peacetime society? And why is the Emperor - who infamously "retired" the Thunder Warriors once the Terran Unification Wars were over and he came up with the Astartes as a more stable replacement - being so cagey about his plans for the future? These doubts among others led to the Horus Heresy and the Crapsack World of the modern 40k setting, ensuring that there would always be a need for warriors in the galaxy.
- Coriolanus centers around this. Caius Martius, (who later earns the nickname Coriolanus) is an acclaimed Roman general who, after a victory against the Volscians, was given political power. He is invaluable in war but terrible at anything aside from fighting, and is undone by his arrogance and the fact that he has nothing but disdain for anyone who is not a soldier. The opening scenes involve a food riot in Rome because Coriolanus ordered all of the grain given to the army, he then inflames the rioters by telling them that they didn't deserve the grain as much as the soldiers did. Later, when he's running for Consul after a series of victories, he is baited by political opponents into making a bitter rant where he calls the voters a bunch of gullible idiots who should just sit down, shut up, and let their betters take charge instead of demanding a say in how things are run, and is banished from Rome soon afterward. He 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.
- Shakespeare's Richard III explicitly notes that he is not suited for peacetime, since he's ugly and cannot join in the pleasures of it.
- 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).
- David Madsen in Life Is Strange is a war veteran-turned-school security officer. Years in combat (as well as the loss of a dear friend, as revealed in the prequel Before the Storm) has left him struggling to fit into civilian life, and is distrustful of practically everyone he meets, often demanding respect where none is earned and barking orders drill-sergeant-style. This is partly why his relationship with his rebellious stepdaughter Chloe is so strained, and why his relationship with his wife Joyce is so important to him—during the hard transition into small-town life, she was the most sympathetic to his problems.
- Castlevania: Symphony of the Night: The initial antagonist of the game allegedly seeks to Resurrect the Villain after coming to the conclusion that without said villain to fight, he has no purpose in life. Defeat him with violence (and thus end the game prematurely), and not only will he metaphorically reflect on how with no wolves to fight against, the shepherd is unnecessary, but Alucard comes to the conclusion that he chose a life of warfare because it was the only way he knew.
- Littlewood: The game is about what happens in the standard fantasy RPG plot after the Final Boss has been defeated. One of the residents of the town the Hero is rebuilding moves in because he's a knight by trade and the disappearance of the Dark Wizard's monsters has left him out of a job. The man is quick to point out that this trope applies to the Hero and their battle companions, as well.
- Zig-Zagged in Knights of the Old Republic and Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords.
- After the Mandalorian Wars, many of the defeated Mandalorians either became mercenaries, bandits, or enforcers for organized crime (indeed, when the player first sees Canderous, he's cracking heads for the local crime boss). Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life, Canderous signs on with the party because a handful of people on a stolen smuggling ship going up against the entire Sith Army is the kind of crazy he and his people live for. By the second game, he's taken the title of Mandalore, and is setting to work reuniting his people and finding new challenges in the galaxy.
- In the Backstory for the first game, there should have been peace after the Mandos were defeated, but Revan took off and came back with a bunch of alien tech and an army of conquest, and it's speculated that it was because the War left Revan and the other veterans unable to adjust to peace. Even when the Republic and Jedi managed to storm Revan's flagship and Malak took his opportunity to fire on the flagship, the army of conquest still kept going and refused any attempt at a peace deal Turns out to be a Subversion; Revan was ostensibly trying to unite and harden the galaxy to take on the Sith Empire we later see in Star Wars: The Old Republic, believing a peacetime Republic would be too weak to handle an Empire that only knew one thing - how to fight.
- One of Revan's top Jedi Generals was left Force-deaf by the sheer destruction at Malachor, went back to the Council to plead their case (and the case of the others who followed Revan), only to get a sentence of Exile. The Exile spent the events between Malachor and the second game wandering aimlessly, taking odd jobs outside the boundaries of "civilized" space because without being a Jedi or a soldier, they had no purpose. During the game, they get a purpose of sorts, both in taking on the Triumvirate and in collecting and training several similarly lost Force Sensitives to rebuild the Jedi, but end up leaving again. Eventually, the "canonical" Exile and Revan, still unable to adjust to peace, go and charge at Vitiate like a pair of idiots, get curb-stomped, and the Sith end up stockpiling and catching the peacetime Republic with their proverbial pants down so we can have a Forever War in an MMO.
- Darth Malgus in Star Wars: The Old Republic is a ruthless Blood Knight who despised the fact that the Empire made peace with the Republic after all the work he put in destroying its capital. In his eyes, war and conflict are what being a Sith is all about, and he conspired to try and take the Empire over and escalate the conflict into a (worse) Forever War because that's just the sort of galaxy he preferred to be in. Despite this he still manages to be one of the few Reasonable Authority Figures the Sith have.
- Mega Man Zero 4. during Zero's last encounter with Craft, he gives a speech about how combat reploids like the two of them can only go so far to work for peace, and that they should leave it to the humans for creating their own peace, and in the process, fight to protect them.
- Metal Gear has this as the reason why Gene and even Big Boss set up their respective Nebulous Evil Organizations in the first place: to give soldiers and other fellow warriors a place where they would always be needed even when the battles were over. Even though he believed what soldiers needed lay outside the "heaven" that Gene wanted to make (hence "Outer Heaven"), Big Boss came to agree with Gene before being defeated at Zanzibar Land, after which he realizes his error.
- Jack Krauser from Resident Evil was Driven to Villainy by this very problem, after a Career-Ending Injury forced him out of the military. A true Blood Knight, he felt that the military was the only thing that gave his life purpose and sought out Wesker in order to find a way to regain his strength.
- Rise of the Third Power:
- Rowan was once in the Cirinthian Navy, but was kicked out for his alcoholism. Afterwards, he became a pirate, only for him to betray his captain's trust during another drunken stupor, leaving him with nowhere to turn to. Now he works for the Resistance in order to pay back his debt to Reyna and to find a purpose in life.
- The Company of the Free Peoples is a group of Tariqqi veterans who oppose the government because they weren't paid after the Great War. However, all the benevolent people left, leaving nothing but brigands who use the company's old ideals as a cover to rob innocent travelers. That said, they're all fairly competent warriors, since they have the same moveset as their non-traitorous counterparts in the Tariqqi army.
- In Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun, this turns out to be the reason the Big Bad was working so hard to try and destroy the Shogun's peace.
- In Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, after the turning point in the story where the party leaves Elicoor II, they'll end up needing to be saved (and subsequently joined up with again) by one of the Elicoorian party members they left behind (depending on certain actions the player takes). Nel and Albel give this as their reason, Nel saying her skills are no longer needed and she wants to repay you for helping to end the war, with Albel saying life on a peaceful planet would be boring.
- Referenced in the Backstory of Star Trek Online by Chancellor J'mpok of the Klingon Empire, the year after war broke out with the Federation. He is a member of a hardliner faction opposed to the relative peace previously imposed by the Khitomer Accords, believing that the Empire would eventually turn on itself and self-destruct without an enemy. To that end, one of his supporters, B'vat, takes steps intent on turning the Federation-Klingon War into a Forever War.
- 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.
- Overwatch: Mercy's short story "Valkyrie" has a discussion of this when she and Ana are talking about Overwatch's role after the Omnic Crisis, how its leaders were soldiers who only really knew how to wage war, not govern in peace.
Ana: The war hero. Compassionate, brave, confident, political. But at the end of the day: a soldier. And all soldiers only know one way to live. We aren’t meant to change the world, just to save it. [...] We never knew how to let the ones who followed us take up the struggle. We aren’t made for peace.
- In Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, the entire human race ends up being subjected to this. Humanity solved most if not all of the big societal problems and there's no longer any war or conflict of any kind, and as a result everyone's bored out of their minds. To remedy this, they decided to take a popular series of murder mystery visual novels and adapt it into a reality TV show where actual teenagers kill each other for the world's amusement, and the teenagers themselves happily sign up for it.
- Final Fantasy VII Remake: Referenced when Cloud tells Tifa that he and many others joined the Wutai War in an attempt to become heroes, but once the war ended, the world has no more room for heroes. Most of the former fighters like himself can only get jobs as security guards or mercenaries.
- Kill Six Billion Demons: The Demiurge Jagganoth took the end of the Universal War extremely badly. As a dehumanized Child Soldier turned God-Emperor, Jagganoth had existed in a state of war for most of his life and could not handle a world bereft of one. One meeting with an angel later and Jagganoth was convinced to turn his skills towards the rest of the universe, becoming an Omnicidal Maniac.
- Manly Guys Doing Manly Things is about an agency dedicated to helping war-like video game and anime characters readjust to civilian life. The Commander is a subversion: he was genetically engineered to be the perfect hot-blooded warrior but he is actually a naturally calm and dependable guy, who prefers his civilian job and life.
- Terminal Lance #157: "War and Peace" has the Marines reacting with confusion and horror at the prospect of the end of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The author himself, a retired USMC lance corporal, 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.
- Warbot in Accounting is a horribly depressing comic about a sapient combat robot struggling in civilian life and dealing with an office job. He has such a difficult time because he isn't physically built for anything else besides combat.
- 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.
- Parodied in Teen Girl Squad Issue 10, where a miniature samurai leaps out of a plate of corn, proclaiming "Corn is no place for a mighty warrior!" The gag repeats later, with the same samurai appearing from a bowl of corn chips—at which point he LATHE's Whats's Her Face.
- On Beast Wars, Dinobot fears this when they have a chance of contacting Cybertron for rescue. He points out how he is still a Predacon, and that he is likely to be Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves when their rescue ship comes. Optimus tries to reassure him, and...
Optimus: I won't let that happen, Dinobot. You're a Maximal now. We'll make sure you're treated as one.Dinobot: And what makes you think I want to be?
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, when Thorax takes the changeling throne, he reforms the hive as a kinder, gentler one, living in peaceful coexistence with Equestria. Then "To Change a Changeling" introduces Thorax's brother Pharynx, who used to be one of the top soldiers under the old regime—and now he's the only changeling who won't accept reforms, particularly the embrace of pacifism. His continued aggression makes him persona non grata in the hive, enough so that he tries to just leave. Eventually, the changelings realize they still need warriors for self-defense, and they let Pharynx be in charge of hive security, while Pharynx mellows out and admits that the changes are for the better.
- Quite common after a major war. Many of the spinoffs from both World Wars were manned by veterans. Both the Nazis and the Communists in Germany got their enforcers from unemployed soldiers from World War I. Similarly several exiled White Russians in China hired as mercenaries to various warlords.
- Similarly, there are stories that the Russian Mafia has a large degree of former KGB agents that the present regime no longer has a use for.
- Gentleman Adventurer "Mad Jack" Churchill, who went to WWII with sword and longbow, and complained afterwards that the war had ended far too soon. Even after the Germans put him in a concentration camp believing he was a relative of Winston Churchill. He then reenlisted and served in British Palestine before retiring from the military in 1959.
- The Wars of the Roses were caused partly because thousands of out-of-work English soldiers were suddenly sent back to England after the French won The Hundred Years War. With no source of employment, many joined the retinues of individual noblemen, enlarging them into private armies. This led to private wars between noblemen that eventually fed into Richard of York's struggle to become King of England.
- 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.
- After the Taliban won the Afghanistan War, former commander Mawlawi Zubair Mutmaeen went from orchestrating suicide bombings to being a chief of police in the same city he once terrorized. In an interview he stated that jihad was preferable to city life and he lies awake at night worrying about crimes that could be happening at that very moment.