"So I served... Now what?". This question, right here, is one which every single service members must find the answer. Regardless of whether you served 4 or 40 years, military service will come to an end. Those crisp dress blues will go into a shadowbox or a closet. Your medals and ribbons will serve as a reminder of your outstanding career. Memories of your time as one of the 10% of Americans who chose to serve your country will be maintained through pictures, wall mementos, and war stories told around a camp fire. These are some of my absolute favorite times and some of my most treasured memories. But, now, it's time to take the next step. So how do I figure out where that next step should land? This post isn't about how to find a job. It's about maintaining a mindset, staying connected to your military roots, and providing some resources to help along the journey. Here's a few tips from my journey after the Marine Corps.
1. Understand your worth: First and foremost, understand that roughly 90 percent of the population has never served in the Military. Yes, there are plenty of military families out there who deeply understand the sacrifice of military service, but you know what it's like to be the one who served. Take a look at everything you have accomplished, be PROUD of it, and NEVER let anyone try and diminish it.
2. Know that you are NOT alone: While that 90% of folks may seem a bit intimidating, us 10% can carry our metaphoric rucksack better than most. And not only that, we will help you carry yours if you are brave enough to ask. Now, don't get me wrong... Us Veterans will give each other a hard time based on what branch of service each of us came from, but that's just how we maintain a bit of an edge. The Marine Corps veterans will always give the other branches a hard time, but I can say with a pretty high level of certainty that you won't find a more loyal group of knuckle draggers. Lean into the veteran community through the VA, social media groups, and shared contacts.
3. Get involved and serve others: After you leave the military, you may find it difficult to find value in what you are doing. You aren't in Iraq or Afghanistan. You aren't training a foreign military to liberate a country torn apart by war. You may transition into something that leaves you longing for the excitement of days past. My advice to you is to find a place to serve others. There are so many needs that YOU are personally equipped to address right in your own community. Grab a few other hard charging veterans and start filling the needs of your community. It will fill the void of serving and also make a huge impact on the people around you.
4. Know how to ask for help. As our military slowly transition away from rotational deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, so many of us have come home with more than what we left with. We just ended a fight that lasted for over two decades, and now, we are home... Let that word sink in - home. Home is a place for healing, reflection, and taking care of yourself and your family. Again, know that you are not alone in this fight. Know that things can, and will, get better. Use the resources available to you if you are finding yourself even just a little bit impacted by military life - deployment or not.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you! Thank you for your service to our country, for what you and your family have been through, and for the amazing things you still have to contribute. I'm with you and so are countless others. Let's help change the narrative of our country into one of actual strength and unity through being who we are - servant hearted leaders! Semper Fidelis!
Here are a few resources to help you along the way!