In a matter of hours I will be privileged to speak on a panel with fellow Veterans at the University of Nebraska for "When Veterans Come Home," a discussion about transitioning from Military to Civilian Life.
While mentally preparing to field a variety of possible questions, one knowingly being along the lines of "What was one thing you found difficult during your transition?," I'm intrigued by the many thought processes that are running through my head. What truly has been the most difficult thing during my transition?
Identity: Nothing can replace: "I'm a Marine."
Community/Brotherhood: Coming from a place where you have absolutely nothing to prove, and now suddenly needing to prove your worth.
Leadership: Being Accountable. Holding yourself to higher standard, with troop welfare at the top of the list. Making money and meeting quotas for insignificant, petty things have little purpose for me. The individuals, how are they? How are their lives? How is their morale? How can we help?
Structure: You have to be here and do this because...well...you have to.
Security: Yes, you need to perform well to promote...but your pay is not based on sales or a store consumer rating. You get paid and have great benefits. Therefore, you excel at what you do because you take pride in it.
Traumatic Growth: Not everyone experiences trauma, and even those who do are effected individually in entirely different ways. A beautiful thing to come out of tragedy is growth. Empathy and emotional intelligence top the chart for the potential products of traumatic growth. Unfortunately, such invaluable life experience is nearly impossible to put on a resume.
Perspective/Relatability: You've joined a community of less than 1%. You've been trained in a variety of obscure things. You've done incredibly tedious and non glorifying things that no one can relate to such as picking up cigarette butts in You've traveled. You've seen other cultures. Perhaps you've seen combat, seen injuries, been injured yourself, or lost someone or many people close to you, your horizons are being broadened at an accelerated rate. Meanwhile, the majority of your loved ones are doing the same thing that they did when you left. A Global Perspective vs a Community Perspective. The gap left is so great that you can literally feel the distance.
Self Care: Unfortunately, being a part of "mission oriented" fields, self care is not a priority. Sure, physical fitness may be towards the top, but mental and spiritual fitness are often left behind with a "Suck it the f#*! up attitude." Knowledge of the benefits of such things as meditation and it's legitimate, scientifically proven healing effects on the brain, need to be spread across the communities far before transition ever begins. In fact, implementation of such things during indoctrination could provide for a much more efficient fighting force to begin with. As well as much less time spent on the back end fighting ineffective methods and standards of care for treatment for PTS.
Mission: Without a mission...what is that I'm setting out to accomplish? What is my purpose? It's difficult to be motivated without having a clear cut mission and knowing that what you're doing will make a difference.
What Comes Next: How do I get back what I've mentioned above?
For me, I've had them within my grasp, let go of some, others have slipped out as I was squeezing. I was on a path that I sacrificed everything in my life for and found it to feel somewhat empty. I then found my purpose in serving others again, as well as helping veterans along the way. However, I was actually making a living on that path to the dream and the latter has left me no opportunities for income. I do know, however, that I want to continue to travel the world, educating myself and helping others along the way. I'm not scared of many things, but the fear of never being able to do that is a stark reality for me. I've been able to do some amazing things and widen my perspective beyond anything I knew was possible...I want to continue to do so and provide others with access to the same.
Eventually, I would Love to be able to talk about the culture changes that are necessary amongst the Active/Reserve and Veteran population on a National Scale, but lets narrow it down a bit.
I believe I have a Mission here in Nebraska. While I'm here, I believe that I can help spread the word to connect Veterans with the Opportunities that exist across the country, and can exist here if enough people are simply introduced, and a few to step up and lead along the way.
For those needing a Mission/Purpose: Team Rubicon is an amazing organization that gives Veterans and First responders the opportunity to serve in Disaster Relief Operations right here at home. Yet, at the same time, never underestimate the purpose of providing for your family and loved ones.
Community: With Team Rubicon, once membership and activity grows in a region, the members become a community and the community becomes a family. TeamRWB, a fitness community of Veterans and families, is very quick and easy to set up at the local level. Log onto the site, find the nearest chapter, sign up, get your t-shirt and join the groups nearest you. If the are no groups within a reasonable driving distance, start your own group with local activities and join the larger chapter events whenever time and money allow. It's that simple.
Leadership: With Team Rubicon and TeamRWB, there are many opportunities for leadership, especially here in Nebraska where the programs have such a small existence and limitless growth potential.
Self Care: There is little if anything available to the Veteran community to help educate on self care other than Save A Warrior. This is a very small, yet growing community and once someone goes through a SAW program, they have the ability, and are encouraged, to spread the message. Fitness communities such as TeamRWB and Ride2Recovery are proponents of self care as well. Seeing someone missing 3 limbs cycle across the state of Texas...things like that will change your life.
There are countless opportunities available for Veterans and I have only mentioned a few. In fact, I know that there are many more that I've never heard of.
I've heard: "We don't do enough for our Veterans."
I believe that is completely false. We definitely do, the information and opportunities are there, we just need to get the word out to more people to let them know what opportunities they have.
But above all....as I mention all of these EXTERNAL opportunities, there is one message from Save A Warrior that reminds me to take a deep breath and relax and encourage others to do the same:
"Everything you need, you already have."