A veteran’s perspective on the challenges of transition
A few years ago, a friend and I were discussing our impending military retirements. I was about a month away from leaving and it was about nine months. At one point I told my friend that “there is no 75 year old man in the military and everyone has to make the transition eventually.
If everyone before us could do it, so could we.
And we did, even though getting out of under this security blanket of military culture was a difficult thing. I have learned three important things since my retirement:
A lifelong effort
The hardest thing about my military service was when I started to transition into civilian life and realized that I had to learn to be what I had never been: an official adult civilian.
Most of us enter the service before the age of 20, and it is a well-known fact that the adult brain does not fully develop until our late twenties. This means that those who stay that long, their brain has completed the last third of its development after entering military culture. It’s neither good nor bad, it’s just different from what happens to civilians. And the difference is striking when you see it.
The difference between your personal and professional identity
Another obstacle that I try to overcome is the difference between personal and professional identity.
I realized about four years after my retirement that I still saw myself as an operator and not necessarily a husband and father or even a good friend. Think of it like this: the day I retired I was 25 years old and 16 days of service, I was married for 21 of those years and was only 19 as a human to my active before registering.
In addition, all of my children were under the age of 20.
I had more years as a soldier than as a husband, father or civilian. I had to make a concentrated effort to tackle this, and it’s something I’m still working on today.
What seems personal is probably universal
I’m borrowing a quote from the great Bob Delaney, a former New Jersey state soldier who worked undercover for three years to infiltrate an organized crime group: “What is personal is universal.”
A few years ago, I had the chance to work on a small contract that the Army did, organizing training courses called APET (Army Profession and Ethic Training). Delaney talks about the topic of post-traumatic stress, which he is an expert on. Speaking of those dark days that many of us go through, whether it’s PTSD or something else, he says that while we all think we are in pain in our own private torture chambers, the reality is that these feelings are universal for many people. .
Many non-military people suffer from similar stress; The police and firefighters come to mind first. But people who have suffered from other issues – like family deaths or violent car crashes or miscarriages or many other things – can all experience this stress after trauma.
Ultimately, in my experience, the best thing most of us can do after the military is to keep in touch with at least a few friends in our service, talk to them, and share what’s going on. happening in our lives. And be honest that sometimes we need help.
Be brave about it and take the opportunity to start the conversation. You will be glad you did.
Support is available
You’re not alone. If you are going through a difficult time, such as the transition from military service and need support, the Veterans Crisis Line is available anytime, day or night. You can even call if you’re concerned about another veteran.
Call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, chatting on the internet, or text 838255.
Jason Beighley is a retired US Army Level One Operator. He left the service in 2009 as a sergeant major after 25 years. His operational time included missions to Mogadishu in 1993 (Black Hawk Down), the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq. He is currently working full time as a trainer / coach, focusing on tactics, marksmanship, leadership, planning and other topics.