Military Life

4 Things Civilians Should Know About Veterans

1. Transition is Scary

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Transitioning from military life-to-civilian life is not easy for service members. It’s a loss of an identity, support network, family and a way of life. Most transitioning veterans will tell you their scariest moment is when they put their paperwork in for separation or retirement.

It’s the fear of the unknown. What will civilian life look like? How will it feel not to have to check your gig line before you leave the house or shave every day? You would think it would be a relief for most, but instead they find comfort in routine. They wonder if they will be accepted into the civilian workforce or are they too rigid for today’s environment? >> here are some tips on making it easier <<

Finding a second a career that has purpose is a priority. Veterans will need to negotiate a job offer. They spent the better half of their lives protecting yours, so understand if they don’t want to take the meaningless desk job. They want meaningful employment and to contribute to the progress of our nation.

Newly minted vets tend to underestimate their value and skill sets. They have trouble navigating civilian job requirements and applications. Their work language and expectations are different than yours. However, they are worth their weight in gold. They are problem solvers and team players – especially among strangers. They are leaders, the first to volunteer. Their work ethic is above reproach and their loyalty is fierce. You WILL NOT FIND a better employee than a veteran. HIRE THEM! We have some other ways to help you understand more as a transitioning spouse.

2. PTSD is NOT Funny

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Remember the days when it was funny to say to someone “Don’t go postal on us”? The Post Office was the butt of everyone’s jokes because of the mental illness of a few employees. But replace “going postal” with “PTSD” and no one in uniform (or anyone who loves a someone in uniform) is laughing. PTSD is not funny and should never be referred to as something that is humorous. It’s real. Read: Going to school with Anxiety, Depression, or PTSD.

It’s real because those who have served have seen and experienced things NO civilian can wrap their head around. And NO, it’s not like the movies -they don’t always live happily ever after. Shed the stereotypes that Hollywood and video games have shoved down our throats. What they did was real and they will suffer lifelong affects from it.

You don’t get PTSD from playing a soldier on a video game or playing one on TV. No, you can get PTSD because you were the solider on the ground, sailor on the boat, or airmen in the air – at war.  It’s not funny, never refer to it as something comical and never make them feel ashamed they have it. We say, be bold and realize there is hope in battling bare.

3. The Person Behind the Business Suit

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President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to US Army Sgt. Kyle White for bravery on the battlefield in Afghanistan. Six years ago, Sgt. White sacrificed himself to help save his team from an ambush. What he did to save and honor his fellow brothers will bring tears to the most harden of souls.  What struck me most were the President’s comments about Sgt. White’s life after serving.

“When Kyle walks into the office every day, people see a man in a suit headed to work. And that’s how it should be — a proud veteran welcomed into his community, contributing his talents and skills to the progress of our nation. But Kyle will tell you that the transition to civilian life — and dealing with the post-traumatic stress — hasn’t always been easy. More than six years later, he can still see the images and hear the sounds of that battle. Every day, he wakes up thinking about his battle buddies.

And if you look closely at that man in the suit on his way to work, you’ll notice the piece of the war that he carries with him tucked under his shirt sleeve — a stainless steel bracelet around his wrist etched with the names of his six fallen comrades who will always be with him. “Their sacrifice motivates me,” he says, to “be the best [that] I can be. Everything I do in my life is done to make them proud.” 

Don’t assume you know someone’s story. There are heroes amongst us, walking quietly, not willing to tell their story. Just tell them “thank you” and mean it. No lip service. We owe it to them to be genuine. Help fight for better care and benefits for life after they serve. Because 1.2 million veterans served in Iraq and Afghanistan and they all deserve the care promised to them. They’ve earned it. 

4. Get a Map

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There is nothing worse for veterans (and most of engaged Americans) than having to describe where Iraq or Afghanistan is located on a map to a young adult.

The youth of today seem oddly and hopelessly disconnected from the years of war that has been raging since 9/11. There are still men and women dying, losing limbs, and altering their lives because our government tells them to continue to fight. It’s our job as a country of grown adults to continue to educate what an all-volunteer force does and why they did NOT have to be drafted at the tender age of 18. And why that 18 year old, who freely chooses to sign his life over to his country deserves respect. It takes a village to make sure all of our Veterans gets the respect they have earned.

For more on helping your veteran, see the 8 things learned as a transitioning veteran.

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