Long haired 20 year old in jean jacket working on truck, ready for the ride to Boot Camp.

Military Transition to Civilian Life

Sudden Impact, Gradual Transformation

Our military transition to civilian life can be one of the most difficult undertakings of our lives. There is more than adequate help out there to find a new career. However, the shift in how we interact on a personal and professional level can be the most challenging transition of all. What seems like a sudden shift in our daily realities when we leave military service has been gradually taking shape for years.

I remember the very beginning of my own transition out of civilian life like it were yesterday…  “Truck won’t start”, he says as I walked up. “Well, I wonder what it is”. What an interesting thing to do minutes before the Recruiter was to pick me up for the drive to the airport.  This would be my first plane ride. Which would be followed by my first ride on a public transportation bus from the airport to Boot Camp in Orlando, FL.  There they would keep me away from home for more than a week and I’d share a bedroom with more than a single person.  Definitely a first, the cultural shift from civilian life had begun to say the least.

These firsts were followed by many more over the course of 21 years and eight months. A span of time where a young kid from Indiana would experience the highs and lows of life in the military. The intense high of a significant mission accomplished on one end of the spectrum; the depressing realities of being away from Family for months on end at the other. Both extremes would be experienced during a single day on occasion.

I had graduated from numerous military courses as many of us do over the course of a career.  I also completed degrees at a popular aviation college, attended Mustang University, and frequently visited the school of hard knocks.  Education crammed into a very rewarding string of military experiences as both an enlisted sailor and a commissioned officer. Working on the flight deck of aircraft carriers, flight lines, and hangars across the Pacific and in the Middle East builds quite the resume.  And boosts one’s confidence to significant heights.

Retirement from active duty after nearly 22 years of service, dress whites with aricraft in the background.
The transition to civilian life is about to begin!

Civilian Life Can Be a Strange New World!

What has become several years of working on my own military transition to civilian life began in 2013. I figured fitting into a world I knew well prior to taking the oath couldn’t be all that difficult. However, our towns and the people in them change while we are away. More importantly, WE change while we are away!

Making new acquaintances with folks can be difficult at best. Many won’t share the same level of excitement, the camaraderie, or ambitions toward rapid fire completion of tasks. Frequent feelings of mission accomplishment level off to the occasional high five when a task finally makes it to completion.

I had entered an environment where unit objectives are no longer at center stage. The permission to consistently prioritize our Family first that accompanies retirement from active duty felt like being Absent With-Out Leave. Significant spikes in deployment related pay are no longer available. More intentional planning and budgeting became neccessary to facilitate large purchases and long term savings. This week’s to-do list was frequently the same as last week’s, but it didn’t seem to bother anyone except me.

The abrupt military transition to civilian life seemed more challenging than anything I faced during service to our country. There are a ton of things we aren’t trained on as our military careers close. Most people simply don’t understand the culture we’ve been a part of. They have no idea what it is we’ve experienced during our time away. This isn’t anyone’s fault in particular, it’s simply the way it is.

The Transition to Civilian Life is Real; Thankfully, We’re Not Alone

I’ve come to realize none of this is particularly unique to me and my own experience. Many veterans share similar feelings and challenges. The focus of Veterans Log will be on documenting personal experiences and highlighting resources in an effort to help each other. This rich new life as a civilian is worthy of pursuit. Let’s enjoy the journey together!

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