NOVEMBER 20, 2014 – Life after the military can be hard. Take it from someone who grew up with a former Marine Corps Sergeant. After leaving the service, some servicemembers can have difficulty finding work, rediscovering their purpose and having to be accountable for themselves instead of to a drill sergeant or superior officer. Citing this, the VA has implemented certain programs that provide guidance to vets interested in finding a career or pursuing an education.
The biggest hurdle for my stepfather (former Marine) was finding employment. After floundering around working dead-end jobs, he discovered his passion for teaching and began pursuing his Master’s Degree in Electronics. While writing his thesis, he secured a job at a local university and realized his passion in a meaningful job. Prior to that, “lost” would have been the most accurate term, since he spent the majority of his military career answering to his Staff Sergeant.
His MO was a Scout Sniper, where the majority of his time was spent in solitude. As you can imagine, acclimating to the outside world was completely foreign to him during his transition to civilian life, as many servicemembers experience once they’re discharged. For those having issues with acclimating to civilian life, school or career would be a good place to start.
For example, those with military experience have found success in various fields of criminal justice. Federal positions such as those within the FBI and DEA are paramilitary in nature and focus on experience gleaned from military service. For example, candidates for the DEA need to be in peak physical condition and be able to project authority and take orders. Ideal candidates for the DEA would be able to handle situations coolly under extreme duress with positive results.
This will come as music to any veteran’s ears, but what is the current state of law enforcement in general? The field has become competitive, frankly, and many positions within criminal justice agencies require, at minimum, a Bachelor’s Degree. With 43% of agencies outsourcing their reporting duties, many officers have found themselves without gainful employment. In order for them to remain competitive and a prime candidate for promotion, they need to consider furthering their education.
If I were to make a recommendation to most vets who are struggling to find their way, I would recommend returning to school. This is made easier for vets who have completed at least 2 years of active duty, which would make them eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill. The program provides educations benefits to Veterans and servicemembers and can be used for various higher education programs. Even better, benefits are generally payable for 10 years following release from honorable active service. More information on the program can be found here.
Yes, it can be difficult for former servicemembers to find their way in the civilian world, but it’s entirely possible. My stepfather, who honorably served his country as a Marine, was able to realize his passion after pursuing his degree and if he can pull it off, anyone who has served can. Even if you have to change your major during your school career (he did twice), at least you are doing your part to enhance and give meaning to your life after the military. Who knows? You just may rediscover who you are, so I say go for it!