We’ve been writing lately about the idea of Reverse Boot Camp. Here’s more:
The following is a conversation that begins when the Service member starts the transition and ends during the first year that the service member becomes a veteran. The questions are being asked by a friend, and the answers (in italics) are provided by the service member. This conversation illustrates the most important reason to support the Reverse Boot Camp.
Six Months Before Separation
So, you got your orders?
Man, I am done! I did my time, and now I am going to live my life!
What are you going to do? Got any plans?
Yep. Going to school. A buddy of mine says he can hook me up with a job back home. Going to sleep in and grow a damn beard! Maybe start my own business so I can stop taking orders from everyone else.
Have you started counting down the days?
Absolutely. I circled it on the calendar. I can’t wait, I am finally going to have freedom to do what I want, when I want. I can start living my life again. I can’t wait to tell everyone that I am free! I am FINALLY FREE!
One Week Before Signing Out
How is clearing going?
Not hard at all. You can get it done in a couple of days.
Have you gone to the VA yet?
I’m good, I got my disability rating, and I will just go to the local VA back in my hometown.
Have you talked to someone about what to expect in life after the military?
Seriously? I don’t need any of that bulls—. The fact that I will be out will solve half my issues. I will be able to spend more time with my family. I can finally go to school. I can get a job that I want to do. What you should expect is to see me living the life you wish you had. I mean, I am proud of my service, but you can have this – I am almost outta here. Just a few more days to go!
After Final Out
So, how does it feel?
Like I just graduated high school! I am out of here!
. . . and your family?
Awesome. I mean, still working the job thing, but there is time. I got 3 months of terminal leave – I will find something. I am FREE BABY!
When do you start school?
One thing at a time. I am registered for a couple of classes. My focus is spending time with the family. I have so much catching up to do.
3 Months After Signing Out
How is school going?
Okay . . . I mean, the instructor is fine, and I am doing okay in my classes, but it just isn’t what I thought it be like.
What do you mean?
Well, I don’t think I can relate to the people in my class. We don’t have a lot in common. There is another guy who served in the reserves and we get along okay, but I don’t have a whole lot to talk about with the other people in my class. I just don’t feel like I fit in there. These people have no idea what goes on in the real world. Sometimes I am just annoyed to be around most of them.
Well, what about the job?
My friend said he was going to introduce me to some people, but they aren’t hiring right now. So, that is on hold. I tried to find a job kinda doing what I did in the military, but civilians don’t understand our experience or training. Employers are looking for certifications and titles that we don’t get. I am like, “Hey, man, I trained in the military and did this stuff in combat – I know how to do this,” but all I get from them is “Sorry, I wish I could help, but you need to have certain qualifications for us to hire you.” I have a part time job now, it doesn’t pay well, but we are getting by.
But the family life is better, right?
Because of the money situation, my wife had to go back to work. We aren’t really spending any more time together. In fact, between me and school and her with her job now, we don’t really have any more time together.
Six Months After Separation
Hey, look at you with that facial hair! How are you doing?
Yeah . . . you know . . . I’m good, just tired.
What’s going on?
Honestly, I’ve been having trouble sleeping at night. Been thinking about things, you know, stuff that happened. I am thinking about it sometimes when I don’t want to. There are times when I wake up in the night, and my heart is racing in my chest, and I am out of breath. Like I ran 10 miles or something.
All the things we did . . . I mean everything, and I sometimes think – why? I mean, I see on the news how it is still bad over there. Almost like it didn’t matter. When I get those thoughts, I start to feel bad because . . . it was war. You do things, you know? When I think about stuff like that, I can’t sit still. I start to shake. I feel like I am losing my f—ing mind.
Are you seeing someone about this?
Not really . . . I never went to the doc when I was in, for a lot of reasons. I didn’t have it any worse than anyone else, and they seemed to be doing okay. I’m a leader. I am the guy who is supposed to keep it together . . . people were counting on me so I didn’t go. Couldn’t show them I was weak. Because none of that is in my records, my disability claim doesn’t cover the psych stuff. So, I had to submit a new claim. With no documentation from when I was in, it just takes time to get through the system – maybe a couple more months.
All these forms. None of them are like what we did in the military. It is all different, you know. I go to that big hospital, and I see all those Vets standing in the hallway, and the whole thing starts to scare the sh– out of me. It is like an assembly line in there. Who knows when my claim will be approved, and even if it is – I don’t understand this whole process. I hear a lot of bad things about pills and people waiting. I don’t know if I would go back.
Well, did you talk to your family?
You’re kidding, right? Listen, my family is all I have. I don’t understand what is happening to me or how to control what the hell is going on in my life. My wife used to be so proud of me. I can’t let her or the kids know what I am going through. If they knew what it was like over there . . . they wouldn’t . . . I mean . . . they couldn’t understand. What would they think of me? It would break their heart to see me like this. To be honest, I don’t know if I could ever let them see me like this. Besides, the family life isn’t so great anyway.
What do you mean?
My wife and I have been fighting. She complains about dropping out of school and the drinking. I tried to tell her that I just need a little time to get my head straight, right? I mean, I go to work – when I can – and I just need some time to figure things out. I am really trying, I love my family. I don’t want them to be disappointed in me, and I hate having them see me like this. I am trying . . . I really am.
I should be grateful, right? Not all of us came home. I can’t go to church anymore because I don’t want to see the Gold Star Families. Why them? I couldn’t wait to get home. I couldn’t wait to get back, but I didn’t know it would be so hard. Sometimes I think about what it would be like if I was still in with the team, you know. Things made sense then, and they don’t make sense now. Sometimes, I think about what it might be like if I never came home at all . . .
The Downward Spiral
Does any of this sound familiar? We can control how this story ends. That is why we want to implement a Reverse Boot Camp. With a Reverse Boot Camp:
- Mental health counseling is mandatory at the start of transition, at departure from the military, and a year after transition.
- Career coaching that begins with self-awareness and discovery to align interests with potential opportunities.
- Accreditation for professional skills and competencies is part of the process.
- Service Members are initiated in the process to discover a new life. Transition cohorts allow the Service Member to focus on beginning a new life mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
- Transition mentors stay connected up to a year after departure from the military to facilitate connection with the VA and other programs in the community.
When you input the names of your family and friends into this conversation, how does it end? We can help make these all end in a positive way. Because this downward spiral is too common, it is the last but most important reason to support the Reverse Boot Camp.
If this message sounds like you or someone you know, please connect with us today – we have programs and services to help these situations.