Welcome Aboard: An essay about leaving the military and joining the transnational world.

Each and every person is different in their experiences and knowledge; however servicemembers’ and veterans alike share a common bond that most civilian will not understand.  Transiting from one life to another is difficult no matter the situation but when you have been taught to do as you’re told and not think, returning home is complicated.  Joining the corporate world as soon as possible may help to ease the transition but is it the best option? For some it may be, for myself it was an eye-opening experience for sure.

Joining the military is something that is often undertaken as a youth and, although most everyone talked to about it says to really think the decision through, we jump without true contemplation.  I can only talk to my experience and a little to those that I have talked with about this but having dealt with students and Truth in Recruiting most stories are quite similar.  Joining the military is an experience that many will agree changed them and the shared experience of Boot camp and reporting to the first command create a culture of close knit comradery that extends beyond time served.  No matter the experiences gained through service one thing is true about all who transition from servicemember to veteran; there are no training programs to teach how to be a civilian again.

As time counts down to the final days attached to the command feeling are aflutter thinking and planning ones return to the life they left before joining.  Returning gear and partying harder than ever before, then when that final day comes and the last signature is put on the service record, which is if you’re not Stop-lossed, you’re given copy 4 of the DD214 and told to have a good day.  The thought of freedom sets in and the idea that one no longer has to shave twice a day to simply stay in regulations dawns and life seems pretty good.

Returning home is a great pleasure and people around town will thank the veteran for their service, only not truly understanding what their job was or what they did in the name or patriotism but they thank them anyway.  If ones lucky then a job will fall into their lap which pays better than the military, hourly at least, and just like leaving your parents’ house for the first time, freedom sets in again and crazy nights follow.  Slowly learning that the people you are spending time with have little in common and can’t even understand that sticking together and taking care of one another is all you know at this point.

Speaking from my experience leaving the military and turning straight to the corporate world was easy, for a while.  Taking advantage of the “tools and skills” that I learned while in the service and how they looked on paper I found myself working for one of the largest service provider in the world of oil and gas.  I was like many still quite brainwashed into believing that the means were justified by the ends.  I felt right at home in the hierarchy and how the system worked listening and doing whatever my managers asked of me.  Striving to make a higher wage and reach the next milestone of status within the organization.

Working hard and showing that I was not just Joe Schmo but that the military taught me how to work and treat others I quickly found myself watching after the managers in all that they did.  Knowing the job of the person below and above you has always come easy but when the lines are pushed and one tells their manager that they can do their job and they are not needed it puts a damper on the moral.  Finding little things wrong with paperwork and having more experience than the manager are not bad things, but voicing them can be detrimental.

Open door policies and handling things at the lowest level are preached in the corporate world as well as on board ship but they are not followed.  There are no shared experiences, communication, and a lack of trust is felt in a workforce that has nothing to bind it together.  Many veterans hold with them a feeling of isolation due to their experiences as well as the token “thank you” received when they come home.  In the corporate world there is little difference, unless other veterans or active reserve members are also working there no amount of explaining can make civilians understand just what we were a part of.  Paying attention to detail will most likely be the trait that moves to the forefront which sets veterans aside in the corporate workplace.  Being able to understand and follow procedures and write them if they are not there proved to one of the few useful skills that transferred into the corporate world in my experience.  Those same traits were the reason why I am where I am today.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that no person should be subject to discrimination in hiring, promotion, or pay due to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.  These laws have been in place for almost 50 years now.  One area that is not covered is discrimination due to military service.  Having the manager call you into a meeting with HR to tell you that “your military background is influencing your thinking and performance to much” is not touchable from a standpoint of the EEOC.  Although this treatment can be seen as discriminatory, abusive, unethical, or immoral there is no protection under the current law that protects the veteran in the workforce. When an action or comment like that is made to a someone who has relied on their training in situations that could never be understood by the person saying them it may tend to make the veteran question what they actually know.  Or think they know.

Questioning the impact of the military experience and how the current culture of America has shifted is a slow process and one that will take a veteran by surprise over and over again.  Finding a reason to break out of the comfortable and into something that is not so is hard but one thing that we share as a community is just what we miss in the civilian world; comradery.  Iraq Veterans Against the War is the community that I truly call home.  Production is seen through the work that we are currently undertaking and shows true resolve and the real character of each and every one of us; weather veteran, active duty, civilian, or supporter.