General Non-Fiction posted April 2, 2023

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The struggle from Soldier to civilian.

Thoughts on Veteran's Day

by Amanda Black

Veteran's Day Thoughts

Being a Veteran can be a struggle. Particularly in the transition from Service Member to civilian. The logistics alone are enough to make you cringe, but the real struggle comes when you have to deal with the mental and emotional aspects of that transition.

I've heard a lot of people compare their service in the military to a marriage, and I think that's an apt comparison. I was certainly married to the Army for those nearly ten years that I was in, from age 18 to 27.

I think that what a lot of people don't understand is how all-consuming military life can be. To any of us who have served for any length of time, you know that it becomes who you are, at least it did for me. I gave myself to it completely to the exclusion of almost anything else. While I was in, I lived, ate, slept, and breathed the Army. It became part of my identity. And I was okay with that because of how much it filled me up. I loved it and I was good at it. It made me feel like a whole person and gave me purpose.

Purpose is something that can be elusive to many people. I was interviewing the Veteran's Club director, Sylvia, a few weeks ago and we talked about purpose and what that means to Veterans. The importance of it to us, is a commonality that we all share. The lack of it can be a detriment. When you lose that sense of purpose, especially one which is so powerful and deeply ingrained, it can be devastating.

For my part, I chose to leave the Army. I had fallen in love, and I wanted a different life. So, I "divorced" the Army and it really was like losing one of the most important relationships in my life. It left a hole inside of me. I grieved it. And as I thought about it, I realized that I actually went through the Kubler Ross five stages of grieving.

Denial, when I first got out, I felt like I was just on leave for the longest time.

Anger, when it finally sunk in what I had done and the uncertainty that it created.

Bargaining, when I started contemplating going back in, if I just feel the way I felt before.

Depression when I realized that I was no longer a Soldier and I felt completely lost.

Then finally came acceptance. This is an important place to get to because I think that acceptance is when you realize that you can still give.

I think that because we do things somewhat unconsciously, we tend to look at things the wrong way. I think that for most of us, it's not that we served because we joined the military, but that we joined the military so that we could serve. That, to me, implies an intrinsic, inborn need to serve.

I believe that there is no higher calling than to be in the service of others and the end of our military careers is not the end of that calling. I think that for the most part, it was in us before we joined and that our military service filled and satisfied that need, giving it an outlet. Giving us purpose. And finding that purpose again, in the absence of the military is a real challenge because the military did such a complete job of fulfilling it.

For my part, I began to fill like there was nothing that could fill that space the way the Army did, but I knew that I had to look. After some searching, I discovered what I wanted to do, and I found something that fills my need to serve people. Something that allows me to lead in a meaningful way and impact the lives of the people around me.

That being said, I haven't put the Army behind me. I am eternally grateful for it. It's not just what we gave to the military, but what it gave to us.

Being a Veteran means that I have the strength which comes from serving in the United States Army. I have my experiences and the result of how those experiences changed me. That, in and of itself, is something that we not only have to share in support of each other as Veterans, it's also something that we have which we can contribute to those with different experiences from our own. It offers a unique perspective and, if presented in the right way, as an embodiment of the values we held as service men and women, it's something that others can learn from and look up to. It's another way to contribute if we maintain the standard with which the experience was given.

Another thing that Sylvia said that really struck a chord with me was this; she said that if she had to stereotype Veterans, she would say that they are the ones who have to stand up when they see something that's wrong. That's a stereotype that I'm proud of and I think that it's not just something that we can do but that is our duty to do by virtue of the values which were instilled within us.

While we can never be perfect, I would encourage us all to continue to always stand up for what's right and be leaders in our community. Let that be the example that we set for those around us. That's how we earn this day which was given in our honor and in the honor of those who came before us.

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