Military Transition: Filling the Void
We all, at some point in time during our service, thought about how much greener the grass was on the other side. We looked forward, with anticipation, whether it was 4 years or 40, to the day we could leave service and enter the civilian world. And then once we did, we ran up against The Void. The Void, an empty black hole left behind that encompasses all the good things that we took away from our service: a lifetime worth of experience, unbreakable camaraderie, and a sense of worth and purpose. That last one, sense of worth and purpose, is the toughest one to replace once you get out and one that some never overcome.
In the service, it’s easy to feel a sense of worth. Stateside, we’d move up the ranks, gain experience in the field, learn new tricks and tactics, and pass along our knowledge to the junior enlisted who looked up to the more senior guys with a sense of awe. In the battlefield, we worked among men and women who we considered blood, wiling to give our lives to those to our left and right. We’d constantly go out on missions knowing what our objectives were. Every day we were out, we could visibly see the differences we made on the streets of the cities and towns in which we patrolled. While some hated our presence there, others went out of their way to shower us with praise and thanks. All these things made us feel wanted, needed, important, and filled with a sense of purpose.
The minute we left service, The Void made its first appearance. It filled us with a sense of doubt, abandonment, and depression. These feelings, while they may have existed before, become exacerbated by the unfamiliar environment that is thrown upon us. Some go off to college surrounded by people at least four years their younger and far less experienced in the world them. The friends that we would have died for are replaced by civilians that may lack a similar devotion. A portion of us (currently around 5.3%) go unemployed, leading us to wonder what worth we provide our society, doubting the skills we once were admired for. And yet others join the workforce but still have that sense of void. We go in and work every day but what cause or mission are we upholding? Are we truly helping people out there or are we just working to get that next paycheck.
It’s that sense of worth, purpose, and value that really hits home once we get out. Unfortunately, for some, The Void wins out and begins to take us down its deep, dark hole, into a sense of depression and anger, leading to problems that can become more severe as time goes on. This is what we must fight on a daily basis. We must fight this sense of self-doubt that The Void tries to instill upon us. And to do this, we must follow in the successful footsteps that our fellow brothers and sister have taken. We can fight back and fill the void by seeking out and obtaining jobs that have an immediate and beneficial impart on our surroundings, job professions like teachers, policemen, and firemen. These types of jobs provide us with that sense of pride, purpose and immediate impact that we experienced on a nearly daily basis. For those of us seeking something else, we must look within ourselves to find what we are truly passionate about and then act upon it. Find your local animal shelter and ask how to volunteer. Reach out to the local Boys & Girls Club and see how you can help impact the lives of our youth. Volunteer with veterans organizations like Operation Supply Drop to help your fellow veterans in need and build that camaraderie that you long for. All these actions and more are what is needed to ensure that you fill the void.
The Void may never fully go away. Our experiences have become a part of us and make us who we are. Instead, we need to take that void and apply it toward a better goal. So get out there, find that job, volunteer something you’re passionate about, and fill that void!