Tag Archives: veterans

10 Things that will Boost Your Transition

How to Reintegrate to Civilian Life Quickly and Smoothly

2-½ minutes to read

You don’t know what you don’t know. Wouldn’t you love to have a dollar for every time you heard that during your military career? And its corollary → You can’t fix it if you don’t know what’s wrong. Both are true. And they apply to your transition to civilian life. It doesn’t matter if you’re already in civilian life or getting out next year. Knowing the most common pitfalls veterans fall into will help you avoid them.

10 Things that will Boost Your Transition

3 Areas Where Veterans Struggle

The three areas may not surprise you. But give yourself an honest appraisal of the specific issues within each one:

  • Skills
    • Poor job search skills
    • Cannot translate military skills and experience to the private sector
  • Support
    • Lack of camaraderie
    • Lack of proper mentorship
    • Unable to communicate effectively with civilians
  • Mindset
    • Rigidity
    • Lack of structure
    • Lack of confidence
    • Bad attitude toward civilians
    • Lack of preparation and follow-up
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My series on the 8 Deadly Sins of Job-Hunting shows you how to avoid the most common mistakes veterans make when looking for a job. You can learn to properly assess your skills using the four steps I outline here. Let me know what questions you still have. Look me up on the mobile phone app Carrot.FM if you want to do a quick one-on-one.

Create Momentum in Your Transition

With any long-term task, some early wins will motivate you through the inevitable setbacks. If you’ve been struggling for a while you know how a lack of positive momentum hurts your efforts.

Start by ensuring your job-hunting skills are up to speed. Be clear about you private sector value proposition. Know the outcome you want. Because you control these issues they’re the easiest to deal with.

Now you can overcome the bigger hurdles of support and mindset.

Support seems like a straightforward issue. But surrounding yourself with people who can and will encourage your aspirations can be difficult. Do you miss the closeness of relationships in the military? You may have to give up some friendships and create new ones. Be intentional when deciding whom you’ll befriend.

Not everyone who wants to mentor you can. Find one who has:

  1. Already succeeded in civilian life.
  2. Knows military life and culture well.
  3. Has the time to help you.

If any one of these is lacking you won’t get the support you need. A person can’t teach you to communicate in a realm he doesn’t know.

Most coaches will tell you mindset conquers all. Actually, your attitude and ability to market yourself mutually support each other.

Adapting to civilian life requires flexibility. Paraphrasing Helmut Van Moltke:

You have thoughts about how reintegration will work. You have dreams for what civilian life will be like. Fine. Just know reality won’t match what’s in your mind.

Despite all my experience and contacts in the civilian world, very little of my transition matched my post-navy plans. Some things turned out better. Others worse. That’s life.

At the same time, you must be self-disciplined enough to overcome the loss of military structure. Have a set wake up time and bedtime. Keep up an exercise regimen. If you’re looking for a job, work the same hours as you would on the job.

People get a gut feeling about your confidence level. If you have a negative dialog going on in your head here’s how to change it. Have your mentor on call to give you confidence boosts when you need them.

Check out Job-Hunting Deadly Sins #3 and #8 to handle a bad attitude toward civilians and follow up. I’ll talk about preparation in a future post.

Now you know the key issues supporting a successful transition. Examine each one in light of your own situation. If it applies to you deal with it as soon as possible. None of them are insurmountable. Put on your Kevlar and push through the obstacles.

Which issue is disrupting your transition?

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Truth You’ll Never Hear About Military and Civilian Life

3-1/2 minutes to read

Spending time with friends is really the best part of the holiday season. The one just past gave me many opportunities to catch up with those I hold most dear. I cherish these conversations because we can dig into meaningful issues and ideas. For me, that means gaining deeper insight into the challenges veterans face when transitioning to civilian life.

Truth You'll Never Hear About Military vs. Civilian Life

Misperceptions of Military and Civilian Life

I have written before about the gulf between civilians and service members. In addition to the how difficult this makes communicating, it has also caused misperceptions among both about the reality of their lives.

Civilians are surprised to learn only 8% to 11% of service members are trained for actual combat as opposed to a supporting role. I’m not downplaying the danger faced by others, such as logistics personnel who run convoys or medical personnel who may be shot at while rendering aid. But even when they are included, far less than a majority gets into situations where their lives are in danger.

Civilians think being in the military is exciting. While the thrill of flying off an aircraft carrier never gets old, other aspects become routine even if the first time gets your blood pumping. Similar to facing danger, excitement is a small part of military life.

On the other hand, most service members think civilians have it pretty easy, at least until reality hits them when they leave the military.

An Uncomfortable Truth

Military life leaves little room for ambiguity. Career paths are well defined. Training opportunities abound and are paid for by the military. Quality healthcare is available at no cost to active duty personnel and their family members. Housing is paid for and is of decent to superior quality. Every service member either has access to a mess hall where he gets free meals or receives a food allowance.

While mainstream news covers situations where service members or veterans are not well cared for, you hear nothing about how much support the military gives its people. The cost to train personnel, particularly specialists such as sailors on nuclear submarines ($1 million) or aircraft maintainers (tens of thousands minimum), is high. Such an investment must be protected.

So whether it’s family problems, substance abuse, or financial difficulties, every branch of the service has people dedicated to helping its members overcome such challenges. The navy goes to extraordinary lengths to prevent young sailors failing and having to bear the consequences.

Where in civilian life can you find a similar life? Careers paths are difficult to find and navigate. For the most part, you pay for your own training or borrow money to do so. Dealing with health insurance and medical care is one of the biggest challenges in civilian life. Few jobs include free housing and meals. Which companies offer the broad array of support services to help people overcome life’s most difficult challenges?

Reality is, civilian life is far more difficult than military life. Yet service members and civilians are convinced the opposite is true. Both groups do each other a disservice by failing to acknowledge this fact. By holding this belief, veterans enter civilian life with a false sense of the challenge. Unprepared, 44% find the transition difficult, almost double what veterans of previous wars found.

Civilians face a myriad of challenges that service members take for granted. Either because of misperception about military and civilian life, or not wanting to appear unsupportive, civilians do not acknowledge their lives are harder. Yet they are quick to thank veterans for their service. For the sake of transitioning veterans, it’s time for civilians to speak the truth and veterans to thank them for their honesty.

Why do you think this misperception exists?

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Veterans Program Launches Today!

I am thrilled to announce the launch of A HIGHER CALLING – Chaplains for Veterans

Round-the-clock chaplain access to veterans and their family members
Helping Hand for Veterans

By dialing toll-free, (800) 80-VETS-4 [800-808-3874], any veteran from World War II to the Gulf Wars can speak to a chaplain. So can their family members. They will not be asked in which branch they served, whether they were wounded or disabled, what type of discharge they received, or if they have a religious affiliation. They will have to answer only one question:

“How may I help you?”
For many service members a chaplain was their lifeline at a time of dire need. Spiritual crisis, emotional trauma, physical debility, a chaplain is there for active duty personnel. But such difficulties do not end when a veteran sheds his uniform for the last time. Confronted with transitioning to civilian life, the need for chaplain support can be greater. But . . .

  • Active duty chaplains are busy taking care of their soldiers, Marines, sailors, airmen, and Coastguardsmen. Many of them are deployed with their people. They simply cannot shoulder the responsibility of caring for veterans.
  • The Veterans Administration does not have enough chaplains to minister to the patients in their hospitals, let alone their clinics and other facilities.
  • Wounded Warriors, The Soldiers Project, and other worthwhile organizations are taking care of the critically wounded, physically and emotionally, or training heath care professionals to do so better.

What about the veterans who do not have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or are not disabled to the point where they rate care at a VA facility? To where can they turn at a moment of crisis and know they can speak to someone who understands their situation, has shared their experiences?

Two of my colleagues, Father Christopher Allen and Dr. Bryan Dove, and I started A HIGHER CALLING – Chaplains for Veterans to fill this gap. You can learn more about this exciting new venture at the website for the Institute for Living Intentionally.

Do you know a veteran who needs help? Pass along our number, (800) 80-VETS-4 [800-808-3874]. Heck, tell anyone who is willing to listen we are here to help veterans and their families.

Would you like to support our work? Come on active duty with us. You will not have to go to boot camp and have a drill sergeant scream at you day and night (unless you want to – we will arrange it)! By contributing a minimum of $18 per month, the cost to help one veteran, you can enlist in A HIGHER CALLING – Chaplains for Veterans Active Duty Program and be our partner in helping veterans secure a share of the American dream they fought to preserve. Donate here.

Please pass our number along to one veteran that you know and then join us on Active Duty here! Comment here.


You Can Sleep Better – Because They’re on Patrol

I miss being with the submarine squadron. Almost every sailor there pulsed with purpose. They were bright, hardworking, and committed. While I have written a couple of times about riding a submarine, I think you will find this story different.

You Can Sleep Better – Because They’re on Patrol

One of our boats was tasked with performing a burial at sea. Seven submariners were going on eternal patrol.

True to their calling, the boat’s leadership committed to doing an exemplary job. So I got a call, “Rabs, what do you know about burials at sea? Can you meet with us tomorrow?” They planned it out step-by-step in writing. We rehearsed it dockside. Special equipment was bought or borrowed. Rifles were cleaned and the bugle shined. Uniforms prepared. The captain sharpened up his video directing and editing skills so the next of kin would have a poignant memento.

Like my other adventures, it started on a Friday. The ocean is never so busy as when boaters see a submarine on the surface. But we could not perform the ceremony until they were a suitable distance away since rifles would be fired and shell casings retained to give to loved ones. The crew was not amused by my suggestion to launch a torpedo in the general direction of the intruders.

As I stood on the deck I noticed most of the hands were wearing their black work boots with their Service Dress Blues rather than the prescribed black oxfords. This puzzled me until the captain pointed out the sea state. Moments later a wave too big for the boat’s deck dampeners hit, filling my shoes with water. Challenged to maintain proper dignity with wet, squishy feet, the ceremony began.

The captain spoke movingly. Rifle shots sounded sharply as late afternoon drew on. Ashes were committed to the deep and blessedly the wind did not change direction. Decorously the flag was lowered and folded. To my surprise, I had a lump in my throat and felt tears begin to well.

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What a profound demonstration of excellence. Though witnessed only by G-d and a few sea birds, these sailors treated their deceased colleagues with magnificent stateliness. No wonder they are charged with handling among the most delicate aspects of our national security.

Question – How do you maintain peak performance when no one is keeping track?

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How to Insure Your Greatest Achievements Are Yet to Come

On Memorial Day I finished listening to Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour. The activities of Edward R. Murrow, Averell Harriman, and John Gilbert Winant during World War II were brought to life and contextualized within the greater war effort. As is the case with many such biographical histories, the end of the book briefly summarizes the rest of the lives of each person.


How to Insure Your Greatest Achievements Are Yet to ComeWhile the first two men were household names for at least half a century, Gilbert Winant is virtually unknown. Yet it was his story that struck me most profoundly. Deeply loved by Britishers of all walks of life and universally acknowledged as having played a crucial part in the Allied victory, nonetheless, in 1947 he committed suicide.

As I was listening to this I entered Naval Base Point Loma and saw the American flag waving in the breeze. For a moment I was struck by the idea that I will never do anything as great as being a part of the United States Navy’s effort to defend our country. Did Gilbert Winant, who clearly was not a part of President Truman’s inner circle the way he was FDR’s, despair of ever achieving anything as important as his instrumentality in the victory over Nazi tyranny?

I quickly disavowed myself of the idea that my best days are behind me. But the thought that some of my fellow service members may draw such a conclusion impelled to write this post.

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Your military service is and was noble. You made sacrifices that more than 90% of Americans cannot understand but appreciate. Most significantly you took a risk to serve your country, especially if you saw combat. Sadly, some of your comrades did not survive. But thank G-d you did. Hopefully, the risk paid off in several ways including achieving your mission and gaining greater self-knowledge.

Here is the rub: If you want to do even greater things you will have to take risks again. They probably will not be life threatening, but they could temporarily crush your mind and spirit.

Yet this is the greatest training the military gives you: the ability to assess risk, mitigate it as much as possible, act in spite of the remainder, and recover no matter how it turns out. Consider the value this gives you as a spouse, parent, and provider. If the enemy could not deter you, how can friends?

While military service gave you an opportunity to be involved with greatness, the world still abounds with opportunities to surpass such eminent achievements. Will you dare to be greater than ever before? Will you take the risk?

Question – What great accomplishments do you want to pursue?

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