My Experience Transitioning from Military to Civilian Life
Depending on who you talk to, there are different views on the military. What most people miss out on are the lifetime friendships you develop with those that you serve with. But what happens when you leave the military?
I served 11 years in the United States Air Force, and I separated on July 4th, 2017. It was an Independence Day for sure. While I was in, I didn’t take advantage of everything offered, i.e., education benefits. Now that I am out, I am using my Post-9/11 GI bill that I earned while I was in. But for myself, like many other veterans about to separate, have this mindset that our military experience will help us gain employment after we get out. It can if you work a job that teaches you a valuable skillset. I was security forces while I was in, and granted this would have helped me gain a career in law enforcement; I wanted to do something different.
Before you depart the military, you go through a series of classes to prepare you for civilian life. For many, the military is all they have known since high school, but for me, I joined when I was 24, so it wasn’t so much of an issue. One of the best things was the guidance they give you in writing a resume. Even with a good resume, it took me six months to find employment. It was a rough part of my life, more so that my wife couldn’t travel for her job anymore, so they released her, we just had a baby in that six months, and we had a mountain of debt. Eventually, I did find employment, but meeting bills was still rough.
A year and a half after I separated, my wife was offered a better job close to my family, so we packed up and moved. Neither one of us wanted to leave the state we were in, we loved it there, but we both knew we couldn’t keep living always borrowing money from family. Now that I was a stay at home dad, I started looking more into the veteran benefits that were available to me.
I started attending Bellevue University online to earn my Bachelors in Business Administration while using my GI Bill. Not only does the amount of classes I take per semester fully covered by this bill, but I also get a monthly housing allowance as part of it. I am working to better myself for a business that I started before I got out, but like most startups, it is slow at first, so I needed to have another job. Call it a blessing or a curse; I would rather not have it, but I was diagnosed with asthma a week before I separated. I submitted a claim to the VA, and three months later, they came back saying it was a service-connected disability. Now I also earn a disability payment from the VA every month, but as I said, if I could have healthy lungs back and not have the payment, I would take it. The best thing you can do is talk to a veteran service officer when you get out, and they can help you out on anything.
The military does try to set you up for success when you get out, and they do have a ton of programs for veterans to take advantage of, but it is up to the veteran to seek out and use these programs. I would do it again in a heartbeat if I could and do recommend anyone out there to give the military a try. If you are looking for a way to pay for schooling, it is a great opportunity. I knew many people that earned their bachelor’s degree while they were in and are now using their GI bill to earn a master’s degree once they got out. This has been my personal experience with everything and granted it may differ for others.