Editorial For the Veterans Forrest Cooper November 11, 2020 5 Comments, Join the Conversation The RECOIL Editorial team is a team of veterans. Enlisted and Officer, American and Allied, Conventional and Special Operations units. While we all have been incredibly fortunate to find purpose and satisfaction in putting shiny new guns through the wringer and railing against continued infringement on our rights, not all veterans find such focus when they hang up their uniforms. Unfortunately, the “disenfranchised veteran” is so familiar that it goes unnoticed in the day-to-day lives of most Americans, except as a tired trope of Hollywood action stories where lost souls scarred from their service wind up as broken antiheroes or disgruntled villains. It’s another category in a list of categories. But to many veterans, this feeling is tangible. For some, it may feel like they have lost their way, as if life after the military is one without purpose or direction. On the surface, there is relief. The veteran no longer has to deal with unit politics, high-paced schedules, the long work days that were supposed to be short. Veterans are free from the mundane tasks of the military, the constant this-and-that which make 23 year old knees feel like they're going on 65. Cue the “laughs in DD-214” meme. But after the post-military honeymoon phase of growing out your beard, wearing what you want, and a considerably more open schedule, most veterans struggle with civilian life for a season or two. Life after the military is difficult, not because of the challenges themselves, but because it looks so… plain. What is the hardship of the college classroom compared to 20-hour days in the field, with strange insect, dirty water, and the threat of incoming mortar fire. Often it's not the what that's so insurmountable for veterans, it's the why. So much of the military ethos is about taking care of your fellow soldier or shipmate. “It’s about the guys next to you,” another over-used war movie cliché. But that is a foundational reality of military life and, for a lot of veterans, the folks we sit next to in community college algebra may be nice enough but they are a poor substitute for the squad you ate, slept, showered and served with non-stop for months or years at a time. The 9-to-5 grind rarely cultivates the tight-knit relationships that veterans may be missing from “back in the day.” Where you once solved your differences amongst yourselves, now there's HR to do it for you, and the result is never satisfactory. To those on the outside, the post-war veteran has a type: one cast in what looks like a category of two absolutes: there's either the successful veteran, who owns a business, or is running for office, or is aspiring with reasonable confidence to accomplish great things. This is juxtaposed against the veteran who struggles to hold down a job, not because he picked a hard profession, but because the work just doesn't seem worth doing. From the outside, it at least looks like veterans either rise to fame or spend their life fighting off homelessness. Veterans either go to the Ivy Leagues, or struggle through community college. It doesn't look like a world of moderation. Given, we rarely pay attention to the ones who transition from military service to civilian life without interruption. They rarely make the news. It's not merely easy for Veterans to become cynical, it's downright expected. They call it the transition period. We often treat it like a fever: it just has to burn itself out and hope we survive. Disenfranchisement can be summed up in the feeling of having both no place to belong, and nothing worth investing into. When neither the joy of a challenge, nor the temptation of the outcome are present, any venture or task quickly looks like drudgery. In the short term, what is a 5% annual raise in comparison to the duties and responsibilities of becoming a squad leader or platoon sergeant? The greatest threat to veterans as a community is the lack of a sense of meaning. It's not economic, or organizational. The thing which drives veterans to madness is the question “what for?” After the reality of the battlefield, where bullets fired have immediate consequences and punishment for poor decisions is swift and harsh, the delay and disconnection of modern society can feel jumbled and nebulous. With all its rules, rank structure, and objectives, the military brought regularity, at the cost of mobility. By contrast, the civilian world can look like a world set on its head, with no connection between the effort you put in and the result you get. That is the world outside. For the one inside ourselves, our choices, and the actions we take, the old rules hold. We think the world needs veterans to bring to it what they are used to: order, commitment, tenacity. The theater of war develops these traits rapidly, and ingrains them deeply, but they are no less necessary in the “outside world” of post-military living. Our greatest strengths as veterans are our endurance and our sense of community. If you are struggling to that sense of something more, reach out. To your squad mates, ship mates, your VA, or any of the myriad organizations that offer help and benefits. If you have found your new purpose, congratulations and please keep a keen eye on those around you who may still be searching. Regardless of where you are in your transition process, it's never too late to find a mission. Thank you for your service. 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