The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

For the Veterans

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.

5 responses to “For the Veterans”

  1. Chuck Shaw says:

    Your letter hits hard to the bone. Many Vets never make that transition, for whatever reason they get dropped through the cracks or just cant adjust and don’t want to bother asking for help, a mean real help, not the ‘Brother can you spare a buck’ kind of help.
    Many of us are fortunate enough to have family that is there for us. They could be Vets or just a relative who will listen when you need to off-load.
    We hear ‘Thank you for your service’ so many times I wonder if the phrase is just that, does that civilian really know what military members go through, have to put up with, and the true sacrifices we and our family make?
    I’ve spent over 21 years on active duty and am truly honored to have served as well as thankful for those who served and are still serving.
    Just an old retired Navy Master Chief saying THANK YOU!

  2. sam carnibucci says:

    Mr. Forrest Cooper-

    Thank you for the editorial. Really hits home. Trying to explain this concept is……difficult.

    Semper Fi

    • Seabee61 says:

      Mr. Shaw, I see your comment about the phrase “thank you for your service” wondering if it is just a common phrase or heartfelt. Maybe I am a lucky one in that everytime someone says that to me I look at their eyes and I see gratitude and thankfulness whether at work or just out and about. My employer implemented a free PTO day for Veterans on Veterans Day. My employer did not serve in the military but has great respect for those who served and the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Know any employers who do that that are not a government entity? I do hear government or USPS employees who view this day as just another of the many holidays they get and not about thanks or understanding the meaning of this day. I hope for all our sakes when someone does say “Thank you for your service” they truly mean it.


  3. David Kuta says:

    Mr. Cooper, I highly appreciate this editorial on what a majority of veterans encounter on a daily basis and it explains very well, the mindsets we all have to battle with sometimes. I spent over 28 yrs with the Army in a variety of roles and even when you are trying to adapt to the new civilian role it becomes quite the loss of purpose you describe so well. I thank you for this letter and I intend to use it to help me reach out to our comrades as a CDR of a VFW post that exists by my command to help our comrades find some purpose and a home among the forest!

  4. Kevin says:

    This is true I think for all veterans no matter what generation soldier you happen to be from. I know that when I was discharged the civilian world was, definitely for the first two years, a big adjustment. Nothing seemed exciting, nothing gave me that same adrenaline rush, that “aliveness”- if that makes any sense. Civilian jobs didn’t give me that same feeling of being alive. Civilian problems seemed unimportant, petty, stupid, after what I experienced in the military. They had no clue about what it was like to have real problems of the life or death kind. Civilians lacked discipline and I had a hard time adjusting to that after having my orders obeyed without argument (most times anyways). In a nutshell, I no longer knew who I was. I lost my identity. And it took a long time to figure it out. I still feel at times that I no longer belong or fit in this new life after being in the military. I probably miss the camaraderie most of all. I often feel alone. I could go on but yeah, I can definitely relate to what you wrote. It’s nice to know that someone out there understands. Maybe I’m not so alone after all.

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