Warrior Support Team:™ Transitioning Out of the Corps
*USMC photo by Corporal Justin T. Updergraff.
When your Marine leaves the Corps and re-enters the civilian world, he or she will be confronted with a whole new set of challenges during this transition. We're here to provide information and resources to help make this transition as smooth and successful as possible.
Transitioning from military to civilian society life can be a challenge, particularly for veterans who have experienced combat or other traumatic events during a deployment. There are, however, a variety of factors that can help ease this transition, perhaps the most important one being the willingness to take the first step toward committing to recovery. Additional factors include, but aren't limited to, taking responsibility for one's own actions, building healthy relationships, finding a supportive community, and staying active, as being involved in activities and giving back to the community can be essential in terms of setting goals and finding a sense of purpose. Finally, seeking professional development, employment, and education can greatly improve one's confidence and set the stage for continued growth.
Based on the personal experiences of Marine Corps veteran (and author of the original source article) Dave Smith, there are five main stages of the transition period for veterans struggling to reintegrate back into civilian society. They are:
Stage 1: Climbing Out of the Hole
The first step of successfully reintegrating into civilian society is realizing and acknowledging that something is wrong and beginning the process of addressing whatever that problem (or those problems) may be. Many times, this may be the most difficult step for a veteran to take. Giving up on caring/being in a dark place emotionally, substance abuse issues, and being stuck in a cycle of making poor decisions are all common issues faced by veterans recently out of their respective branches of service.
This first step of the reintegration process can often the most difficult to address. Many veterans may hide the signs that they need help or refuse to accept help from those who do recognize the signs. For those veterans who have stopped caring or are hesitant about accepting assitance from others, this first step can prove to be a major obstacle. No matter how many programs to assist veterans during the reintegration process are out there, it's not possible to help someone who doesn't want to be helped, as cliche as that may sound. One of the most effective ways to combat this reticence is through direct mentorship from fellow veterans, as veterans often feel much more comfortable opening up to others who have undergone the same traumatic experiences.
Stage 2: The Pain Stage
The second step of successfully reintegrating into civilian society is confronting the internal pain an individual is struggling with. The "pain stage" is when a veteran makes the committed decision to change his or her life. This stage takes dedication and internal fortitude and can prove to be quite challenging.
During the "pain stage" professional resources/assistance can be very beneficial, even if the advice is coming from a doctor/counselor whose background is in the civilian/non-military world.
Stage 3: Finding Your Passion
The third step of a veteran successfully reintegrating into civilian society is he or she getting involved in activities/endeavors that they find important. According to author Dave Smith, "[Veterans should] immerse [themselves] in something that...gives [them] goals to strive for. If [a veteran] knows that [he or she is] working to become better daily, then it's hard to have a poor outlook on life."
Stage 4: Professional Development
The fourth step of a veteran successfully reintegrating into civilian society is taking advantage of professional development opportunities. Whether it's using the G.I. Bill, applying for a new job or learning a trade, or sharing personal experiences with others, this stage is critical in the transition from service member to civilian.
The discipline and motivation one gains in the military can be invaluable in work and school settings and provide the confidence to further excel in a civilian setting.
Stage 5: Pay It Forward
The fifth step of a veteran successfully reintegrating into civilian society is paying it forward. Every day, service members begin the process of transitioning back into civilian society. Many know little or nothing about how to properly access the benefits to which they are entitled and are of the mindset that asking for help constitutes a "weakness." Providing input as a fellow veteran can be invaluable to others who are navigating that same process.