Happy veterans

By Scott Schimmel

“I live for the times that I get to serve and give back. I live for it. But the rest of my life is spent in a miserable, crappy job.”

Listening to those words by a former Marine crystallized a notion that had been developing in us through the work we’ve been doing with special operators at The Honor Foundation. Even the veterans that transition well from a specific standpoint: they’re employed, they’re mentally and physically well, and they reenter civilian life quickly without a drain on resources; are still far from the potential they could live into.

What is needed is a bigger and bolder vision of what success looks like for a veteran.

(Caveat: we are not veterans. We have not served in the military. We have tremendous respect for the service, sacrifice, as well as challenges to transition. But we have been listening, and learning, and coming alongside over two hundred veterans transitioning in the past couple years with THF and Team Rubicon.)

While serving in the military, four key questions that are core to human existence are answered and supported with tremendous clarity. Those questions are:

Who am I supposed to become? Be like that solider, sailor, or officer.
What is my mission? Check.
How do I contribute? You have a specific, unique role that supports the mission.
Who are my people, who do I belong to? Just look around.

When you have those questions answered for you, it helps you organize your entire life- relationships, time, energy, focus, and spirit. When those questions are answered for you, though, they artificially support your human development and can delay your ability to get to personal clarity.

When you separate and leave the military, those answers disintegrate out from under you. The questions are still there and must be answered, but there are no longer answers that are clear. Queue: confusion, stress, anxiety, fear, disorientation, discouragement, poor decision-making, and possibly worse. 

But when you have your own answers to those questions life makes sense. Career, finances, family, friendships, service, faith, health- life gets organized, meaning and purpose become effortless, and you feel like you’re in the flow of the way life is supposed to be. 

Veterans need a process and a guide to help them discover and define their own answers to those big questions. 

They need it, and they deserve it.