The last year of my life has been an absolute living hell. Never did I think life would be so different on the outside. I thought that so many people that had gotten out were lying; but life would never be the same. You know it’s true you’ll never be as cool as you were when you were wearing the uniform.You absolutely hate all of the bullshit that encompasses maintaining your qualification and readiness in the military; however, when you stop being held to a standard you lose that identification of being part of something larger then you. When they replace your piece of the puzzle in the grand scheme you no longer fit into any specific puzzle.
Who am I? Do I define myself by my former job? Am I defined by my service? Am I anymore significant because of what I’ve done? These are all questions that we all pondered after getting out of the military, everyone’s answer is going to be different to these questions. The best plans are only good until the first shot is fired. Most plans for post service employment never come to fruition. It’s a sad truth but it is the truth. I had a solid plan for my post enlistment employment, however that plan lasted all of about three months. For most military missions you have a primary a secondary and a tertiary plan; a large percentage of veterans don’t even have a primary mission for their Post Service.
The ideology of an honorable discharge giving you a leg up on employment was the truth for the majority of our nation’s history. But in the last decade we have stigmatized our veterans by classifying post-traumatic stress disorder as a reason not to hire a veteran for horrendous actions of a few. There is not one clear approach of how PTSD should be diagnosed. It varies from person to person. Some victims are plagued by anger and agitation, while others live in fear and frustration. One diagnosis does not fit all of us; nor does one treatment work for all of us.
The greatest generation the world war two veterans were only slightly labeled as having shell shock; Vietnam veterans were diagnosed with battle fatigue; yet the post 9/11 veterans are labeled, stigmatized and stereotyped as being a threat a liability and unstable. Why this generation? Why these wars? Why do these veterans come home to no prospect of employment, no hope of a prosperous future and no relative definition of normalcy? These wars or contingencies were and are the longest ever fought by the United States. The WWII veterans were given jobs, business start-up loans and home loans when they returned; but after that we have been all downhill when it comes to paying back our debt to those who actually fought for our freedom.
Regardless if you approved of the wars or were against it, you owe a debt to each member that took your place and carried your yoke themselves to that obligation and gave their life or gave a part of their life and have to live with it for the rest of their life so you could have that fucking choice. When you leave active duty you know that you will wear the label of being a veteran for the rest your life; but you don’t know you will be yoked to the stereotype of ptsd or whatever we are going to call it this week. Everything changes, the jokes you could make on active duty are now considered terminal infractions.
Brothers and sisters in arms don’t exist in the civilian populace. We are therefore defined by a search of google for symptoms of ptsd. Congratulations, you are no longer just a service number and MOS or AFSC holder you are now part of an epidemic of veterans and their dysfunctional abilities. A few of us are lucky because we can get a defense contract job that is relatively close to our military job. But for the masses we are destined for mediocrity in a job that we’re over qualified for or are stove piped into their revolving door of job interviews and denials. I want you to know that I am not a pessimist, in fact I had a great run of success with employment when I first got out last year. That was until my employer found out I was a disabled vet. I am currently involved in the beginning stages of litigation for wrongful termination of employment of an employee who falls under the American’s with Disability Act. I will go into more detail as we go along, but just wanted to get this off my chest. Know your rights, know your diagnosis, and don’t be denied anything you are rightfully entitled to.