There are some amazing actors. I mean people who can really get into character and have you believing anything they say, do, or mimic.
I’m not talking about the ones in Hollywood. I’m referring to the ones you know. Yes, you personally know these actors. And the Oscar goes to…Transitioning Veterans.
Yes, Veterans are some of the best actors we know. I could have earned an Oscar for the act I put on during my transition and battle with depression. That is until the scene ended and I was no longer able to keep up the act. My world came tumbling down. I was angry and in jeopardy of destroying relationships with people who I loved. I had isolated myself because it was easier to stay to myself than have to explain what was going on in my head.
It wasn’t until I came out of character and got some help. I also did some research and found that many Veterans struggle with their emotions during transition. It’s no wonder, with concerns such as relocation, finances, job/career concerns, and health issues.
According to a 2014 study conducted in Los Angeles County by retired Army colonel and USC professor Carl Castro, nearly 40 percent of Veterans transitioning did not have a place to live and eight out of ten did not have a job lined up. This study also concluded that many Veterans separate from the military with untreated physical and mental health issues, with one third having contemplated suicide at some point.
So why the act? Because it is too hard to talk about our feelings, it was for me. Feelings that Veterans likely had to suppress for years while serving. No one wants a bumbling bag of emotions leading you into combat or anywhere else for that matter. So leaders learn to ‘suck it up and drive on’ and we master it – becoming Oscar worthy actors in uniform.
The truth is something needs to be done about the current system in place, that is there to assist Service Members with the transition to civilian life. Each branch of service has a Transition Assistance Program for members preparing to leave the service. The Army’s program has gone through several name changes: ACAP – Army Career and Alumni Program, TAP – Transition Assistance Program, and SFL – Soldier for Life. To be honest, I can’t keep up with the name changes and nothing has drastically changed within the program. There are still mandatory briefings to attend. You still go through the resume writing classes and interview techniques, how to apply for a federal government job and how to dress for success. There may be a little discussion about how you will feel when you take off that uniform for the last time but the gist of the program is based on helping Veterans find jobs upon their separation from the military. What good is an awesome job if depression makes it nearly impossible to pull yourself out of the bed some days.
And the Oscar for Supporting Actor goes to…the Military Transition Programs. We continue to act as if these programs properly prepare our Service Members for life after the military. While they do provide some necessary skills for civilian life, they still miss the mark. I’ve heard Service Members describe the process of going through transition as:
Being herded like cattle
Specific needs or concerns not being addressed
Useless and a waste of time
The state of our military is the result of continuous combat operations over the past decade plus. Something seriously needs to be done at the federal level to address how these operations have changed the force. A force that will be transitioning back into society ill-prepared and possibly unaware of available resources.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. The good news is that in the midst of all that ‘acting’ some real learning took place and our military force consists of a real talented pool of national heroes. Yes, we may be a little damaged but we’ve accomplished incredible feats:
Deployed and redeployed troops to a foreign land (Planning, Operations, Logistics, Safety, etc.)
Amassed a wealth of knowledge about foreign countries and cultures and in some cased briefed this information to units (Research, Public Speaking, Political Science and Geography experts, etc.)
Account for multimillion dollars’ worth of equipment (Maintenance, Logistics and Accountability, Quality Control, etc.)
And the list goes on. While the emotional transition from the military is oftentimes overlooked and not talked about – it is a real process that Veterans will go through. Some will work through their emotions just fine without issues, others will struggle – ALL will make it through. I believe that. The choice is yours #BattleBuddy! Let’s take the first step towards your wonderful life as a civilian NOW!
Lila Holley is a retired US Army Chief Warrant Officer Four, two-time Amazon best-selling author and certified life coach specializing in helping Military Members and Veterans through the emotional process of transitioning from military life to civilian life. Her book ‘Battle Buddy: Maneuvering the Battlefield of Transitioning from the Military’ chronicles her own struggles with depression during her transition process. Contact Lila at firstname.lastname@example.org or at her website http:becomeabattlebuddy.online.