Donate

My Transition from the Military and my Search for New Meaning

I always knew the military was the correct path for me. I grew up a “military brat” and traveled all around the world with my family. I remember always trying on my dad’s uniform and pretending I was a Soldier. It was something I saw myself doing and excelling at. In October 2010, I signed my contract to join the Army. I often wondered if I made the right decision but after a couple of years in and a deployment to Afghanistan, I realized that the Army was part of my life for the long term. I loved the training, discipline and life I had in the Army. I also loved the camaraderie I had with my fellow Soldiers. I could not imagine my life outside the Army and had dreams of becoming an officer through Officer Candidate School (OCS).

CF blog pic

In 2015, while in Korea, I decided to submit my OCS packet and had the full support of my Commander. Unfortunately, I had been experiencing knee pain for a few months and after multiple trips to the doctor, x-rays and MRIs, I was diagnosed with arthritis. My dreams were crushed and I felt helpless. My doctor had to rule out any other knee issues and in March 2015, I had surgery on my knee. Everything changed after that. I was now unable to run and unable to attend OCS. As I was nearing my ETS date, I knew OCS was out of the question, therefore, I decided to get out of the Army on my ETS date.

Before getting out, I received an acceptance letter from the New York Institute of Technology to study human resources in New York City. I was thrilled and ready for a new adventure! Unfortunately, I deferred my acceptance for one year to allow myself some time to “adjust” to civilian life in Austin, TX. Three months after my ETS date, I accepted a job offer as an Administrative Assistant for my county in Austin. I felt so fortunate to have found employment so quickly as I know many struggle to find a job right after leaving the military. I thought that I was going to begin a new chapter in my life and kick adjustment in the butt. I was so wrong. I felt very unfulfilled and worthless. I felt alone, I felt useless and I felt like my life no longer had purpose. I joined a CrossFit gym because I had heard it would give me a sense of community. I also started going to my local vet center to receive mental health care.

I spent 9 miserable months at that job. I contacted the National Guard, the Reserves and even the Air Force about joining again. I knew I could not run, but I was willing to lie my way back in because nothing else worked for me. I contacted multiple recruiters but was frightened by the idea of going to MEPS again and getting caught lying about my physical health and my inability to be fit for duty. I was so miserable that I changed jobs after 9 months and left the next job after 3 months.

I finally decided to make the move to NYC in 2016 to start school in the Fall. I thought “this is it”, “this is going to be my new home”. I was way in over my head! I found a temporary job in human resources through a classmate and then received full employment as a Human Resources Associate for a catering company in NYC. I was still not happy. I thought there was something wrong with me. At this point, I could not find meaningful employment. I struggled with maintaining relationships and I was certainly not making new friends. I was also making excuses to move apartments and was paying hefty penalty fees for breaking my leases early. I was trying to find my place but instead I was angry everyday because I was not in the Army.

In March 2017, I met with my school advisor to let him know I was quitting school and moving back with my parents in North Carolina because I could not bare the pain and constant struggle I was feeling inside every single day. I was battling with myself and didn’t want to go through life anymore. I never thought of hurting myself, but I knew I would be okay if I was not around anymore. Everyday felt like I was walking around with a tight knot on my chest that even with the most effort I could not shake. I knew the pain was associated with MY failure of not becoming an officer in the Army. I reflected that when I am 90 years old, I will always think “what if”. What if I never got the surgery? What if I never got out of the Army? And the most hurtful one is “what if I actually went to OCS?”

Luckily, I learned about Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) through my school advisor around March 2017. Not only as a place of possible employment but also as a veterans organization that provided services for veterans like myself to make the transition smoother and also to provide resources I could use to confront my constant struggles. My advisor also knew IAVA’s Director of Human Resources because he also attended NYIT and went through the same program I was in. I monitored IAVA’s career page weekly until I saw they were hiring a Human Capital Coordinator. I applied and hoped for the best. After about a month, I heard back and interviewed in-person with key members of the organization. Within a few weeks, I got the job! I was so happy. Since moving to NYC in the Fall of 2016, I’ve lived in three different apartments and IAVA became my third job!

Finding IAVA was the push I needed to find contentment in my life. Not only do I get to work with fellow veterans and supporters, but I am also empowered to share my story so that those that feel the same know that it does get better and know that it is going to be okay. I am happy to report that I am now the Director of Human Resources at IAVA and I absolutely love my job. I still think about “fixing” my knee and going back to the Army but I undoubtedly think life is and will keep getting better as I keep adjusting to live without the Army.

CF blog 2

If you or a veteran you know needs resources or support, reach out to IAVA’s Rapid Response Referral Program (RRRP) today. Our Veteran Transition Managers are standing by to support.

We help transitioning veterans receive their benefits.

Help us serve more than 2,000 vets this year