“In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world…” – General Dwight D. Eisenhower: D-Day Message, Order of the Day: 6 June 1944
If that doesn’t resonate into every fiber of your being I don’t know what will. This speech is one of the most purposeful military moments our country has seen.
Volunteering to serve in the military to honor and defend your country is one of the most selfless acts of commitment a person can make. Regardless of the branch of the military, a soldier commits to, they immediately and indefinitely have a purpose in life.
Air Force: “Aim High…Fly, Fight, Win”
Army: “This We’ll Defend”
Coast Guard: “Semper Paratus” (Always Prepared)
Marine Corps: “Semper Fidelis” (Always Faithful)
Navy: “Non sibised patriae” (Not Self, but Country)
National Guard: “Always Ready, Always There”
Since 9/11, over 5 million Americans have voluntarily served in the United States military. From the moment they enlist, until the moment they receive their discharge papers, a soldier’s entire life is defined by purpose. Purpose is heard in a soldier’s oath of enlistment and it begins building during their training. Their purpose is strengthened when they join their brothers- in- arms in different units across the country and the world. Their purpose is demonstrated even more when they execute their missions together.
Over the past decade, over 2 million soldiers served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Here their purpose is seen, felt, and heard with every step in the streets, every movement in the mountains, and every long haul across the deserts.
For 4, 8, 16, or 20+ years, a soldier lives and breathes his purpose in the military. So what happens when a soldier receives their DD form 214, and that purpose is instantly stripped away? Thousands of soldiers leave the military and automatically assume their status as a veteran. Transitioning from the military life into civilian life can be extremely difficult, and rightfully so. Strip any human being of purpose and they will be left with a completely emotional, physical, and spiritual void.
Without finding a purpose in civilian life, Veteran’s can have relationship troubles, substance abuse, the total loss of unemployment, and in an alarming number of cases, suicide. How then does a Veteran turn his vast knowledge and experience from military life into purpose in their civilian life?
For starters, what is purpose? Purpose is the internal driving force that causes one to act and achieve. Purpose is at the root of our character. Purpose is the deciding factor that impacts how a person lives their life from what their profession is, to what type of education they get, to how they serve their communities, and at the very center of each and every person, purpose is what shapes their ideas, morals, and values.
How do you find purpose?
1. You are a Veteran. Be Confident in Your Capabilities
According to the Defense Manpower Data Center (a body of the Defense Department), as of Jan. 31, 2015 there were close to 1.4 million people serving in the U.S. armed forces . Add that to the estimated 22 million military veterans in the U.S. population  and only 7.3 percent of all living Americans have served in the US Military. As a civilian, you may be required to become skilled at a few new abilities. However, all military servicemen are taught to put their own personal interests below the interests of their team, country, and mission. This trait is truly invaluable to businesses, programs, and organizations. Stand tall and be proud of your experiences.
2. Get Connected
A crucial piece to finding purpose post military career is re-establishing connections . Strengthening old bonds with family and friends is a good place to start. Building community connections are also important. What are your interests? Get involved with a local volunteering group that peaks your interests. Building relationships with other veterans is also helpful in finding your purpose . Other veterans understand the demands of the military. They understand what you’ve seen and done. Building relationships with like-minded people, as well as, people who have similar past experiences will play a big part in helping find new purpose.
Being a Veteran of the United States military is something to be incredibly proud of. You are a rare breed. You volunteered for one of the most selfless acts a human could commit to. The military life is 110% about purpose. Take your vast abilities and experiences into the civilian world and find a new purpose.
- Schuetz A (1945) The homecomer. American Journal of Sociology50: 369–376.
- Hinojosa R, Hinojosa MS (2011) Using military friendships to optimize postdeployment reintegration for male Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom veterans. J Rehabil Res Dev48: 1145–1158.
- Statistics according to the 2014 Department of Veterans Affairs