Once again it’s that time of year for Dean’s Day Off. What is Dean’s Day Off you might ask? Well it’s the first Friday in October that I celebrate my separation from the Army. It’s a day where I can do whatever I want to do (which is like any other day). But it’s still a major milestone in my life that I feel needs recognition.
The Army was one of the best things that happened to me. I regard it as one of the cornerstones in my life besides my family. As a person coming from a single parent household and not having much it was a good place to start a new life.
Me in 1999 at Fort Jackson, SC (South Carolina)
I went in the Army and stayed for seven years. I started my career there at Fort Drum as a generator mechanic. From there I went to Germany and eventually Iraq in 2003.
Camp Dogwood, Iraq 2003 (the Suck)
Going to war was a life changing experience for me. Not only did it take me out of the comfort zone of Garrison life; but showed that no one should go to war with the U.S. This country has the resources to do some major damage to any country. I seen this first hand, and it’s not pretty at all.
British Soldiers called us American Soldiers Mutant Ninja Turtles, I wonder why?
While I was in Germany I reenlisted to go back to Fort Drum. While in Iraq though I knew I had to move on to something better for myself. So I returned from Iraq and off to Fort Drum again. In 2005 I was off to Iraq for a year this time. By now the bases were built up and secure.
Iraq 2005, chilling this time around.
Thankfully I returned home and left the Army On the first Friday in October.
Becoming a civilian again isn’t as easy it sounds. Since basic training I was
brainwashed resocialized by the Army. Not saying its a bad thing but it makes adjusting to normal life a bit difficult. But my family was there for me and helped me along the way. I was once asked what have I learned since I’ve been out. What have I learned? A lot!
First have a plan and stick to it. I seen friends and acquaintances doing the SAME thing when I returned home; no progress at all. I almost got sucked into it as well, luckily my ambition for self-improvement kept me away from drugs and hanging out.
That brings me to my second thing I learned. Drugs may good for you and a great way to unwind and socialize but it’s a black hole that gets deeper with every blunt, line, drink, etc. I was a weed smoker and all I learned is that it got one of my friends killed by association of it.
Third is seek out and you will find. If you come where I came from you know there is no golden goose. No free rides or handouts. I did the leg work and put in time go out and get what I wanted.
Another thing I want to add is don’t DEPEND on anyone when you can do it for yourself. Someone once said friendship is like good credit; the less you use it the better it is. Truest words ever said! I am not saying not to ask for help, but take the initiative and be independent. People have a tendency to take advantage of your compassion and kindness. To quote my homeboy Mo Blak, “Gotta get your own!”.
Finally is to follow your instincts if something seems wrong or not right then don’t force it. My first few months home I got a ton of job offers. My mother even recommended hat I go back to school. All I knew is that I wanted a job using the skills I got from the Army, local and with healthcare and other benefits. Nine months later I got this job I am working now. I fix Subway Trains for NYC. I could have rushed headlong into the first job offer I got. Even though going back to school would have been great but that would have just delayed me looking for a job now in this austere job market.
I am happy to say that I have come a long way from where I started. The path wasn’t easy at times but I stayed the course. I never got distracted and never let my time get wasted.
So to all my Veterans out there don’t rush the transition into civilian life. As a veteran you have an advantage to use the benefits that’s out there for us. Look around! ask questions there is resources for us to use. Email me if you have any questions! Just don’t end up on the couch high or drunk waiting for the golden goose.