Getting out of the Military can be an overwhelming transition for the toughest of warriors. It’s a process that is often taken lightly while still serving, a “grass is greener on the other side” mentality adorned, which leaves transitioning service members ill-equipped and under prepared for the reality that awaits them.
Lt. Col. Scott Mann (Ret.) knows first hand what the trials and tribulations faced by Veterans are like, as they attempt to redefine themselves in an alien world which no longer feels like home. He understands this because he himself has faced the darkness and he himself has come out through the other side — better, stronger, and truly fulfilled.
The first element he speaks about for a successful Military Transition is the establishment of a disciplined regimen. He states that “Regimen equals freedom, discipline equals freedom. If you want to do what you want to do, when you want to do it, then there has to be discipline, there has to be regimen, there has to be battle rhythm from the time you wake up in the morning, until the time you go to sleep at night, and it needs to address the alignment of your mind, body, spirit, and craft.”
Everything we did in the Military was based in discipline, regimen, and the structure created from those two factors. It’s the clarity of the day to day that we find comfort in which leads to us excelling in our respective missions. We know what we are going to wear, where we need to be, what we need to be doing, when we need to be doing it, and if we fall off the wagon, there will be someone close by to check us and put us back in line. After we get out, all that direction is gone, and we must make it for ourselves. This is where many Veterans get stuck in their transition.
The lack of disciplined regimen creates imbalances within our minds, our bodies, and our spirits preventing us from aligning our internal meaning with our external purpose — leaving us without a craft to focus our energy into which can create transitional duress, distress, despair, and depression.
By creating internal structure to combat the external chaos of civilian life allows for us to find the harmony within ourselves — to open our hearts and minds to the possibility of the future, while surrendering to the moments of our past.
The second element Scott talks about is learning our stories and how to effectively tell them. He explains that we must “get in touch with [our] story.” He goes on to say, “Your story is the personal calling card of who you are as a person, it will help you find your voice. It will help you get out of your head and help you close the trust gaps with the civilians you’re trying to lead in this world.” Understanding where we have been, what we have done, and how far we have come is imperative to the transition process because it allows for us to move on from our past, to own our present, and find ourself in the driver’s seat of our future.
He states that; “If you don’t know your story, then nobody else will know your story, and you’re going to be lost. You’ll be untethered, floating in the sea of transition.” This is a terrible place to find oneself. I’ve been there multiple times, Scott has been there, and nearly all the Veterans I’ve talked to from General on down to Private have experienced this at some point in time. The key isn’t to beat ourselves up for where we are. The key is to start where we are, in this moment, and go deep inside. To learn how we got here, why we are here, and how it’s time to correct course back into the light.
The third element Scott talks of is finding our voice and clarity of purpose. He states, “It’s never going to end but clarity of purpose is something I see a lot of warriors moving away from and I think it’s what is killing us, I think it’s causing us to overmedicate, and I think it’s what’s causing us to go dark. When we’re in the Military, we’re fully expressed — we know who we are even if we hate the work. When we get out of the Military, it’s like changing planets. We no longer know who we are.”
I myself have come to realize through my own transition that many of the issues I face is founded in existential crises. In the Marine Corps, I was given a purpose bigger than myself, I was given a title, a rank, a position — I knew my place and my mission was clear each and everyday. During these last six years, I’ve searched for that clarity — sometimes finding it and other times watching it fade away, as if it never was there to begin with.
Scott goes on to explain, “[Do] whatever you have to do to get reconnected to your purpose; ask yourself, ‘Who am I?’ ‘Why am I here?’ and ‘What do I have to offer?” You may not know the answers but keep working to learn them, keep sticking in there, hooking and jabbing and through your story you’ll find the answers you’re looking for.”
Part of finding clarity of purpose is redefining our relationship with death. While we served we were willing to die for the person to the left and right of us, we were willing to lay down our lives for God and Country. But out here, we must find something to live for.
But how does one find something to live for when we were so willing to die for something greater than ourselves? That is what asking ourselves these questions can reveal. Once we can answer these questions fully and truthfully — we have begun the transition process. Once we can act on the answers we’ve come up with is when we’ve begun to truly transform, and transformation is the key to it all.
Adam T. Cummings