By Amanda Ross

On a warm summer night in July, we sat on our little patio, surrounded by friends. Like so many times before, the conversation revolved around the military. I listened, quietly, while Kyle and his friends laughed about all the funny things they’ve had to do, and the incredible experiences they’ve been blessed with. But what stood out to me most was something that his friend said, in the midst of all the chatter.

He said, “I don’t know what I’ll do when it’s all over. What am I without the military? What am I if I’m not a soldier? I’ve done the same things since I was 18. I’m not sure I know how to do anything else.”

[Tweet “I don’t know what I’ll do when it’s all over. What am I without the military?”]

The others just nodded, and the conversation continued on with its normal flow of jokes and laughter.

But I hung on to his words.

They stayed with me long after the party was over and the leftover beer cans had been picked up. In a different setting, at a different moment, maybe I would’ve overlooked those words or just nodded with the others. Instead, it made me think. It made me question the way that our community offers support to those who separate or retire from the military. 

When an individual joins the military, they go through 2-3 months of basic military training, and then an additional 3+ months of MOS training, also known as AIT. After that it’s endless weeks of training to be in the military. There are years of various schools, field exercises, and the occasional deployment.

Before they know it, it becomes their whole life.

And 4 years goes by like it’s just a Sunday afternoon, and for many, they stay much longer. The process of being military is endless.

But one day, the contract ends and everything they’ve known is out of reach.  The military becomes a memory that they talk about, rather than a life that they live. And no one steps in to train them how to be “normal” again. And I had to ask myself, when that day comes, who looks out for them? Who ensures that they have the support and guidance that they need to transition from a high-stress job, to possibly no job? It’s never as seamless and easy as we imagine it to be, and as a family that will someday face this situation, we need to know what resources we can rely on.

We need to know where to turn when the uniform is put away, and the reality of a new beginning sets in.

As our nation’s most recent war is still underway, many organizations are stepping up to help all military personnel decide what’s next for their future. Some of these veterans deal with a unique set of circumstances, such as combat wounds and PTSD. They face challenges that many of us can’t even begin to imagine, from the ones you can see to the ones you can’t. These organizations stand together, ready and willing to help them find their way again. These are some of the organizations that are helping our veterans make the transition from soldier to civilian:

Post 9/11 Veterans: Nonprofit Community Organization

Post 9/11 Veterans is an organization run by veterans, for veterans. They focus on one of the most important transitions of all: service members moving back into the community workforce. They host a program called “Gen. Patton’s Closet” where veterans can request items that they would need for an interview or even just a regular work day. They offer their support by ensuring that veterans will be prepared for this next step in life. And rather than taking monetary donations (which are happily accepted to support their programs) they encourage anyone who’s able to donate a vehicle so that returning veterans can have the transportation they need.

Got Your 6

Standing behind their 6 Pillars: jobs, education, health, housing, family, and leadership, Got Your 6 has cemented the foundation of what our veterans truly need. They focus on the essentials, and the many ways that we can help these service members to find their path as a vital part of our society. They believe that by empowering veterans, we are strengthening a community. Their focus isn’t just on service members, but their spouses and children as well.

Helmets to Hardhats

This organization understands the value that service members put behind an active lifestyle. They understand that many veterans don’t want to transition into a desk job, and they respect the importance of a happy work life. H2H allows both employers and those looking for work to create a personalized account. This allows both parties to represent themselves and exactly what they’re looking for in a possible career. H2H opens doors that may seem closed to many who have only known one job their whole lives. They even have a 14-week training program to ensure that all job seekers are well prepared for each option.

Freedom Service Dogs of America

With an overall goal to serve the community, FSD rescues and trains dogs to become service animals for veterans, active duty military, and other adults with mental and physical disabilities. All of their services are free of charge and they provide full care, if necessary, for all of their animals. They strive to empower those who feel limited by providing them with the tools they need to succeed in daily activities. These dogs are custom-trained to fit each individual’s needs, from performing simple tasks to more complicated routines. By providing these services, they’re giving many people their freedom back and serving as an example of the healing bond between animals and humans.

Home Base

Serving as the only private sector clinic in all of New England, Home Base has become a vital organization for post-9/11 veterans that are struggling with the invisible wounds of war. Their services represent a vital checkpoint for all returning veterans who are trying to regain the life they once knew and aren’t sure where to begin. Since their start in 2009, Home Base has served more than 4,100 veterans and active duty service members, as well as 3,300 family members. They have a well-rounded focus on physical health, mental health, and overall rehabilitation. In order to re-enter the workforce and lead other members of their community, Home Base believes that this type of support is essential to all service members who are making the transition from service to civilian.

Amanda is a military girlfriend of 6 years, with a brother that is currently deployed overseas. She’s a recent graduate with a BA in Communications and Media studies, and her blog focuses on offering advice and inspiration for military spouses, veterans, and families. She’s passionate about raising awareness for organizations that support the military, and participates in various events to benefit these causes. Find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter  and follow the adventure.