Editor’s note: May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the West Point history department last week asked veterans on Twitter for their advice on how to “positively add to the discussion about PTSD.” One vet who responded with a personal story was The Warax, the anonymous, Seuss-inspired former Marine whose cantankerous takes on post-military life and politics have earned him a big social media following. “The first time I thought about killing myself the idea was easy to dismiss,” The Warax’s story began. What followed was a gripping but very recognizable lesson on how depression and suicidal tendencies can set in as a veteran’s career sunsets through no fault of his own. We asked the Warax to share his story here in an essay, and he agreed.
Veterans face a variety of problems once they leave the service. Whether it's accurate or not, many veterans feel life is a little harder for them than for most people. But what if a big part of the problem wasn't so much PTSD or poor transition assistance — at least not directly — but rather loneliness and boredom?
When I first started telling people I was leaving the Army, I didn’t have an elevator pitch ready to trot out. I stumbled over what to say and how to say it when people asked the inevitable “So what’s next?” I knew I needed to have a succinct, snappy answer once I started interviewing for positions, but I didn’t realize how useful it would be to figure out a short personal statement before I even started job searching.
Most of us can thank the military for instilling some valuable behaviors in us. For me, it’s always being on time and cleaning up after myself (and, often, others) to improve the proverbial foxhole. The military also ingrained habits in me like backwards planning and keeping accountability of coworkers. While many of the things we learned are invaluable, some behaviors won’t help you get ahead in the civilian world.
The day you join the military is the day you stop being an individual. In the military, “being an individual” is such a bad thing that it’s actually an insult, especially in recruit training. Whether you’re in the military for four years or 40, the work you do becomes your identity. Pilot, grunt, clerk; it’s not just your job description: It’s who you are. If you’d asked me to describe myself while I was in the military, the first words I’d have said were “Marine” and “pilot.”