Attaining the DD-214 is a dream come true for some service members. For the first time in years one has unrestricted freedom. No more can someone deny your vacation days or send you to the brig for smoking a plant. You’ve fought hard to earn your freedom. America is jam-packed with so much freedom that its hard to decide where to begin at 1st Civilian Division.
Here’s a hip pocket class on how to go full civilian after getting out.
1. Find yourself
You gave the military the best years of your life and it shows. A recently separated troop will talk endlessly about the service, stories of other troops and will ramble on about their adventures. It’s natural. However, civilians will not be able to relate. The first year of separation you will get to know all kinds of people. In the military you’re surrounded by troops who are guided by a strong moral compass, in the civilian world, that is not the case. Finding a new group to grow with and trust will take time.
Take your time to discover things about yourself by doing things you’ve always wanted. Scratching a few items off your bucket list is a good way to get the ball rolling and you’ll have new things to talk about with civilians. Some troops dye their hair, wake and bake, go to college, get a pet, start a business, etc. There are no limits to what you can and can’t do. You have the freedom to succeed, but buyer beware, you also now have the freedom to fail. Enjoy the world you helped protect but watch your six, too. Joining a veteran organization such as Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America or Veterans of Foreign Wars can help ease the transition by speaking with other veterans.
2. Grow a beard
We all did it. Some of us grow a lion’s mane and other grow patches. Let ‘er rip! There is a massive online community for beards and civilians love them too.
3. Now that you’re a civilian, give the gym a break
Exercise is key to living a healthy life but now you can civilian it. In the service, physical fitness is mandatory. The stakes aren’t as high anymore. You can work out a few days a week, go ham and body build, or trash the whole routine. You’re the battalion commander of your life. I do a very light exercise routine a few days a week. When I was in the infantry, we would work out twice a day, five days a week. I’m done.
4. Get an unauthorized tattoo
You can get sleeves or your legs done now. Another benefit to becoming a civilian is you do not have to photograph your tattoos and hand them over to Uncle Sam. Don’t do anything crazy like getting a face tattoo for obvious reasons.
5. Take part in civilian fads and challenges
Give life a chance and participate in the fun everyone is having. Yes, fads and challenges are corny but when you do them with friends and family they’re fun. They are a great way to create new memories and you’ll have the videos and photos to look at years down the line. Even if you’re not into those sort of things its also a good way to keep tabs on your children from doing something dangerous – like the Tide Pod fiasco.
6. Register with the VA healthcare system
One very important step to becoming a civilian is to register with the VA Healthcare. It is an invaluable resource and its free. Over the years the VA has been improving the quality of care it renders veterans. In an emergency you can always visit the Emergency Room and enroll after the fact but its best to not put this off. The VA offers services such as disability ratings, a primary care doctor, eye exams, ER and urgent care, pharmacies and so much more. Civilians with pre-existing conditions pay an arm an a leg for what you’re eligible for. Take what is yours, you earned it.