After nearly 10 years in the U.S. Army, former Staff Sgt. Juan Garza is fighting a battle that he didn't think would be as challenging as it has become -- entering the civilian world for the first time in his adult life.
"I'm trying to get by as best as I can. I'm fresh out, and still trying to figure things out," the 29-year-old Garza said. "Things are falling into place, so far so good."
Garza, a native of McAllen, Texas, left the Army three months ago and moved his family to San Luis, Ariz., where his wife has family.
"I really didn't expect to be in that long," he said of his time in the Army. "Then I found myself actually thinking about making it a career."He wasn't physically wounded during any of his deployments, but Garza said it is the injuries you can't see that can take the longest to heal. He has an appointment at the VA hospital in Tucson later this month for treatment and counseling for what he believes may be symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Garza said he had could have stayed in the Army, if he had chosen to do so, because he had an offer to become a drill instructor. He explained that he decided not to accept it because he felt he wouldn't be able to do the job the way he felt it needed to be done.
"I grew up in the military when it was rough and tough and you had to get through it," Garza said. "Soldiering is much different nowdays. Discipline is not what it used to be, either."
He explained that drill instructors aren't allowed to be as hard on Soldiers as they were when he enlisted and that he thought he would get "in trouble" for being too hard on recruits.
"Nowdays, you have to be sensitive to the Soldier's needs. You can't talk to them anymore they way we used to," Garza said. "You have to be careful about what you say. You can't say anything to them that would make them feel like they were being singled out or harassed."
For now, Garza said he will keep doing everything he can and see what the future brings.