In this Military.com series, Combat-Ready Kitchen author Anastacia Marx de Salcedo talks to veterans about how they made the transition to their civilian careers. Check out her website here or follow her on Facebook or Twitter. To share your own story, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Francisco Gaspar, USMC
Service: 2007-2014, Iraq, Southeast Asia, Estonia, Okinawa, Korea
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
What do you do now? I’m a video editor and a camera operator. I edit videos for Playboy’s online website, from news coverage and girls modeling to event coverage and celebrity interviews. Pretty much everything a men’s magazine would have. I’m primarily a video editor, but about twice a month, I’ll go shoot a project by myself. I’ll bring it back and I’ll edit it.
What was your discharge like? Kind of devastating. I remember leaving and I was shaking everyone’s hand. I laughed, and I got in my car, and I was just crying my eyes out. And I was like, “Oh my God, I think the Marine Corps just broke up with me."
What happened after that? I went through this whole crazy transition from being in a combat zone and realizing at 20 years old that I’m going to die and being OK with dying. It was a high almost. You didn’t get it when you came home. And nobody understands you except for your buddies. All you want to do is get drunk and mess around. We thought we were the baddest m***********s ever, so we’d get in fights to prove ourselves, like a death-didn’t-get-me kind of thing, so I’m invincible.
What was your first civilian job after being discharged? I was a freelance assistant video editor at Cry Havoc, a production company that was working on a television show called Supercar Superbuild.
What did you do to prepare for it? After my second deployment in early 2012, I went back to school on the GI Bill and got my degree in film. I graduated in 2014, but I was still in the Marines. I remember saying to myself, I’ve got to get out and pursue my career in filmmaking, so I requested discharge.
How did you look for your job? Through StaffMeUp, a website that’s pretty well known for getting jobs in the film and video business. I applied every day for about seven months to postings, and after, like three hundred different job applications, I finally heard back. I knew if they interviewed me, I'd get it because I know how to talk. If there was one thing I learned in the Marine Corps, it was fake it till you make it.
That’s a long time. How did you get through it without giving up? I felt super discouraged sometimes, and, in fact, that made me think about going back to the Marine Corps. All I’d have to do is be a grunt. Just wake up, train, and go to sleep. Pretty simple. And then possibly go to war. Way simpler than trying to fit into a civilian lifestyle. But I kept trying to motivate myself. One thing I always thought about was the guys who lost their lives and stuff like that. Because, look, I didn’t die out there. So I’m on this planet for a reason. I can’t just cry or feel sad or feel depressed because I have challenges facing me.
How did you get your current job? Through a connection. My editor at my first job, he hit me up. I had like two months left before my freelancing gig was done, and he said, “Hey man, I got offered this job, but I can’t do it, and I want to put them in touch with you.” And I said, "Yeah, that’s great." And he told me it was for Playboy and I was a little nervous, but he told me it wasn’t to make a porn movie, “They’re not doing that stuff. You won’t be doing that stuff." Because now Playboy is non-nude, and I joined them with that change. And he told me “Hey dude, just submit your resume and video portfolio to one of my friends.” And I did, and his friend turned out to be the boss, and he hired me for the position.
Was it hard to find a civilian job after being in the military? Yes. There are a million people in LA who want to do my line of work, so you’re competing with a bunch of people who bring different art forms to the craft. How did I stand out? That’s why it took me so long to finally get a job. It wasn’t my art or work that stood out, it was my personality, who I am.
Do you have any advice for recently discharged servicemen and women looking for work? Go back to school. Get that GI Bill money and use it wisely. Get an education so you can find a career. You’re going to realize pretty darn quick that life’s a lot easier in the military than it is out here. You'll have a lot of frustrations… But just keep your patience. Understand that you’re always going to be a little bit different, but don’t view that as a weakness. See that difference as who you are and a strength.
For more veteran job tips, job postings, and job fair listings, visit the Military.com Veteran Jobs Center.
Anastacia Marx de Salcedo writes about all kinds of things, including food, science, business, and the military.