Most will never forget the moment they earned the right to wear the uniform. Hollywood mimics it, children look up to it, and this nation celebrates those in uniform. The past 13 years of war haven given new meaning to military service as the modern generation of warfighters have been able to write their own chapter in America's history. But wars end, bodies get older, and eventually the uniform must come off for the last time. For most it will mean jobs and careers in the civilian sector and this can be a hard transition as you take off the uniform of the Warfighter elite and put on business casual clothes with perhaps a wacky t-shirt option on Fridays. But there is more to this new season of life and for those ready to embrace it with a little humility, a future without precedent awaits.
Whatever roll you might take on after the military, it is important to the spirit of the warfighter to understand that nothing has been undone. If you have earned the title of Marine, Ranger, SEAL, or others, that title remains. You may feel it most when you are in uniform, but the title you earned is inherently yours to keep and no person or job can take that away. There is a certain amount of pride that should exude from you as you carry yourself into the workplace and there is nothing wrong with others knowing exactly who you are.
That being said, there is a flipside to pride that can be damaging to the veteran during this new phase of life. That is the pride that refuses to acknowledge that you are in many senses starting over. Certainly you are taking with you the title, job experience, and intangibles that military life provides. However, you can't be afraid to work your way back up the chain of command and earn your stripes of sorts in a new career or industry.
Six months ago you may have commanded dozens of Marines, but today you might be shifting paper and reporting up to a young adult who has never been more than 10 miles from his parents. That might not be glorious work, but it is not the end. Rather, it is the start of something new and like most great endeavors there are challenges to be met. But you must be willing to earn it the hard way all over again and if you can swallow your pride to do so, you will leap frog that young manager and find yourself in command once again. Be proud of your history, but don't let pride become an anchor.
For a service that is taught to be aggressive, proud, and assertive, humility can often be a challenge. However, humility is not weakness, it is not giving up, and nor is it meekness. Your new workplace could very much use a proud assertive leader who is not afraid to take charge. However, the best leaders learn how to operate with a sense of humility and greater awareness that it is not all about themselves. Your new civilian co-workers have traveled various paths to arrive where they are today and dismissing those journeys because they didn't take place in uniform is a recipe for discontent and workplace conflict.
Too many veterans are struggling in the civilian workplace just because their new roles are, "not the military." The co-workers have, "never served." When in reality a little personal humility would go a long way towards being able to extend greatness to your civilian partners. Yes, you were part of the Warfighter elite and served with honor. But so did generations that came before you and it these previous generations coming home to civilian life that built America. Now it is your turn and it is simply time to roll up your sleeves and start working your way back up with a little pride and humility.
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