There’s a commercial that still kicks around, of a young man aimlessly wandering around with a seabag slung over his shoulder, the city surrounding him barren and devoid of people, traffic, and life. He’s greeted with a handshake from a friendly stranger, and the advertisement ends as a plug for veterans, reminding us that we’re not alone in our return to the civilian sector.

Every day, hundreds of thousands of discharged service members experience the exact feeling that our commercial counterpart showed us: we do indeed stand alone. Sure, there are VA support groups. We have 1-800 numbers, different forms of compensation, and improved therapeutic techniques that are a far cry from what our grandparents endured following past wars. But how do those various measures fill the empty void that constantly reminds us how we were once a part of something great, only to be discharged as a statistic? The short answer; they don’t. It’s up to ourselves to rediscover the drive and motivation that was fed to us on a silver platter every morning, when we’d muster for a six, five or even four am PT session. Or when we’d step off our transport planes, and our boots hit the ground of Afghanistan or Iraq for the first time. Those moments won’t be recreated, whether you become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or graduate with honors from an established university.

Instead, myself and fellow service members learn to fight a new fight; the one within ourselves. The one that tells us we don’t have a reason to get out of bed in the morning. The one that makes you question the purpose of life outside of serving the country. But this time, we don’t have a boot camp indoctrination process. And rather than having our parents hold our hands and teach us how to walk on our own two feet all over again, we’re expected not just to reteach ourselves, but to put on our blinders and ignore the problems we brought home. “This feeling will pass,” I told myself. I learned the hard way; it isn’t that easy.

The fact of the matter is obvious, yet overlooked: so few U.S. Citizens serve in the armed forces, that we feel as if we’re complete strangers to our world upon returning from our great military adventures. But in countries where military service is an obligation, their veterans don’t come home with the PTSD, depression, or any other number of disabilities that we do, because they return to a world where everyone has similar experiences. They’re coming home to what is the norm, rather than an offbeat path that so few of us endure in the United States.

Only 0.4% of our country’s population is active duty military. Imagine pulling four kids out of a graduating class, and telling them they’re going to face some of the most extreme challenges of their lives over the next 48 months, but when it’s over, they need to become exactly like everybody else, and if not, society will cast them aside and then wonder what’s wrong with them. It’s a lonely road we travel, with heavy crosses to bear, and it doesn’t always have a storybook ending. But the backbone of the country is dependent on our never-ending allotment of volunteerism, by people who believe they’re here for a greater good. As we transition from our lives of militaristic rules and structure, back into civilian life, we just want to feel that we’re not traversing the streets alone. We’re once again a part of the culture that we signed up –without apprehension– to protect.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Gerard Lombardo

Gerard served as a United States Marine from 2009-2013 with two overseas deployments, the first being to Afghanistan's Helmand Province in 2011. After an honorable discharge, he began his pursuit of a bachelor's degree in journalism and is currently working his way up the ranks as a Red Sox writer while administrating and moderating multiple sports writing platforms. His passion for writing is only outdone by the love he has for his pit bull, and his life goal is to eliminate suicidal and mental health issues amongst the veterans of our country.

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