When asked about why they decided to join the Marine Corps, most Marines will say more or less that they wanted to be part of something bigger than themselves. They wanted to serve their country and make a difference. The Marine Corps certainly makes a person feel that way. After all, the intense 13-week boot camp training and indoctrination into core values and standards are motivators to reinforce that all of that training is for a cause higher than any one individual. Marines are taught to protect their brother and sisters to their left and right. Corps life is a culture all its own. It is a way of life. An existence that’s habits stick with the Marine for the rest of his or her life.
A Marine leaving the Marine Corps and entering civilian life isn’t always prepared for that reality. Sure, Marines have their complaints about military life. Taking orders, the hurry up and wait mentality and taking twenty people to get one job done are all common gripes among them. However, once they leave that life, many Marines have trouble adjusting to a new world among civilians where those Corps beliefs and values aren’t as prevalent. Suddenly that feeling of being part of a bigger mission is no longer there. Some Marines even feel guilty about leaving their brethren behind to re-enter society.
It may never feel completely normal for Marines to live among civilians but there are a some things that those who have recently returned to the civilian world can do to make the transition easier.
When a Marine is out for a short while and they have experienced the full gamut of the civilian society, he or she may experience a strong desire to go back into the military. For some, they do exercise that option to return. There are many reasons for this. It could be financial and/or the desire to be back with his or her brothers and sisters. For others, they feel alone in the civilian world. They feel like they can’t talk to anyone because no one can understand their experiences like another Marine.
This is almost a grieving process. The loss of something they have held precious and dear to their hearts. Their belief system that they have clung to is now irrelevant. Suddenly nothing makes sense and those same core values aren’t applied the same way in the civilian world.
The secret to readjusting to life in the civilian world is more than just one answer. It depends on the Marine and what works for him or her. However, there are a couple of solutions to consider.
First, if a Marine has no choice but to stay in the civilian world then the best thing he or she can do is to connect with organizations or initiate projects that allow them to continue to serve the Marine Corps and/or veterans by getting involved. That means volunteering or starting a charity organization or business utilizing skills the Marine is good at and donating that time and effort to causes that are important to the Marine. A Marine will always be a Marine but a Marine without a mission is a lost Marine.
Second, skip over the temptation of reliving the glory days and go straight into the nearest activity that will give the Marine the same feelings the got while in the Marine Corps. The VA always needs volunteers to help its veterans. The VFW is another good organization. The Wounded Warrior Project is another organization that excels in helping wounded warriors continue their purpose in life.
The secret to successfully adjusting to civilian life is to stay involved. Whether it is through military organizations or jumping into community service, church or family life, keeping busy with meaningful causes can ease the pain of feeling like a Marine is leaving their Corps behind (even though they take the Corps with them wherever they go) and entering a new and unfamiliar world. In fact, this is a new chapter in the Marine’s life full of new possibilities and accomplishments. If Marines can see this perception instead of what they are leaving behind then they will more readily connect with the civilian world and make the transition easier.
Source: Personal Experience