#TBT What’s My Purpose?

When reaching the end of their careers, military veterans are often faced with difficult questions.  There are, of course, the practical considerations of finances and family, but the biggest question for the vet is not where he’ll live or how he’ll make his living.  The biggest question for the retiring vet is what’s my purpose?

The military vet has spent years in the service of others, often at great personal cost, and through thick and thin it has been their sense of duty, that the mission is more important than themselves that had kept them going.  Some have sacrificed much, others not as much, but as the saying goes all gave some.  So when the bullets are flying, or when Dad can’t be there for a major event in a child’s life, or another Christmas is spent talking on vidchat instead of being together around the table, the warrior and his/her family content themselves with the knowledge that the sacrifice was somehow worth it.  In short, military life has purpose.US Air Force Honor Guard (USAF Photo)

But when that service ends, the military vet more often than not needs to find something to replace the mission he had as a soldier.  It’s not as easy as you might think. There are Transition Assistance Programs in the military to help these (mostly) still young people cross over from the military into civilian life.  “Re-discovering” one’s purpose after 10, 20, or 30 years is not easy. These servicemembers still have a lot to contribute and many retain the desire to serve.

I suppose that’s why so many vets become entrepreneurs and why so many companies are eager to hire veterans.  Vets “get it”: they show up on time, they do what’s expected and more.

Enter Team Rubicon.  I spotted this inspirational story in Inc. Magazine about two Marine vets who started something that is impacting the world.   Even after their military service ended, their sense of duty didn’t:

In January 2010, U.S. Marine Corps veterans Jake Wood and William McNulty stared a catastrophic problem in the face.

In the immediate wake of the Haitian earthquake that month, aid organizations were stymied by reports of insecure conditions on the ground. Wood, who had been a Marine scout-sniper and left the military just months before, posted on Facebook that he wanted to travel to Port-au-Prince and could use his security and medical experience to help.

After viewing the post, McNulty was eager to sign on. A veteran of Marine Corps infantry and intelligence, he knew Wood via blogs and a few Skype conversations they’d had in which they discussed business ideas. However, they had never met in person before.

Through the Jesuit high school he’d attended, McNulty met a Jesuit missionary in Haiti, who desperately needed a medical team to treat men, women, and children injured in the earthquake. Suddenly the veterans realized this would be their mission.

Read the Inc. profile here:  Meet the Veterans Launching Nonprofits to Change the World | Inc.com

Team Rubicon PhotoI share this story for two reasons.

First, I think the private sector has a gold mine in potential outstanding employees in our military veterans. A vet understands leadership and followership, he has incorporated important values like teamwork and service into his character, and responsibility, honesty, and duty are a part of her DNA. When a vet tells you as a potential employer, “I can do anything”, he means it because he has done lots of things, often things he never knew was in him before he started.  I’d like to encourage the private sector to hire our vets…they’ll produce!

Second, on this Veteran’s Day it’s important to reflect on the ways that our vets continue to serve, even out of uniform.  They’ve lived a life of purpose…serving their country and their fellow warriors…and that sense of duty doesn’t go away when they hung up the uniform in the closet.  Americans do appreciate the men and women who serve, and I know those men and women who served and continue to serve appreciate their fellow Americans’ gratitude.  That said, I think some times our warriors are humbled by their fellow citizen’s adulation.   After all, they’re merely doing their duty as best as they know how.

Today, the 95th anniversary of the 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month when the guns fell silent on the Western Front during the Great War, I submit that how our vets can continue to serve is worthy of a little reflection.

And for America’s warriors, past and present: God bless’em, every one.

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