Spilling the Beans: it’s long, I will leave it up for two weeks

Here I sit, feeling severely depressed, angry, wounded, dejected, and just overall like a big pile of dung fresh off the cow’s butt.

It would seem to me that nobody understands what a military guy goes through once they leave service. I guess I should paint a picture of what it is like to be in the military in order to get the gist of what I am saying.

You go in at a young age, filled with ideas of what you are about to encounter. You have seen movies like Rambo, Terminator, Full Metal Jacket, Hamburger Hill, and more. You think that you are entering a place that will teach you some things about life, but you don’t truly understand what is about to happens, nor do you understand after it happens. Boot camp was crazy. It was weak but challenging all at the same time (the Air Force is a techie’s dream world, so the few combat positions are tougher at their technical school instead of beating up everyone during basic training). Basic is about tearing your understanding of self down and then building you back up in the mold of the Air Force core values: Integrity First, Service Before Self, Excellence in All We Do. I still regard these as integral to how I approach life and my interaction with it.

You leave basic training full of optimism and glad that you can now start regaining some freedom to make decisions for yourself (though you could still use more supervision than what you realize). Technical school (tech school) holds the key to your future job. The job I had chosen was all about building a team mindset, understanding the importance of paying attention to detail, conditioning the body for extreme situations, and learning everything that you could to build a solid foundation for the on-the-job training awaiting you at your first duty station.

My personal experience at tech school was not pleasant. We were getting ready to graduate when our baby flight arrived. A flight is a group of guys who are going through the class together. There were three flights going through at any given point and as each one neared graduation the new flight members began arriving. It was tradition to harass these new arrivals in some manner, midnight physical training for example. Our flight of 14 (I think it was 14) had just finished watching a show on television about the Navy Seals. Full of testosterone and mischief we decided to tie our shirts around our heads to where only our eyes are exposed and bust into the four unsuspecting airmen’s room to scare them. Nobody new what we were going to do, just that we were going to all pile into the room and go crazy. One of the new kids ended up getting hurt. He went to kick a guy off of the top bunk that was pulling at his leg and when the guy doing the pulling fell backwards he held onto the leg, thus tearing the ligaments up really badly. The kid ended up having a couple of surgeries.

We were all almost kicked out of the service. Punishment consisted of not being able to do physical training in our PT pits any longer (you have no idea how degrading this is because our identity was carved in the PT pits each morning), having to do several smoke sessions (where they exercise you until you don’t think you can live any longer), no graduation at all (which meant no dawning of the coveted black beret that we had seen two other flights earn at the end of their training), our flight flag was taken away from us (another striping of our identity), and we were essentially stripped of any pride that we had left. Needless to say, but I will say it, that I was shattered into a million pieces unsure of what to do next.

My first duty station was Korea at Camp Casey. I would return there for a second tour not long after leaving from the first one. That is the beauty of being single, full of motivation, and able to travel the world thanks to Uncle Sam’s presence in a ton of countries.

During the remaining time in service I learned a slew of things. I was taught how to be a leader, extremely self-confident, able to train men effectively in various tasks using several different training methods, how to interpret regulations and apply them to our career field, and more, so much more. The big thing was the career field itself. We, enlisted members, were responsible for coordinating and conducting air strikes for the various ground maneuver units of the Army. I don’t know of anything else to relate it to. How do you translate a job that put the burden of coordinating and executing a job that would result in the safety of hundreds of men while killing hundreds of others? That level of responsibility is daunting to say the least. You had to be sure of yourself and extremely trustworthy. The men that you served with were closer to you than family. You suffered together, you fought together, you trained, ate, slept, exercised, etc… together. You saw more of each other than you did anyone else.

The hardest part of transitioning from the military to the civilian world was the downgrade in respect and responsibility from potential employers and even from those closest to you who knew you while you were in the military. I guess you could say there was a respect factor that played into how you saw yourself and how you related to those around you. While in the service I didn’t need the approval of the outside world to know that what I did was important not only to the military but to my country and what it stands for (or so I hoped based on the political chess game). I had respect from within myself and from those I served with. I needed nothing else.

Spiritually speaking I was respected within the job as well. I was not a pushy evangelist but a guy who lived what he talked about. I was a man’s man. The guys saw me as tough, high-speed, experienced, and someone who was not afraid to lead by example even if that meant stirring burning human feces in the desert without complaining. I listened to each person as an individual and was able to relate my experiences and outlook on life to their situation. Those friendships are still in place to this day with many of the men I served beside.

Then I got out. I was bitter when I was on my way out. I was fed up with the military lifestyle. I was gone about two weeks out of any given month to train new guys. The leadership was constantly changing their minds on what deployments were going to look like and how long they would be for. The record keeping of who was certified and who wasn’t was constantly being questioned. The confident decision making I had seen in years past was eroding, but I think it was due more to indecision at the very top of the military chain of command as much as it had to do with those directly above us. Every week new information was coming down and plans were being re-finalized. You can’t run a company with a business plan that changes weekly.

But guess what, now that I have been out for over three and half years I miss it dearly. I miss the relationships, the pride, the respect, the trust, the responsibility, the exercises in the middle of winter where you are huddled down in the woods someplace trying to stay warm before beginning your night navigation recertification. I miss the camaraderie and the high speed gear that made you look like a modern day ninja. However, I don’t miss being someone else’s puppet on the world stage of politics. Personally, I agreed with what President Bush did. I don’t agree with the U.S. Congress who voted to give him the right to wage war independent of their decision. That was fool hardy and I hope it never happens again. I don’t miss being away from my wife (and especially now that I am a father, I can’t imagine missing all the “first” things that are coming up). I don’t miss the stateside training and the stress of the job in general.

So the question remains, how do I cope with mediocrity and the life of a commoner? That may sting a little to some but that is how it feels to me. I mean I currently make grass grow and kill weeds for a living. Put that into perspective: talking to the pilot of a multi-million dollar aircraft who is carrying enough weapons payload to destroy a small town and telling him where to deliver these “goods” without killing our own troops while minimizing the potential for civilian casualties and then giving him the clearance to release those munitions once I am sure everything is going according to plan; compared to working Monday through Friday 7 to 5, carrying a backpack sprayer with herbicides and sometimes pesticides in it to ruin the life of broadleaf and grassy weeds that would dare show their ugly face in our customer’s lawns. How do I not see this as a step down and as a stripping of my self-worth?

Some would tell me to put my thoughts and mindset elsewhere, such as on Jesus. That I shouldn’t try to make myself into anything more than I really am, another person in need of God’s grace and now that I have found it I am supposed to tell everyone else about. That is where my self-worth is supposed to comes from, not from myself but from Christ. Well, I am not there. I get the theology, but I don’t “feel” it. It is as the one man said, “I believe, help my unbelief.”

Others would say that I need to realize that providing for my family and being a great remodel to those around me is where I can fill this gap. Yeah, maybe a little. But there is something missing that I am not getting. I used to devote ten hours of my day and sometimes more than that depending on where I was located (Korea or Iraq or TDY to some training grounds in the states) to this intense level of responsibility and of trust from those around me. This is not going to be filled very easily. Maybe I am an adrenaline junky now. Who knows?

I am learning how to deal with all of this still. I have goals and visions for life that I believe are of better value than what I was doing in the military. The big thing for me is impacting the world around me in a positive way, whether with my faith, love, time, money, etc… just so long as I leave people better off than I found them or they found me. I still struggle with my job but I think that is coming around. I appreciate all the prayers for me over the years and there is always more to a story than what I can write about it here. I appreciate the support and encouragement as I have bounced from job to job in the past three and a half years (13 in all if you count my current job twice since I left it to go to Virginia). I can’t guarantee anyone that I will not bounce around in the years ahead, after all, I am still trying to figure this out. I wrote this post for my own sake as well as to help my family and friends understand what I am going through and have been going through during this transition time. Man, there is so much more that I could tell but I hope this sums it up well. I look forward to any response that I might get.

Blessings to all,

Boris the Illusionist, a.k.a. Unabrow, Wadley Wolf, The Great White Tornado, Cuddlebug and Lil’ Bro

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11 thoughts on “Spilling the Beans: it’s long, I will leave it up for two weeks

  1. Anonymous says:

    Although I have never had the stress nor the importance of the job that you did while in the military, I often find myself feeling unimportant, unappreciated and unneeded. I am still in the military and have a somewhat important responsibility; however, I too miss the “leadership” responsibility that comes with the tough jobs. The one thought that I would like to leave with you immediately, before I go off to ponder your post for possibly another reply in the future, is that it’s not what you do, but how you do it. Keep in mind as well that God has you right where he wants you. Make your grass grow with the right attitude and with a loving heart and influence those around you. You are a man of God whose struggles are not unlike any of ours. If the Christian walk was easy, everyone would do it. Do not let this be about self-worth, but rather about being meek and humble enough to do what God wants you to do right now. He may be preparing you for a mission in which your ego, pride, self-worth, etc. cannot be allowed to get in the way. I’m not calling an ego-maniac or anything, God just has a way of preparing us for future endeavors. You know this as well as anyone.

    Be careful what you ask for; it may not be what you need. Life is longer than today.

    Take heed my brother, you are where God wants you and He is and will continue to use you for His glory.

    All my prayers,

    G

  2. Boris says:

    I often wonder myself it wasn’t some sort of ego trip and that God is trying to break me down and build me up in His mold (just like the Air Force did). I agree, it could be that I need to be careful of what I put as a priority in my life. If I put the wrong things first then I will end up traveling on needless roads. I try to learn from others but I am having trouble finding people that I can relate with who have experienced the withdrawal symptoms that I have. All of the guys I know who got out that were in my career field have made the transition very well (not smoothly all the time but they are employed in what I would call fulfilling work, mainly due to the levels of responsibility).

    Thanks for posting. My aunt also goes by “G” but you might be okay if she puts Aunt G instead. We will see.

    Boris

  3. Greg says:

    There, now I have officially created myself a blogging ID. Hopefully your aunt won’t be too upset with me for borrowing her name temporarly.

    Back to the whole “self-worth” issue…take stock of who you are to two very important people on this earth. Heather and Constance. I KNOW you you are both a great husband and an excellent father. You provide for your family and your priorities are in order. Important thought here…

    maybe God has released you from the stress of a high profile job so you can devote the necessary energy and attention to raising one of His precious children, your daughter. Your family adores you and looks to you to be the head of the house. How much more worth do you need?

    Greg

  4. andy says:

    As a friend who has watched you become a man and has also walked in the shoes you walk, I have a few words of advice. For starters you have to decide what will make you happy and understand that your wife will love and appreciate you more when you are happy and confident with yourself, even if the schedule is not what she would prefer. I went throught the same feeling you are going through and truly understand the feeling of losing the pride and respect and most importantly the responsibility that came with the job. The only way you can heal those wounds is to find a job that YOU can take pride in and have the responsibility of knowing you actions may mean life or death for others. We had an awesome level or responsibilty and that is where the pride and respect came from. As you know I am now a paramedic and just yesterday I found out that a 17 year old girl named Amanda that fire/rescue pulled out of a car upside down in a frozen river for 20-30 minutes and through in the back of my ambulance for me and my partner to bring back to life from pulseless, apnic, and core temp of 82 degress is doing great with her rehab up in lincoln nebraska. Not to mention I am on the Tactical Medic Team decked out in SWAT gear supporting High Risk ops as member of the team now (My hands literally hurt from shooting 1400 rds through a glock 17 during training all this week) My point is I have the level of responsibilty again and along with it came the pride and respect. So honestly I think until you find that level of responsibitly you will always have a void. Always your friend, Andy

  5. Anonymous says:

    Here is a caveat from Andy.

    One thing I forgot to add that I realized after this week shooting at the range from 9-5 that my 24hr rotation affords me tons more quality time with my family. I work 10 24hr shifts a month that give me 240 paid hours a month some in overtime, saves time and gas back and forth, full medical and dental and I still have 20 full days with my family. the 9-5er just gave me time to eat, bathe, watch a little TV or play a wii or some other game for a bit and then tuck them in bed each day. I’d rather have the 20 full days to spend on bike rides, at the park, camp, or whatever with them. I truly think for guys like us something like Fire/rescue or EMS are the only true routes to happiness. And EMS is by far the safest and will give Heather peace of mind knowing your safe and helping other people through the worst days of their lives. If not those then try nursing. My wife gets to pick her hours they are only 12 hr shifts but they pay really well so full time is only 24-36 hrs a week and you still get to help people and their is plenty of excitement to be had in the Emergency Department. The great thing is you have the credit hours for the degree you only need to get accepted into a paramedic or nursing program and the demand is high even in these crappy economic times. Corrie just took an agency contract making 45 dollars an hour. Think about it and stop this wondering around job hopping and find some stability in your life and above all find the happiness you and heather deserve. Andy

  6. Anonymous says:

    I have no doubt God is using all of this to make you more and more into the image of His Son. Nothing is wasted. God uses ALL things for our good and His glory! But I also feel that there is much, much MORE that God has stored up for you in the future. I don’t know what that is, but as you continue to seek God with all of your heart and soul, praising Him in the midst of the storms, letting Him build His character in you more and more, He WILL bless you and give you favor and open doors for you. The present may seem unfulfilling, but I just know God has a future plan for you that will be all that you hope and dream for. It may not look like what you think it will look like, though. No eye has seen, nor ear has heard, nor has it entered into the heart of Keith, ALL that God has in store for you because He loves you.

    Love and Prayers,
    MK

  7. Anonymous says:

    Little Bro,

    It’s Sissy. I can’t remember my login password so this’ll come up as anonymous I think.

    I agree with Andy and what he’s doing. I have often thought you’d be an outstanding paramedic. I think it’s right up your alley actually. Whatever you decide to, you have to be the one who is happy in your job because you’re the one who’s performing the tasks. I know you’re unhappy where you are. I totally understand why you are there. I know you don’t want to miss out on time spent with your family, but I’m sure Heather knows how miserable you are and would prefer to see her husband happy in his work. That joy and pride comes home with you; if you’re depressed, that comes home with you too and underlines everything you do. (Take it from the queen of depression.) You’ve got to find what works for you and the rest will work out even better. I believe that for you. Give me a call when you have time and we can talk about this more. I know I can’t understand the military part but I do understand working in a job that you feel is meaningless and feeling stuck there. (Pizza Hut-3 friggin years. Blah.) I love you, bro. I’m here for you.

    Your favorite sis,
    Amanda

  8. Mommy to Constance says:

    Boris has the ability to do anything he wants. Anything he touches can/will/does succeed. In reality I would love for him to have a Monday-Friday 8-5 job. Is there a job out there that he would be happy with that meets those criteria? Possibly. With that being said I also think he would make a great fire fighter or paramedic and overall, would really enjoy his work. I am not holding him back from either of those. He has looked into both of them. Both of the jobs require him to have more schooling/get certified. That takes time/time away from the work he is doing. So far he is the one that has chosen to look elsewhere. For a final note, from a Christian standpoint, Boris will not find true and total fulfillment from his work, even if he is a fire fighter, paramedic, airplane pilot, clown or ______________. He will only feel truly fulfilled when he is doing something for God. Can he serve God and do all the jobs listed above? Yes! But he does not need to take a job based on the applause of men.

  9. nature lover says:

    Having married a serviceperson myself I have heard these things before. When either one of the married couple is unhappy in what they are doing, it effects them both. It sounds as if you are both supportive of each other so decide what you would like to do and go for it. That goes for both you and your wife. Life is so much shorter than we can imagine so the sooner you get started on you (job) journey, the better things will be. Family is so important because they are why we do what we do. Well, at least it has been that way for me. God can use you anywhere you are. Yes, anywhere doing anything. Some lives you never know how you touch. Some you may be lucky and see. If you are not at least at peace with what you are doing to make a living, then you can’t touch others and help when needed. It tends to blind you to your own needs. If you need to be doing something that reaches others daily then go for it. Having said all that, nothing keeps you doing the same thing forever. Enjoy your life, your family, friends, etc. Don’t worry, be happy as the song says. and Let all be well with your soul.

  10. Boris says:

    I am enjoying the feedback. Yes, my attitude will effect how I see each task that I do, whether for work, hobby, etc… One thing I need to clarify that I think has been alluded too a little is that my decision for a career affects more than just myself. It affects my wife and my little girl. Once you get married you give up your right to make independent decisions on big matters such as this. Otherwise you are giving your spouse an ultimatum and that is not showing any kind of respect and love towards that person. Marriage is about compromise, trust, and communication. My spouse is more than willing to let me go down the various roads of danger that have been discussed. I like what she posted (Boris’s Gal), especially from the spiritual standpoint.

    Keep the inputs coming. This is great for helping me to reason through my motivations and what I am really looking for.

    Boris

  11. Boris says:

    I have received several off the record emails about this post. There is no central theme developing but there is a lot of great wisdom being shared. I think my grandmother has been hooking me up with the goods that I need to hear the best. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of what is important in life.

    One thing that has been helping me in the past few days with my current job is having a goal that I am working towards (sound familiar Ryan B.?) I can’t say enough for this method. For those Christians out there remember Joseph in the Old Testament who was thrown in a pit, sold into slavery by his brothers, and thrown into prison by his master after being falsely accused by Pontifer’s wife? He was able to make it through all that he endured because of a couple of dreams that he had as a kid that were basically prophecies of what was to come. That is the same thing that can happen for us. I am not saying that we control our destiny but we can make plans that give us hope and how much sweeter are those plans when you know that they are what God wants for you. I don’t have the God vision yet but I am still dreaming.

    Thanks for listening and reading and posting.

    Boris

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