Veterans Clashing Expectation and Reality

Anyone who has served their country is a hero, and should be treated as such.”

Courtesy of APUS
Courtesy of APUS

As Americans, we hear that saying a lot. Our veterans have served our country and deserve to have the red carpet rolled out to them. That’s the expectation many veterans have when leaving the service; everyone and every organization will roll out the red carpet to them.

In reality, the first cultural clash is often relived immediately upon return… rolling the rug is more often the exception. Do those who fought for our freedom deserve red-carpet treatment? Of course each veteran does; no one would argue against that. But that’s why it’s called an expectation.

Bridging civilian and military reality and expectations takes more than a plane ride, a bus ticket home, and a hope that the return will have a fairytale ending. Between two world views that rarely see the same thing, finding common ground is imperative to professional success. More often than not, common ground is defined by contributions.

Contributions come in various forms and phases. Christian HELP and the Central Florida Employment Council teamed with Education Career Services to create and provide free courses open to audiences ranging from high school graduates to entry-level candidates to those who have dedicated much of their lives to ensure freedom breathes on American soil.

Keeping it real, part one

Veterans have done their duty and served our country; now comes the hard part. Most veterans who are separating from the service have not planned on how they will go about taking the next step into civilian life. The decision to leave the military varies depending on the person and the circumstance, but all of them — whether they’re married or single — share in asking themselves, “What’s next?”

As they found out in the first week of boot camp, they all come from different places across the country and from different backgrounds. They all signed on the dotted line for different reasons and brought with them a different story. That was the first week, and they were quickly forced to realize that none of it mattered and that their success in boot camp would be determined by working together.

Being able to depend on their fellow comrades was instilled in them from day one. No matter the situation, there was always someone around that could relate or help them work through a problem. That’s the beauty of being in the military: they’re part of a family that extends across the world. And although their veteran status will always signify this, their physical separation from it is a new challenge.

The courses offered through Christian HELP and the Central Florida Jobs Initiative takes challenge and resolution to a level threaded by realism, empathy, compassion, and progression. Leveraged between expectation and reality, the veteran (as well as all students) is supported by six single-topic books to ensure a maximum learning and “becoming” experience is achieved by all.

Keeping it real, part two

It is not uncommon for a newly separated veteran to expect, “Hey, I just served my country. I deserve the best it can give back to me.” While this thought process is not illogical to someone who has made that sacrifice, it is unreasonable to think that society will cater to it — unfortunately. The quicker the veteran realizes that society doesn’t think it owes them anything, the quicker they can move on and not depend on it.

Yes, it can be a bitter truth, but it’s a truth requiring acceptance. This is the reality of what it is to be a recently separated veteran. They may have traveled across the world, gained priceless experiences, and adopted a surplus of skills to add to their arsenal, but it doesn’t matter in their transition unless they accept that they’re not entitled to a career and will have to work harder than the civilian to attain it.

Transitional reality: Truth can be painful, even rewarding, while ignorance of truth leads to anomie.

Putting on that uniform, whether the military personnel knew it or not, gave them a sense of comfort and security. They belonged to something. They were respected. They knew that no matter what, they would be sheltered, fed, and paid. One of the hardest, if not the hardest, phase they will go through in their transition is embracing a civilian world that may not be as endearing to what they’ve done, as they may have expected.

The military gave them a structure and forced them to abide by it. They did so and received the benefits of it in return. In “the civilian world” it is up to them to create a structure that works best for their needs and to establish themselves in a market where their skills will allow them to receive those same benefits in return. With the right research, resources, and effort, this will all be made possible to them… a strategy embraced and encouraged through Christian HELP… a strategy threaded by empowerment.

As a whole and consistent with economic reality, transitioning military personnel are hit hard when it comes to finding an appropriate job. Determined by the Veterans Career Confidence Index, 78% of veterans are not confident about finding a job that meets their abilities, meaning less than 22% actually do feel secure. Held by the keyword “confidence,” when asked, the most important skills veterans felt they gained in the military were intangible skills: self-discipline, attention to detail, teamwork, decision making, problem solving, respect, calm under stress, multi-tasking, and willingness to help others.

Four-fifths of employers agree that their company will hire the best talent regardless of veteran status. Many employers refer to several intangible skills veterans bring to the work place, such as, self-discipline, teamwork, attention to detail, and more. The key to transitioning success is clear: effective translation of tangible military skills to business-use gives veterans a leg up. Here resides strategic maneuvering and the essence of an American culture driven to do the “right thing.”

Keeping it real, conclusion

When it comes to doing the right thing for those loyal to our safety, security, and freedom, action begins on the micro-level… at the you and me level. Wishing never to shy away from responsibility while de-clashing expectations and reality, Education Career Services’ newest hire, John, is a recent veteran who also happens to be an outstanding writer. John’s influence and perspective will prove to be beneficial during Central Florida Jobs Initiative efforts as well as for those unable to attend classes but desire the collective books, including the most recent Veteran Transition is the Mission book(s) offered through Education Career Services.

Anyone who has served their country is a hero, and should be treated as such” can no longer be a social-numbing rationalizing mantra designed to justify misplaced stereotypes. From this point forward, the journey from the military world onto the civilian world must be paved with compassion; compassion defining America and all the people proud to be an American.

Christian HELP deployed a six-session workshop designed to connect the unemployed, underemployed, and military personnel to companies seeking quality candidates ready for hire. The complete and intense workshop goes beyond the surface of simply finding a job. As opposed to template classroom sessions and courseware, each participant takes an active role onto a journey so succinctly stated by a recent graduate as: “The most effective career tool I’ve ever been involved with.”

Without hesitation or debate, veterans are saddled by challenges, mostly phantom ones created by civilian unfamiliarity; herein resides the crack gapping veteran expectations and civilian realitya gap needing eviction.

Education Career Services is proud to partner with Christian HELP and the Central Florida Jobs Initiative. For those interested in career management courseware, full length books, or employment-targeted booklets, go to for a complete listing of available military and non-military support.

Danny Hufman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
Author, Publisher, Nationally Recognized Speaker
Follow Me on Twitter #dannyatecs
Education Career Services for civilian and transitioning military career: