I’m a veteran. More specifically, I am a US Army, Light Infantry veteran.
As a grunt, I was surrounded by like-minded individuals who were working as a team toward a goal with a “higher purpose”. Now, in retrospect, I have some doubts about the means, methods, and righteousness of that goal, but I cannot ever doubt the commitment and cohesion of my peers or the merits of service to something bigger than myself.
My various units and the relationships within them were indescribably tribal. We were much more than “co-workers”. We were family. Moreover, we were family who understood that we may have to die for one another on a foreign battlefield, in a fight we didn’t start, at the direction of faceless bureaucrats, in service to a country we all loved. That is a bond that is not replicate-able outside an infantry environment.
When I decided to leave the Army, I had lots of good reasons to do so. And, those reasons still stand today. However, what I could not have predicted was the void left by not having my tribe at my shoulder, going forward. And, it was unrecognizable for a good long time. In fact, I have only very recently identified it for what it was and is.
That void is tangible. It acts on each of us in different ways I imagine, but it’s there for each of us. I suspect that it is what drives the veteran suicide statistics. I suspect that, if one were to be diagnosed, it would be identified psychologically as a sort of depression. It doesn’t render any of us dysfunctional, but it renders us less than whole. And in a way that is impossible to adequately describe to those who haven’t experienced it.
My own personal journey has been marked by any number of attempts to fill that unnamed void. From immersing myself in family, to attending college, to working in various fields that held some interest for me, to pursuing high level management positions and business ownership in order to recreate some meaning in my life. The end result has been that, I have professionally, wandered aimlessly for 20 years. And, again, until very recently, I couldn’t identify the feeling or where it was coming from.
There is a deep satisfaction in being involved with a tribe that has a mission bigger than the individual and the team. There is a deep satisfaction in fighting the “good fight” against all odds. There is something empowering about a situation where it is just you and your tribe against the world. And, my experience to date is that, it is very difficult to achieve that state of satisfaction away from your tribe and in the civilian/corporate world.
The problem is, I think, that for fighters, warriors, soldiers, etc, the civilian world is a shallow and superficial place. It is completely alien to our programming and wiring. The psychology is different, the goals are different, and the outcomes are not vital. Winning and losing boils down to getting paid and cashing the check every other week.
Contemporary civilian life exists in a world of paychecks, balance sheets, sitcoms, and politics. That’s where it seems to begin and end. There is no higher purpose to be found there. No brotherhood. At the end of the day, no matter if it was a good day or a bad day, everyone goes home. At the end of the day, there are no life or death consequences to being good or bad at your job. There is no need to survive. Civility is the realm of the soft and corrupt. And, for the former soldier, there is no place that feels like home.
This is why the idea of “transition” from the military is a myth. It does not exist.
Now, I say that with no malice. It isn’t anybody’s fault. But, it is the reality. Former service members, particularly triggerpullers, are aliens in the civilian world. They are left missionless, alone, and burdened with rules that have no merit.
When you are “transitioning” from the military, it is commonplace for the resume writers to try to highlight “leadership experience”. Which is great… and appropriate, but one’s military leadership experience is irrelevant on the other side of the wire. I have been asked more times than I can count to institute and apply “military-style leadership principles” in companies I have worked for. And, each and every time was a dismal failure. Because, those who need to be led are incapable of it and company ownership has no idea what they’re asking for. Moreover, in a feelings-based, emotion driven, civilian economy, that ownership has no tolerance for the waves that “military leadership” creates.
And, so, veterans are left aimless to wander the civilian wilderness. Strangers in a strange land. By the time they find out how separation from their tribe will affect them, it’s too late. Our purpose has been stripped of us and the search for new purpose is lengthy and difficult… and for some, an impossible quest.
So, what to do? The “yearbook” answer is, “use your GI Bill, go to college”. Been there. Talk about agonizing. If you want to feel alienated, just attend college as a veteran. I could go on, but I won’t. I’ll simply tell you that, for me, college was an exercise in absurdity.
Working for others doesn’t typically mesh because, in order to be happy doing that, you have to respect your employer. And, frankly, most employers don’t have the prerequisite experience necessary to inspire respect from a veteran who’s spent any time downrange. Additionally, the employer has to respect the veteran. And, they can’t because they lack the frame of reference to do so.
So… the option is to work for yourself. Right? Maybe. That’s a minefield all it’s own. Because, the reality is that the economy is set up to reward one of three things; creation, sales, or labor. Creating a product or service OR assembling or selling someone else’s product or service. Without getting into the relative merits of creation and sales, the reality is that there is little inspiring or “higher calling” about either of those endeavors for warriors. And, that inspiration to a higher calling is what the veteran seeks. The only inspiration and satisfaction that I have found is finding that thing that meshes with what I enjoy, am good at, and where I deal with little interference from ‘higher’..
So, what is it that former triggerpullers are good at? Well… shooting and teaching others to shoot. All that being true, it’s important to approach that vocation and marketplace with eyes wide open.
It’s become a reality that the “tactical” market is somewhat saturated. And, it’s more saturated with know-nothing clowns than it is with real-deal, former action guys. So, if that’s the path you want to go down, and you recognize that the market is saturated… how does the prospective entrepreneur set themselves apart in that marketplace?
You have to start with a plan. Not a gimmick-y, hyped plan. A real plan, with a real foundation, based in real knowledge and skills. If you want to build a solid business that will serve you and your market for a long time, it is not enough to simply hang your veteran credentials on a shingle and open shop. You’re going to need a curriculum, a business plan, marketing materials, teaching chops, and the desire and ability to talk to people. And, that is where I think I can assist.
In my own personal search, I finally found Distributed Security, Inc (DSI). A company of former military personnel, contractors, and businessmen with a desire to improve their communities and country with Combative Firearms training offerings for individuals, enterprises, faith-based organizations, educational institutions, and healthcare facilities.
The business model satisfied my higher-calling needs, the proof-of-concept has been established in recent years in Iraq and Afghanistan, there was an established curriculum that had more merit than I have seen elsewhere in the firearms training community, and I could work for myself and with guys who had a common background and understood where I was coming from. Jackpot.
As a part of my involvement with DSI, we have introduced the Defender 300 Program (D300). Through which, a veteran who wanted to embark on the path of self-employment in the firearms training industry could carve out his place. Along with the benefits of commission based sales of DSI products and reduced personal training costs, that veteran can (and is encouraged to) certify as a Combative Firearms Instructor. After which, he may become an independent instructor or prospective DSI franchisee.
Based on my particular perspective, and head full of questionable wiring, this is a no-brainer kind of choice. If you are a vet, enjoy shooting and training, and are looking for a higher-calling career that taps into your skillset, I think you owe it to yourself to check out the D300.
Join the Tribe. Be a Warrior Capitalist. Fill the Void. Recreate yourself.
Get in touch. I can help.