What was it like adapting to being back in the civilian world once you left the military — was it challenging finding work?
I was very fortunate when I left. My husband, who had been primary caregiver to our son, was able to go back to work and support us — and I had a second son during that time. I didn’t know how I was going to make money myself, but I kept thinking about the many veterans who leave without the same safety net I did.
The stigma against military hiring became clear in some of the interviews I took part in. I’d had an HR role before the military, and as I was trying to re-enter the civilian workforce one recruiter really grilled me, saying “usually, if people leave a job they like to join the military, there’s a reason” — it was obviously an unfair insinuation. “Yes,” I responded, “I had interests to pursue”.
That was tough — a lot of people I know in the military have been hurt or lost a loved one, that risk is part of the sacrifice you make when you enter the military. I firmly believe veterans should be rewarded, not punished, for that sacrifice.
What do you think the solution to this kind of stigma is?
Education and awareness. I think a lot of people just don’t understand how transferable military skills are — you need employees who are flexible, dedicated, who work cooperatively, who are agile and have integrity — these are all essential skills you learn quickly in a military setting.