Upon leaving the United States Army, I felt a pang of discouragement. The specific memory that haunted me was being told to turn in all my military gear to my Unit’s Supply Shop before I was to be discharged. As I watched a Private and a Private First Class check off pieces of me on an inventory sheet, I felt that I was being stripped to my bare soul.  THAT uniform, THAT gas mask, and THAT head cover had identified who I was for three years.

I faced a lot of difficulties in my transition to the civilian world.  I deemed myself better than civilians around me because I thought that they lacked the courage to serve their country. I did not know how to come to terms with being a civilian, and had mixed emotions towards them because I didn’t have anyone to talk to about my feelings.  Now I was one of them. Some of my friends remarked, “It’ll be easier for you, now that you’re out. “ I didn’t know what this meant, and it wasn’t true at all. I was a sometimes visitor of the psych ward, never held a steady job, and angry at everyone and everything.

I finally decided to dip my big toe into the tumultuous pool of employment and came across an ad on Craigslist for The Mission Continues. I decided to pursue the Fellowship because I read the stories of Alumni and Fellows on The Mission Continues website. I knew that it was possible to still serve while not in uniform. The Mission Continues taught me that I’m allowed to accomplish a greater good in spite of my hardships. I fall, yet rise again despite being bruised, worn, and beaten by life. I know that I have a sense of purpose, structure, and passion.

I am currently serving my Fellowship at Veterans Green Jobs where I’m assisting Veterans Green Corps in challenging other veterans to procure training and employment in land conservation and wild lands firefighting. I am impacted by the knowledge gained daily from the tenacity of the veterans who take up this challenge, their love of the wilderness and America’s lands, and the steady awareness of not only the needs in my present community, but of the growing veteran populace in our great country.

Tabitha Bennett served in the U.S. Army and is a current Fellow at The Mission Continues, a national nonprofit that engages veterans to serve as community leaders.

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Published on Mar. 14, 2012

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One Comment

  1. Barbara Bleiweis March 14, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Hi, Tabitha!
    I would like your opinion of a program that we would like to propose to the VA to create jobs for vets like you. I heard of the Green program that you are presently interning– and it is simliar, but not identical to what we envision. Would it be possible for you to email or call me? My email is this correspondence– my phone is 703 623 2495– My firm, is The Gordian Group. I hope you get this! thanks!

    barbara

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