How to Separate from the Military, in Four Easy Steps
by Michael Baumgarten
1. Stand in lines at offices on base you have never been to, dealing with office clerks you have never seen, who don’t give a shit how long you wait there. Contemplate homicide as the overweight clerk tells you that you needed to make an appointment. The anger sharks smell blood in the water as the clerk refuses to listen to reason. There is no one else in line at the office. They tell you to come back tomorrow.
2. Run the gauntlet of clerks and paper stampers. Your DD 214 is in your hands. You are a free man. You feel proud of what you have accomplished, more than most at your age. Your friends have still been sitting in the same garage, playing beer pong, and doing drugs. You can’t wait to join them.
3. Move to a new city, close to your family, but not too close. You brought your long term girlfriend with you, you plan on marrying her. You visit your parents regularly to make up for lost time. This eventually degrades into once a month, eventually becoming more and more infrequent. They make you feel uncomfortable, they ask questions about what you did; you can’t tell them the truth.
You are angry all the time. You fight more now with your girlfriend than you ever have. She is around too much; you wish you could deploy again to get away. You want to miss her the same way you did half way through a deployment. Instead you tell her you need a night out with your friends.
You go out; you drink like a new private on payday. It’s the only way you know how. You have a habit of being in shape, you stand out among your friends who have grown soft in the wake of too much office life. Other girls notice you, you feel the desire to fill a void that the alcohol isn’t. You wake up to 13 missed calls and just as many texts from your girlfriend. You look over and see the young mistake sleeping on your arm.
You do what must be done, your girlfriend leaves after you try and work it out. It’s too late, you are toxic. You are depressed but won’t acknowledge what that means. You drink alone for the first time ever, you think about ending your life. You are weak.
You don’t know what to do with your life. You had side interests while you served so you decide to go to school. The post 9-11 GI Bill is a decent paycheck especially now that you are living alone. You go to school, you think about how these kids have no idea what the world is. You burn with anger and resentment, as you seal to separate yourself further from anyone who wants to befriend you. Veterans are your only friends because they “get it.” You still make fun of the POGs.
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