Veteran’s Day: A Soldier’s Civilian Life Isn’t What She Expected

One year ago today I, a soldier in the US Army, was released to my friends, family and favorite liquors. Putting nine months of convoys, rocket attacks, friendship, near death experiences, heroic actions and sleepless nights behind me, I returned home to New York. This would be my Eat, Pray, Love year thanks to Julia Roberts but the next 365 days weren’t even most of what I’d hoped.

I purposely did not hop right back into the workforce, who wants to become a working mule again? I wanted to go to bed at 4 a.m. on a weekday, sleep until noon, eat ice cream for breakfast, wear neon colored nail polish and not care. From vacations to weekend visits with friends in various cities, I took advantage of every Living Social deal I could find. Madison Square Garden and the Roseland became my second home as I watched concerts by Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Kanye West, hell even New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys. My life was amazing, right?

Well twelve months later, my sleep pattern is off, I’ve become lactose-intolerant and neon is out for the fall season. It’s time to get serious about my budding career in journalism again. In an attempt to remain productive over last year, I’ve attended countless networking events and expanded my rolodex. I’ve even gotten a couple of pieces published on reputable websites and created my own blog, Back n’ Brooklyn, Back n’ Love.

Thanks to living at home with my mama, I was shielded from real life but now as I hunt for a job, I’m hit with what I’ve been dreading for the last year … it’s not easy getting hired. I’ve applied for various jobs, even opened myself up to positions outside of New York City and though President Obama passed an executive order calling for more companies to hire some of the 200,000 unemployed veterans, this bill only matters in certain fields. During many of my media interviews, the HR person looks at my resume and gets excited when he or she see U.S. Army listed but never enough to call me back because I don’t have the background of most applicants. My eight years of experience in the service and rank of Staff Sergeant translates to “intern” or “entry-level” in the civilian world. It’s frustrating and discouraging to say the least. It’s hard enough being a sista, now I have the second scarlet letter of V for veteran holding me back?

I recently accepted a part-time job as a security guard. You can laugh because I did too. It’s the complete opposite of what I want to do but they are willing to hire veterans and pay well. It just sucks that this is the only company that appreciates my service skills.

Over the last year, I have cried myself to sleep many times. I thought I would come home in 2010 and begin anew, instead my bank account is skinnier than a fashion model and I’m sharing a room with my tweenage sister. Only patience and faith have gotten me this far, it has been one of my most trying times in my life. Hopefully in 2012 some employer will take a chance on this former solidier girl. So if you see a young person in uniform or the cute old men with their decorated military baseball caps this holiday weekend, wish them a happy Veterans Day. They fought on the front lines, sidelines and even behind enemy lines so you could enjoy the last year and sometimes, for us, readjusting to home is the real fight.

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