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I want to share my transition experience of leaving the military. I signed up for the United States Marine Corps because something was missing in my life and the road that I was on was leading to nowhere fast. I knew I could do more with my life and I envied the brotherhood and camaraderie of the military, so I made the decision to make something better of myself. However, I came to find out that career military wasn’t for me. I served and was extremely proud of that service, but after 5 years, I was ready to leave the military and start the next chapter of my life. Just before exiting, the government provided us with a week long course to assist in the transition, but it felt more like a check in the box than anything else. There are recruiting pitches, classes, resume assistance, VA help, but it is all crammed together and difficult to focus. For the last 5 years, I was told where to be, when to be there, and what equipment to bring. These years also included intense camaraderie and a specific structure that I came to count on. On top of that, I had a safety net as housing/food were already provided and deducted from my check. So, I didn’t have to worry about where I would sleep or what I would eat if my paycheck was used on an unexpected expense. 

When I left the Marine Corps base in 29 Palms, I was excited! I felt free and was ready to return to my hometown and resume my education. However, I soon found out that I wasn’t as ready as I thought I was. College paperwork and understanding what benefits were available to me proved to be much more difficult than I imagined. Also, my VA claim paperwork was submitted before I exited, but I wasn’t ready for that first letter of rejection and I didn't know who to go to for help. I was affected by a few minor issues from my military service and expected the VA to understand and assist based on the evidence provided. However, they denied my claim, and I felt defeated and isolated. It’s hard for a Veteran to ask for help, and that rejection letter (although I now understand that this is their standard operating procedure regardless of the claim’s validity) made me feel like I was on my own. I knew I wasn't alone in my frustrations. Many Veterans express negative feelings associated with this transition process.

Although there are many resources available to us (if we know where to look), we find the transition incredibly difficult and lonely, especially in the absence of a true support system. Civilians are very supportive of U.S. Veterans, but it's difficult to relate due to the experiences that have changed our lives and outlooks. It is for this reason that even in crowds or full lecture halls, we feel alone. That isolation and lack of camaraderie can lead to many difficult decisions for a proud Veteran. When I left the military, it felt like I was going at it alone. I didn't have a team to have my back like I had grown accustomed to. I was lucky to make it through this transition, although after receiving the initial rejection of help, I was forced to struggle through it on my own. I would have loved to participate in the services provided by Camo To College™ and find my new team to navigate this next phase of life with. Hopefully, many Veterans can benefit from the services Camo To College™ will offer and lives will be saved as a result.

Josh Arnold

President & Co-Founder of Camo To College