Happy Veterans Day – a day to honor and recognize those who wore the uniform in service to this country. Though, to be fair, every day is Veterans Day at CVA Foundation.
We sat down with Tim Taylor, Marine Corps veteran and CVA Foundation grassroots engagement director, to talk about why he joined the military, what his experiences were like, and his advice for transitioning back to civilian life.
Q: What inspired you to join the military?
A: When I was in third grade, a Marine came to my school in dress blues, and I was hooked. Later in high school, I made the decision to join because I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to serve my country and be a part of that long line of illustrious men and women that came before me. Plus, I also wanted to do cool stuff like shoot big guns, throw grenades, launch rockets, and jump out of planes. I did it all, and it was awesome.
Q: How did your military service influence your life and career after you left the Marines?
A: My time in service taught me a lot about how to interact with people in difficult or stressful situations. That has helped in my personal life with my family and professionally. The things I saw and dealt with while serving, and even with vets after service, have motivated me to do the work that will hopefully make a positive impact.
Q: Veterans often have unique perspectives on freedom and the future of the U.S. Talk about your perspective on those.
A: So many countries around the world are dictatorships. I’ve had the privilege of traveling to some of them and seeing the difference firsthand. I appreciate the freedoms we have here so much more than I did when I was younger. Even though we’re in some weird times right now, I’m glad my children will have the opportunity to thrive here.
Sometimes it’s hard to see the good in the path forward for the U.S., but as the people become more aware of their power and abilities, the more they will exercise them. Because of this, I believe that we, as a country, have a very bright future.
Q: What are some of the challenges you and your fellow veterans have faced after your service?
A: Coming back into civilian life is rough for some. You don’t realize how much you’ve changed until you come back to our old life and see that everything else is the same. You often find yourself wanting something more.
In the service, everything is controlled and regimented. You know where to go and what to do, and if you don’t, someone will tell you. After service, everything is on you, and it can be a difficult landscape to manage.
Many find it difficult to find a job that will provide the same quality of life we had in the service. We often have to work long hours or multiple jobs to maintain the quality of life we had, in terms of health insurance, mortgage, food, day care, etc.
Many leave service with physical and mental health issues too. Getting the care we need and deserve is often a years-long battle. And many just don’t bother with it because the process is so daunting.
Q: Knowing what you do about the difficulties transitioning out of service, what advice would you give a new veteran just leaving service?
A: Don’t be an idiot. Don’t try to do everything on your own. Others have walked your path; so, talk to them about their experience, learn from it, and do better.
Q: Do you think there are misconceptions about veterans in the civilian world?
A: The big one I see all over the place is “the broken veteran.” It’s the assumption that veterans can’t function in society because of our service. The fact is that while many vets experience something traumatic on some level, the majority of us are more resilient because of those experiences and use them to galvanize our resolve to never allow it to happen again. It only makes us stronger.
Veterans are far more resilient than the “broken veteran” narrative would make you believe.
Q: So what are the unique things veterans can bring to civilian communities?
A: Many vets are methodical, logical, and able to take personal biases out of their decision making. Being able to make a hard decision based on facts and not emotion is invaluable.
In the service we are, for lack of a better word, “forced” to work with whoever is there with us to accomplish our mission. Translated into our communities, we can build relationships and get things done no matter what.
We’ve started multi-million-dollar businesses, built charities, written books, been elected to Congress, and done any other thing you can think of. Our service should be seen as a benefit, not as a hindrance to us living in the civilian world.
Q: It’s Veterans Day. What does this day mean to you personally, and how do you typically celebrate it?
A: Veterans Day is a chance to highlight those who served and are still around, what we’ve done, and what’s to come. And it’s a day to reflect on how best to support veterans. I really appreciate the gratitude I hear from civilians on Veterans Day. It’s a great chance to bridge the veteran/civilian divide and find ways to support each other and build our communities together.
I typically celebrate by hanging out with my buddies, reaching out to some old Marines I served with, and sometimes I’ll go grab a free meal.