Life After the Military

by Valerie Cox & Krystal Smith, American Red Cross Volunteer Contributors

For military veterans and their families, the transition from active duty military to civilian life can be challenging. Switching from military provided housing to searching for a home and trying to match military experience with civilian job descriptions, often makes the transition out of the military harder than transitioning into the military.  Thankfully, the American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces Division (SAF) has stepped in to help bridge the transition gap and give back to our nation’s heroes.

The Red Cross SAF program offers reconnection workshops to help deal with life’s challenging transitions. Reconnection Workshops, which are free and confidential, focus on individual and small group discussion that enhances the likelihood of positive reconnections among family members and others in the community, and the successful re-engagement of service members and veterans in civilian life.

Programs are offered for both adults and children varying in topics of discussion. Many attendees use these programs before and after deployments, and then again once they decided to rejoin the civilian ranks.

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Additionally, the American Red Cross helps connect veterans with other organizations and local, state and national resources through our network of chapters in communities across the United States and offices on military installations worldwide. Through one-on-one interactions with military members, the Red Cross is able to identify the needs and most appropriate resources for each individual and family.

When transitioning out of the military, veterans may suffer from physical or emotional setbacks which add frustration to the process. Fortunately, the Red Cross can help military members locate organizations that assist military heroes and families by offering homes or funds to make existing homes fit the current needs of the individual. Some of these organizations include:

  • Gary Sinise Foundation’s Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment (R.I.S.E.)– Provides specially adapted smart homes, home modifications, mobility devices, and adapted vehicles to wounded veterans
  • HUD-VASH– A joint effort between the Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development to supply homeless veterans and their families with vouchers and support services as a way to find permanent housing
  • The Home Depot Foundation’s Veteran Housing Grants Program– Awards nonprofit organizations with grants for the construction and repair of veteran housing
  • Volunteers of America– Provides transitional housing and support services including programs for veterans recovering from substance use or mental illness
  • USA Cares– Offers grant assistance and budget counseling to veterans facing foreclosures and evictions

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Unfortunately, many military job functions do not match civilian job requirements. These frustrations compound an already challenging life transition. The Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces helps inform veterans about resources available to help veterans find employment or continue their education.

SAF provides career services for veterans, educates veterans about job boards (ex. the Department of Labor and Hire Heroes USA) created to help veterans find targeted jobs, and identifies corporations that have established programs specifically designed to employ veterans. The Red Cross also helps members wanting to return to school take advantage of the GI Bill which offers educational assistance to service members, veterans, and dependents, and help locate colleges and technical schools that fund special military scholarships. Some of these resources include:

  • Boeing– Offers personal and professional network supports and skills transition opportunities from military to civilian life
  • Caliber Collision’s Changing Lanes– A no-cost, 18-week career skills program in auto body repairs with job replacement opportunities at completion
  • Deloitte’s Career Opportunity Redefinition & Exploration (CORE) Leadership Program– Educational opportunity for learning how to network, communicate, and develop a personal brand for a transition to the corporate world
  • Department of Defense’s Troops to Teachers– Program with counseling and referral services to assist in meeting requirements and finding educational employment
  • Honor Courage Commitment’s Veteran Entrepreneur Training Program– A 4-phase program devoted to helping veteran entrepreneurs in each stage of their business’ lifecycle
  • S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring our Heroes– Provides career advice, mentorship opportunities, hiring fairs, and networking opportunities to service members, veterans, and military spouses
  • WilsonHCG’s Operation Transition– Offers career training services and employment opportunities to veterans

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If you or someone you know is making the transition from military to civilian life, encourage them to seek guidance and assistance from the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF). While SAF cannot take away all the burdens our military heroes and their families face, they can help ease the transition into civilian life through personalized assistance and identifying resources to help. For more information or to receive assistance call 1-800-RED-CROSS or download the Red Cross Hero Care App.