Although veteran needs and issues and needs are and will always be something I passionate about, sometimes it can be difficult. A notoriously proud group, veterans often refuse to ask for help. Although many find the transition from active duty to civilian life challenging it’s not uncommon for me to come across a vet who tells me “you just don’t understand.” Although those aren’t exactly the words I want to hear, they’re right! I have never served and have no idea what it’s like to fight for our country, spend extended periods of time away from my family or be immersed in a different culture from mine for months on end. This is why my blog is so useful. It’s a way for me to pick at the brains of those who have or are currently serving to get tips and advice on how I can simply make veteran lives easier. I was recently able to catch up with very recent Army retiree, Captain Troy Jackson who was able to tell me a little bit about his long career in the military.
Captain Jackson served in two capacities. He was active duty in the Army and was in the Washington Army National Guard. His career spanned almost 25 years and he retired in September of last year. With a career that long Jackson has held many positions ranging from mechanic to chemical officer to computer network defense…and that’s just to name a few! Not surprisingly, he has been given a handful of respected awards including various Army Achievement Medals and a Humanitarian Service Medal. The army allowed him to travel and his two children were born in Germany as a result of that.
But therein lies one of the best yet most challenging aspects of military life. Although traveling to Germany was an amazing experience for Jackson, time away from family and long hours can be tough to deal with. Jackson noted that he is grateful for the support and patience his family had throughout his service. Jackson’s family shout-out points out that although many folks recognize that soldiers can have difficulty transitioning out of the military they may not realize that the same applies to families. Military brats are constantly moving, spouses can have difficulty even having a career of their own and once the movement stops a civilian life can feel dull or challenging to the soldier and his or her family.
But with the hardships come great opportunity as well. Families and children are able to learn world lessons through experiencing different cultures. Jackson recalled that Germany had laws and restrictions stricter than ours and that being able to travel on his own throughout the country was incredible. When thinking about the pros and the cons of the military, Jackson says without a doubt he would do it all over again and would recommend the military to young men and women looking to get a start in adulthood. I have long thought about joining the military and was curious as to what his views on women in the military is.
“I have served with female and male Soldiers throughout my military career.” said Jackson. “Women work just as hard as the men; I had several female Soldiers that turned a wrench and crawl through the mud right alongside the male Soldiers. We are an Army of one for a reason.”
Jackson’s half dozen jobs (working with both men and women!) lead him to his current career in the Pierce County Sheriff Department as a Corrections Deputy. Law enforcement is a common path for veterans and I have met quite a few that have landed in various law enforcement related careers. Something Jackson is most proud of is going back to school at the age of 30. He has earned an Associates of Arts, BS IT Management and MS IT Project Management. Jackson was proactive in his search for a job post military life and was applying to civilian jobs 14 months before he retired from the military. Unfortunately, I have learned that this isn’t always the norm for veterans.
So what can you as a civilian wanting to support veterans making the transition to a “normal life?” Jackson recommends that business owners, companies and affluent professionals offer jobs, training opportunities, and mentorship opportunities to veterans. This helps with what he considers the greatest challenge to vets coming out of the service: Finding employment with pay equal to previous military salary or just finding a job to support their family. If you don’t have the means yourself offer training and job opportunities to veterans, you can support businesses that do. Check out the link here to see what companies actively hire vets. The list includes Home Depot, Allstate, and Starbucks.
It’s odd to read about Mr. Jackson when I know him as one of the loudest pageant dads out there. Married to Dee, Jackson has two adult children, Chris and Lizzi. Lizzi has competed with me in the Miss America program and will compete for Miss Washington 2015 with me, July 3rd as Miss Rainier. All I know is that if Mr. Jackson produced a child like Lizzi, he must be pretty awesome.
I asked Mr. Jackson for some words of wisdom and this is what he gave me:
“Dream big, work hard, be persistent, be patient, stay healthy and pray; your moment will come.”
Here’s to hoping we all find our moment!