How to stay connected to the military after discharge

Where can you go to speak in complete acronyms without people looking at you funny?

How to stay connected to the military after discharge

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Vladimir Ramos

By Military1 Staff

Whether you serve four years or 30, chances are your time in the military changed how you viewed the world. From the friendships that are forged out of necessity for survival (either during combat or mutual distaste for a particular duty station!) to the investment in America’s role in the world, being a veteran comes with a lifelong emotional connection to the armed forces.

The loss of that emotional connection and camaraderie can make life after discharge feel a bit disjointed and off. Where are your fellow troops? Where’s the sound of freedom every morning, afternoon and evening? Where can you go to speak in 100 percent acronyms without people looking at you funny?

1. Social media

Face it, you’re likely already on it, anyway, why not make it one-stop shopping? Through the use of Facebook groups, veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are connecting in ways that older generations of veterans are not. It’s easier to connect and talk with everyone at once, even if everyone resides in separate states. It doesn’t require dues, or even a time commitment, since you can comment and offer support, advice or good-natured ribbing at any moment of the day.

You can also find veteran support Facebook groups for specific conditions, such as PTSD or phsyical disabilities, with most groups keeping their privacy a secret, preventing friends and family from seeing what you post in those groups. 

2. Advocacy groups

While the military can be a positive place for many serving, admit it: there were aspects of serving that could use a bit of tweaking, right? As a veteran, stay connected to the military and those currently serving by volunteering or finding a job with veteran and military advocacy groups.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has an entire directory of registered military and veterans’ organizations in the U.S., complete with contact information. You can easily find an advocacy group you can get behind.

3. Encourage civilian connections to the armed forces

If you are employed near a military installation after discharge, see if you can get involved in liaison work between the company and the military. This might mean finding better ways for transitioning service members to find out about job openings, or creating training opportunities that puts them at an advantage for work positions.

If there’s one thing that creates anxiety about leaving the military, it’s having to find work on the outside, and creating those lines of communication will positively impact the military and veteran community.

4. Join your local VFW or American Legion

While many veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have said they don’t feel comfortable at traditional veteran hangouts, such as local Veterans of Foreign War posts, having a physical establishment to meet and connect with fellow veterans can be important, and even life-saving.

If the reception you received at a local VFW or American Legion was unwelcoming, seek to change the culture. America is seeing one of the largest groups of veterans in decades after 16 years of war in the Middle East, and veterans of all ages should feel welcomed at establishments created for them. What would make your local posts more inviting? Find a way to make it happen, and help make it a warm and supportive environment for all veterans.