Once the dust settled from years of active duty service, kinetic combat and time away from family, I thought my hardest battles had been fought and won. The reality it was is that they was just beginning. In 2011, I transitioned from a full-time military soldier to an Army Reservist. I was 28, had a family, and was going back to school. I had no idea where I was going, what I was doing or if I should even be here. The military prepares you for a lot of things—resiliency, leadership, mental toughness—but somewhere in all of that you miss out on learning what your purpose should be.
How does an infantryman—a grunt, if you will—who spent a better part of his twenties getting shot at, blown up, and in a war zone only to come back with a case of PTSD and a feeling of worthlessness and failure become successful? You find a passion, a place and a purpose and you execute the hell out of it. When I integrated into the civilian world in 2011, I was fortunate enough to form a new band of brothers and sisters. People stepped up to help me uncover the dormant skill sets that I always had just never knew how to tap into.
For me, healing and transitioning came in the form of entrepreneurship and education. I started to build things; to help people chase down their dreams and hope. I realized that I could create a better world for my wife and kids through building things of impact. I became a part of teams who poured their heart and souls into disrupting the way we do entrepreneurship and education. I stood back in the face of traditional academics and business models the way I looked down the alley of streets in Iraq, and decided that fighting for survival on the battlefield was no different than fighting for the next generation of business leaders, political activist, philanthropist, doctors, teachers, mechanics…you get the idea.
Over the course of the last six years I have helped build businesses, entrepreneurship programs, a high school and now an education foundation. I consider myself to be pretty successful and it is attributed to two things: the lessons I learned in the military, and a support system that won’t let me quit.
In the end, your purpose can’t be defined by anyone else. You have to find your purpose, but you also cannot do it alone. Pride goes a long way but stops just short of getting you to success. There is a whole world out there that is ready for veterans to come in and disrupt it in the best way possible, we just have to be willing to do it. Contrary to popular belief, the world isn’t against us. They want nothing more than to make us feel like the place we agreed to go protect feels like home. Reach out and find what you love; trial and error is no different than dry, blank, live iterations during a field problem. Continue to improve upon your skill sets. Be a subject matter expert at your life. That will make the transition less scary.
The toughest battle I have ever fought is the one of transition and I am still fighting today. I will never truly beat PTSD; I will never really be a civilian; but now I am equipped with a purpose, a foundation and a network of support and I am ready to take on the rest of this battle called life.
Jeremy Boeh, 1lt(P) 457th CBRN BN S3
President, NEXT School Foundation