After 12 years in the Marine Corps and some time with an intel agency, I decided to move on. I relocated to New York City and threw myself into building a fitness and coaching business and into an attempt at becoming an elite, ultra-distance athlete. I would rate myself as marginally decent at both.
One brought me an income and a way to help people. The other brought me the physical and mental challenges I missed from my earlier days. I tied all my endurance races to charities and that helped me feel like I was helping others. After a few years, it all started to wear on me. Was I really helping? Did my efforts make a difference? Was I happy? The answers led me to rethink things.
I decided to look for a new career with a non-profit that would allow me a new place of service, somewhere, helping, somehow. No joy with that. I didn’t have the proper experience or my resume appeared a bit too “interesting” to the HR folks. I ended up back in the intel world at another three-letter agency. I was fortunate to find that job and a new group of teammates. We were part of a special task force working with some of the country’s most elite service personnel.
Before long, I found myself in Afghanistan. I was surrounded by special ops folks and it felt great to be serving alongside them. Our camp did not have a chow hall, so we would usually head out of our gate and over to one of two the nearby places to grab our meals. Because we worked at night, our dinner was served around midnight. During that time, most of the regular military folks were in bed so the chow halls were fairly empty.
One night, early in my deployment, I was standing in line at the near empty chow hall. I looked up and saw a really young Marine. I gave him a quick head-to-toe and something hit me. He was dressed in standard issue utilities—no special ops gear. He carried a standard M-16 without special sights or tricked-out lighting systems. He had thick glasses and was pretty skinny. I thought more and more about this young man. I saw a guy who probably wasn’t the captain of the football team, who probably didn’t date the best looking girl in high school, and who likely went unnoticed as he went through life as a young man. But what I did see was a guy who thought enough of his country and the world to raise his hand and roger-up. I saw a guy who not only wanted to serve but who put himself to the test and became a US Marine. He may not have been a football captain or voted “most popular” in high school but he was volunteering and was willing to give up his life for others.
And it hit me:
This guy, and all the men and women like him, need to be taken care of when they get out. They deserve something on the back end. They deserve care and opportunities once they leave the service.
After a few years in the government, I left. I was hell-bent on finding a way to help give something on the back end. I am incredibly fortunate to be working for Team Rubicon where I am motivated every day…so they have something on the back end.