Retired: Life After the Military - Who Am I???

by Jay
(Ft Bragg, NC)

I'm 38 years old and recently retired from the military after 21 years of service. Sounds great huh? I thought so too at first.

But not long after my transition, I started wondering, Who Am I? My entire adult hood and majority of my life thus far, had been defined by the military. I was an exceptional Soldier and I enjoyed it.

But as a retiree, when I began to strip away the layers of camoflauge, I began to question my decision to exit the military. Before retirement, each morning i got out of bed was a blessing; I was alive and I had purpose, to serve my family, my country, and my brothers and sisters-in-arms.

Now I drink alone at night dreading the next day. How can being free to do whatever I want to do, be miserable. I struggle with trying to be fruitful. Is it enough that I'm home now? I toil everyday with the simple question, "Who Am I?" and it bothers me that I can't answer it.

Wendy: Jay, your question "who am I?" is so familiar to many of us who are newly retired. We all wonder why -- if we are "free", we can do whatever we choose to, suddenly, and yet - we aren't happy. How can that be?

YOU are way too young to "retire retire".. yes, you can stop being military, but you need to figure out your new direction in life. There are many doors, many adventures, open to you -- you simply need to start looking for them.

I hope others who retired from the military will respond here!

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I really don't know... I am lost
by: SFC Ret.

I have sat here and read some of these stories. I am retired for 2 1/2 to 3 years. Going through a Divorce Lost everything that I had and am not sure where I belong.

I had moved to Tanzania, East Africa and am living with a beautiful woman, her two sons and our 4 month old baby boy. You would think I would be happy that I have so much to include My first child at the age of 51.

I am 55% disabled which I think they under rated me by far. I believe I have PTSD along with all the injuries from the Military.

I do not really have a so called home anymore and still think I do not belong anywhere. I am in a relationship that seems like I am only mostly criticized and snapped at most the time. Sometimes I think I am only being used for what I can give. I no longer have goals and have given up on all I used to want or believe in. Basically I am unhappy and have no place to go to or even remotely want to.

Anxiety attacks. full of meds and full of boredom. Life pretty much sucks lately. I do not know to cry or just run... but to where?

Wife of retired Military
by: Anonymous

My husband retired after 20 yrs service and has been doing nothing for a year and a half. He plays games on computer and watches TV and holes up in a small room rarely coming out. He is staying up all night and sleeps all day and does not eat healthy and has gained weight. He is moody and critical now.

I don't know what to do as you can not make someone do something or goals or interests. I think it is a real issue people have and maybe too much free time leads to lethargy.

Wish I could help but don't want to be a nag or harp on him as that makes him mad.

What to do after Retirement
by: Mad Dog

Hey bud, I think any of us that retire from the military after 20+ years and are in our late 30's to early 40's struggle with what to do when that door in the military closes.

This is coming from a guy who has used the military to earn an MBA, was about to embark on a career working with a college until I realized one thing that many of us as Senior Level leaders want - FREEDOM TO BE IN CHARGE.

This is where the "entrepreneurial spirit" comes into our lives after we leave the military.

We are so use to Planning and Executing the Mission, that when we become civilians, we tend to go work for someone, only to find out, we really want to BE IN CHARGE again.

I say, Start your own business and DO WHAT YOU LOVE.

I had a construction business with my brother, it failed because I couldn't control him and he wanted to do what he wanted, so I cancelled it, but I still have my small fitness boot camp business.

It's great, but I now realize, I have a new struggle, going back to college and being there for my kid and wife.

How do I manage the time and be there? Do I really want to go to school again at 45yo? The program I want, in the medical field, will take me until age 51-52yo, do I do it or stress the hell out?

So, you see, we all have struggles of what we WANT to do, now what we have to do. We control whatever we want to do with our life and if we lose that control, then I feel we lose a part of ourselves.

The key to a successful retirement:

1. Make a Plan
2. Make sure it's what you LOVE to do
3. Does it fit your life without causing problems
4. Talk it over with the family before you do it
5. Once you have 1-4 figured, GO FOR IT...EXECUTE
6. Follow-up every 3-4 months, whether it's a new career move, going back to college, etc... kind of like a After Action Report (AAR) to see if you are still in love with the new career or college, is it something you still control (your own business or you in charge), and are you on target to succeed and make it happen or do you need to reevaluate and make changes?

I figure those are some simple and doable steps to get out of any post-retirement funk. How do I know, I am going through it right now with my struggle to go back to school and that long term goal of getting that medical degree in 5yrs....time will only tell if it's for me.

Take care and HOOAH !!!!!

Mad Dog

Wendy: Love it! That's exactly what all retirees should do - only we let the negative voice in our heads rule over our retired days. There are so many things we can pursue - we have a lifetime of knowledge to share with others. Build your own business, mentor or coach someone, volunteer to help your community, take classes simply to keep your mental capacities (and it feels soo fulfilling).

If anyone wants help making a plan, write to me using the COACH page (bottom left), and we'll simply chat for l/2 hour to see if I can help you focus on what you really want to do.

Best Wishes! Wendy

p.s. Kudos, Mad Dog!

Harder Than It Seems
by: Stryker0331

I think there are a lot of individuals that don't grasp what 'early retirement' does to some people. I was medically discharged from the military at only 27 and it was the worse experience of my life.

There is one thing good/bad that I can say that wouldn't do over again, especially being infantry...the guard posts, constant deployments and the 0530 five-mile runs. There are no uniforms to press, boots to clean, or rifles to pull out; no more field ops, vehicle appreciation hikes or First Sergeants chewing you out for an out of haircut Monday morning.

What I've noticed most about the transition; which is now coming up on three years, is that with the idea of moving on and finding another path to follow, there needs to be an understanding from those who you meet on these paths. I never thought I would see the day that those who have served their country and did their time would have such a difficult time adjusting in the civilian world. I've been ridiculed by the way I carry myself, been the target of inappropriate questions/comments from various levels of employers and have hit rock bottom on a number of occasions.

Before seeing this post, I was reading a post about life after the military and how the Marine Corps is the worst. It talked about how other services seem better suited to mend back in with civilian population, while Marines tend to stick to those same aspects as if they were still in (overconfident, cocky, somewhat aggressive, etc).

For all those who think it's that easy to just transition; Try on the latest TBI, squeeze into the PTSD and for those who are ready for the summer, you have to endure the popular anxiety diet.

For all the others who know what it feel like to miss your second family, it's the skills you learned from the military that keeps you going and defines who you truly; that hunger to climb higher, run faster and be better than you were the day before. One day we'll all find our destined niches and continue to do good more things.

Life after retirement
by: Anonymous

I completely understand how everyone on this blog feels. I was medically retired after serving 17 years in the Air Force. I was blessed with a "tip of the spear" job, which gave me identity, purpose which is to say that it define me as an individual and as a warrior.

In 2006, I was injured in Afghanistan as a result of an IED blast. I managed to fight my symptoms and diagnosis, but ultimately resulted in a Medical retirement.

My transition has been blessed with many opportunities; but none have been able to give me a sense of fulfillment as I had in the military. I miss my career, I miss my friends; some still alive and others gone.

Wendy: Sending prayers and energy your way!

If you were smart enough to be in the military and find opportunities afterwards, you will logically find your way. Don't look backwards... Look towards a new future.

p.s. We lost a 21-yr old family member in Afghanistan, stepped on a mine, so many are not as lucky as you... you know that, but just saying to Count your Many Blessings and Move Forward!!

dreaded retirement
by: Anonymous

Just wait my young friends. Face 60, 38 years of service and suddenly there's no boots to put on the ground, no stripes to put on, no mission and too old to compete for mission orieented careers that you all are applying for. No matter that Im still in good shape mentally and physically, no one wants to hire a 60 year old man. Now how do I not feel that Ive wasted a life time. Sometimes I envy the brothers that Ive lost.

Life After the Military
by: Dawn

I am soooooo happy I stumbled on this. I, too, am a 39 year old retiree. I am still on transition leave. i was so happy to retire and yet I feel so "useless". Thank you for all the military retirees that have posted on here. I thought I was alone here. What do I do with the rest of life????

Wendy: You are ONLY 39... find your path and go for it! You have a lifetime in front of you... Woo Hoooo!

Retired from military and miserable, -- Who am I !?
by: Jay K.


You are not alone. I'm dealing with this same thing right now. I had returned from a very difficult time in Afghanistan in January 2010.

The very day I returned to my shop, I was barely welcomed home by my shop and the only thing I was told was that for all E-7's that were in for 24 years, the HYT was changed from 26 to 24 years, and we had to retire.

I was contemplating retirement but I had two years to think about it. I was not given a choice.

At the time I was so angry after returning from Afghanistan that being told that I had to get out both made me more angry and yet I didn't care anymore. I was approaching 24 years by July 2010.

I've been retired now for 17 months and even though I've got a job and my family, I feel just as miserable as I did in Afghanistan and all I can think about is how much I want to be back in my uniform serving my country.

I miss my life.

There is so much pain in my chest from this that it feels like an elephant walked all over me. There are days that when I wake up I wish I had not woken up but here I am. This said, I know I'm not suicidal.

I used to drink years ago but gave it up. The temptation has been there to pick up the bottle again but I so far haven't mostly because I've tried to live a Christian life and because I believe in being a good family man without drinking.

Everyday, I get flashbacks of my past and Afghanistan at an alarming rate which makes this worse. These people I work with now are all civilian and don't understand.

The job I took on was clear across the other side of the country which means there isn't a familiar soul that I work or associate with. In fact despite being 45 minutes drive from another Air Force base, it might as well be a million miles away. Before I took on the new job, I thought I would run into fellow airmen or retirees but that was not the case.

I am completely alone here isolated away from fellow servicemen and women with the exception of my family.

I used to supervise a shop full of airmen but now, I'm nothing. I never thought that I would miss that but I miss it terribly. So after 17 months, I'm still attempting to discover who I am.

Wendy: You sound absolutely miserable. Would you consider professional help? It sure sounds like you could use some.

You are employed, family with you -- but Afghanistan sounds like its really still biting at you. Do you need to get this out of mind? I bet you do.

Please Please see a counselor -- military or not.

Give yourself the GIFT of HAPPINESS... get your military memories in check so that you can live out a happy retirement -- working or not.

Retired Navy 21 Years
by: Anonymous

I feel your pain, I too feel the same way after dedicating 21 Years of my life to the military and choosing to retire in 2012. I also began to doubt that getting out of the military was the right choice.

I feel confused, not sure what to do with my life or the direction I should take it. My military career gave me purpose and made me feel like I was doing something very worth while. I have realized that who I am was largely defined by the military.

Then there is the whole financial security aspect. The income is enough to pay the bills, I have options for schooling and have managed to save money over the years but still don't feel secure. One great thing the military gives us is a sense of security. We know every morning that we will have a work filled week and a paycheck every two weeks that we have a future within.

When I complain to others especially to my civilian friends they don't fully understand because truthfully we are a lot better off than most. When I reflect, this is very true, we should never have to worry about a roof over our head or starving.

Keep your chin up this is a process, I am sure you have been told that before. Your bleeding out military and breathing in civilian freedom it's going to take a while.

Everyone I have spoken with says that this transition is not easy and many I have spoken to who have gotten out have had to deal with this mental and emotional process said they experienced many of the same feelings.

My recommendation is First accept that your choice is already been made now way to go back now and no sense in dwelling on it.

1> Eat right
2> Work out
3> Decide what you want to do now and make a plan and execute it.
4> Spend quality time with friend and family. If you need help don't be ashamed to seek out counseling that options there for you through TRICARE.

Stay strong and remember you are never alone.

Wendy: Thanks for posting! Great post!!

Military or not, retirement transitions aren't easy to many retirees. I've learned to go with the flow, enjoy life, smell the roses some -- but Keep Busy!

We aren't the same retirees as generations before us -- we are still active! Even if not physically active (disabilities), our Minds are Active!

On Finances, how do we ever know when Enough is truly Enough? We can trust our financial advisor.. or simply lay our lives into working, volunteering, and good deeds and let the cards fall where they may.

Life is good.. just find your new niche out there.

God is good.

Too many ( retired ) cooks spoil the broth ....
by: Durgesh Kumar Srivastava New Delhi India

The incident that I narrate here took place nearly 55 years ago in my home town Allahabad in North Central India. There was a Hindu religious feast hosted by our family.It is called BHANDARA in which anyone and everyone is welcome to join and have a meal.

There were to be six or seven courses but all items are served not one by one but all together on plates made of large leaves of wild trees. These plates are called PATTALS and are deemed to be purified and uncontaminated They are also eco-friendly. While the food items are being put on the PATTALS (which are placed on the washed and cleaned ground before lines of people waiting for the food) guests loudly sing poems in praise of the Lord.

People had begun to gather for the first service of BHANDARA. Inside the house the last item, KHEER was cooking in a large brass-alloy vessel called HANDI. KHEER is considered a delicacy. It is made by boiling dry, lightly roasted rice in cow's milk, mixed with sugar, almonds, resins, shavings of coconuts and safron.

The HANDI along with its cooking contents must have weighed over 50 kilograms. A hot fire was burning under the vessel, tended by the ladies of the house The KHEER was done and had begun to over-cook and stick to the bottom of the HANDI giving off that typical burnt-food smell.

The ladies tried to take off the HANDI from atop the fire-stove but its huge weight and very hot temperature prevented them from lifting it off. It was a while before someone thought of dousing the burning fire below and save the KHEER from being burnt. But the damage had been done The strong hurnt smell had spoilt it. It had already become unfit for consumption.

Now began a double round of criticism of the ineptness of the lady cooks and a series of prescriptions to undo the damage and make the KHEER somehow palatable. Some of the ladies were almost in tears. A very senior cook from a local sweet shop was called for his advice. He asked for some pure butter,2 pieces of mace(an Indian condiment) and some cardmum (a tropical herb) He prepared a concoction from these and mixed it slowly with the KHEER. Yes, the burnt out taste had become light but still the KHEER was far from being totally acceptable. Now what to do !

There was present in the gathering a very old man, a retired Royal British Army cook. He came forward and offered a solution. Let the KHEER be the first item to be served on the PATTALS and the hungry and waiting guests be requested to start eating. Other food items be served a little later. The suggestion, born out of long years of actual life experience, worked like magic. Guests lapped up the KHEER. No one made any negative comments about its burnt out taste. The BHANDARA was a grand success.
Durgesh Kumar Srivastava NewDelhi,India 9-9-10

Retiring young isn't what it's cracked up to be - but it can lead to great opportunities
by: Keith Weber


As a financial advisor for 20 years, I've seen a lot of people just like you who were able to retire very young. In fact, I was one of them. But like the old saying goes, be careful what you ask for. Our society constantly tells us that retirement is the goal we should all shoot for, and the sooner we can get there the happier we'll be. Through my personal experience and having watched hundreds of clients, I can tell you this is simply not the case.

The image of retirement is being redefined. Unfortunately many of us don't recognize that until we get there. We tend to seek retirement as a way out of jobs or careers that have become dull and meaningless. The reality is that work is not the enemy, but meaningless work is. Even after we leave those jobs, we still need a purpose.

I have created a website and written a book that addresses many of these common problems at Please visit and search under the resources section for all kinds of self-discovery exercises that may help you figure out where you can go from here. Good luck and I hope you find the info helpful.

Read Keith's article here!

Joy in retirement
by: Anonymous

The biggest joy in retirement is helping others.

Get in touch with health or social agencies that use volunteers, take their training and get busy.

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