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Some Veterans Seeking Civilian Jobs Miss the Structure and Camaraderie of Military Life

Military veterans have to tailor their resumes in order to clearly link their experience to the qualifications of the civilian job they're seeking. They also face another challenge: living without the routine and fellowship they had grown accustomed to in military life.

Randy Jackson of South Milwaukee served in the Navy in Desert Storm and left the military in 1993. He says it took him years to adjust to life as a civilian.

"You know, we go through a lot from being in the military, 'cause it's a whole new way of life, and really you're not even a civilian anymore. So being out of the military and seeing everything we've seen and doing everything we've done -- mentally, physically and spiritually it's very hard to adjust," Jackson says.

Christopher Murdoch is expecting a challenging transition when he leaves the Navy next year. He's served for 27 years, mainly flying jets. We met him, as he began looking for his next career.

"This is my first job fair and I'm just starting to think about what I will do, getting out of the Navy," Murdoch says.

Murdoch says he expects life will be different without the familiar routine and discipline.

"I've always been told where my next set of orders is, where to live, where I'm going to report for duty and what I'm going to be doing. So this is a little bit, bit overwhelming," Murdoch says.

"In the military, everything's -- you're told when to be there, what to wear, when you're going to eat, what you eat, that kind of stuff," says Army veteran Mathew Armstrong, who was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. He now works part-time at the center for veterans on UW-Milwaukee's campus, called MAVRC.

Armstrong says part of what makes the adjustment to civilian life challenging for some veterans is that they are going it alone. "They miss that camaraderie, that brotherhood and that sisterhood that you get while you're in the service," Armstrong says.

So Armstrong says, MAVRC not only connects vets to transition programs, but perhaps, more importantly, serves as a place to congregate. He says you can find veterans of all ages stopping by just to chat.

Increasingly, employers also are taking steps to help veterans feel comfortable and connected, according to Kathy Marschman. She's deputy secretary for the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs. Marschman says many workplaces now have Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) or "affinity groups" that bring vets together.

"When they transition into the civilian workforce, they tend to feel isolated, and these types of groups -- these affinity groups -- provide them some camaraderie and help to ease that transition from a military work environment into the civilian workforce," Marschman says.

Veteran Mathew Armstrong says the programs may also provide vets with opportunities for public service.

"A lot of them do a lot of volunteering. Just this last week we partnered with Miller Coors and their ERG group and they took a bunch of World War II and Korean War veterans out to Lake Geneva and they did a, like, little boat tour around Lake Geneva and stuff like that," Armstrong says.

Armstrong says in such cases younger veterans not only help each other, but also extend fellowship to those who came before them.

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