I will say it is hard to leave the military. There is so much known about career progression and an understanding of what is expected of you. There is a group of like-minded men and women that work to achieve the goals of the Department of Defense. We are all kind of on the same page. But when you leave, especially under medical pretenses, that feeling of “the same page” fades quite quickly which was daunting to me. I found the months of out-processing through soldier’s support center’s to feel more like a regular day in the military and less like I was close to leaving. But in the final days, as I signed out and there was no ceremony of any kind other than saying goodbye to my peers, I felt a rush of unease. Stepping into a world where you create your own adventure is different than the world of the military and getting used to that was going to take time. Luckily after my first semester at school, I found the sentinels of freedom through fellow veterans on Duke’s campus. Being connected with SOF and subsequently receiving the scholarship as well as the resources they offered changed my view of the disconnectedness quite rapidly. I was connected with some of the world-class staff who made me feel welcome and let me know that I’m not the only one in my position of medical retirement and that there are others just like me all of which are under the SOF umbrella. The meeting with the staff and the conversation with the leadership made me feel welcome and brought me to what I believe was the same page as other medically retired veterans seeking higher education. It also is refreshing that there was ample review of what I was doing through my time at Duke University. Being required to fill out information of how I am doing both emotionally, physically, medically, and financially was exactly what I needed to take a moment out of the busy school schedule and think about how I am doing as a person especially one that faces constant medical issues. Every time I sat down and spoke with Carol and the staff at SOF I was reminded that there are great people out there thinking of me and my well-being.
Now that I have graduated, I have taken a senior leadership position at a startup company working to solve the environmental damages caused by toxic wastewaters. It is a role that requires my training and leadership as well as decision making. I met the founder of the company when I was taking business classes and I interned with the company when they were very early stage. Thanks to SOF, I was able to receive the scholarship while I was working as an unpaid intern. This level of financial support allowed me to take a chance and work for a company that needed help to get off the ground. I couldn’t have done that without SOF and it paid off! Now I am going to be one of the major decision-makers to see the company make a real impact in the world. I cannot express how happy that made me and the sense of fulfillment I get from being afforded the opportunity to take such a risk and to have a whole organization like SOF support me on that endeavor.