Young Soldiers Face Challenges When Duty Ends
In honor of Memorial Day, Patch looks at the challenges facing veterans when their time serving overseas is over.
For soldiers everywhere, the challenges don’t end when they return from serving overseas. With Memorial Day today, Patch looks at the variety of issues that members of the United States armed forces face after active duty comes to an end.
According to Veteran’s Agent Lou Cimaglia, first and foremost for veterans returning from duty is facing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that is common among soldiers.
“One hundred percent of kids coming home need some sort of counseling,” said Cimaglia. “Some of these kids are just 21 or 22 years old and have already done a couple of tours overseas. They have issues that need to be dealt with, and we need to help them.”
During a recent interview with Wilmington Patch, young veteran Craig Sullivan concurred with Cimaglia’s statement. Sullivan served several years in Iraq as a member of the Marines.
While serving in Iraq, Sullivan suffered an injury when a roadside bomb exploded and sent shrapnel into his ribcage. Eventually, the shrapnel turned into a tumor and Sullivan had surgery that cost him about one quarter of his lung.
“The hardest thing is just learning to deal with your problems,” said Sullivan. “During my first tour, everything was fine. It was like nothing was wrong. But when I got hurt, I just felt lost. It’s important to find the help that you need.”
But mental health isn’t the only issue veterans face. When active duty ends, it’s time for soldiers to enter the work force. However, it’s difficult to build a resume when you’ve spent years in the deserts of Iraq or Afghanistan.
Adam Smith, a fellow Marine and friend of Sullivan’s, said re-entering the work force is difficult after serving. Many soldiers attend weekly appointments to help fight PTSD.
Those weekly check ups are critical, but it can also difficult to ask a potential employer for that regular time off from work, according to Smith.
“The bills don’t pay themselves,” said Smith, who worked for a construction company but is currently unemployed. “The hardest thing is finding an employee that understands that we need those checkups. Those appointments are necessary for our health.”
Cimaglia said in general, finding work for veterans is a major challenge. Though soldiers spent time in battle rather than gaining work experience, Cimaglia said they also have many of the qualities an employer seeks.
“There are so many great reasons to hire a soldier,” said Cimaglia. “They’re structured, take orders well, get the job done, and are very mission oriented. When these guys do find a job, they have a mission, they’re going to complete it, and they’re going to be on time every day for work.”
The Veterans’ Agent said many local police and fire departments, including Wilmington’s, are eager to hire veterans because of the attitude they possess and the similarities between the job and serving in the military.
While there are many issues facing young veterans, there are also more resources in Massachusetts than in other states. Unlike many states, Massachusetts requires each city and town to have a veterans' agent to help find answers to the questions soldiers have.
According to Smith, the biggest key to finding happiness and success upon returning from duty is utilizing those resources to their fullest.
“There are a lot of hurdles that I am trying to jump, but I am starting to understand that this stuff is normal. I can’t try to face everything on my own,” said Smith. “I’ll get past these hurdles. I only have control over so much, and some of it you just have to leave in God’s hands.”