Beyond the Deck: Navigating New Waters After the Navy

The military connection has always been powerful on my father’s side of the family. We have a rich tradition of military service that spans generations and crosses various branches of the military, starting when my family immigrated to the United States from Europe. While growing up, I often saw black-and-white photos of my relatives in uniform, who served in various conflicts dating back to World War II.

I belong to the generation that watched September 11, 2001, unfold on TV in high school. I firmly declared my intention to join the military at that moment, yet I awaited the passage of a few years until I reached the required age for enlistment. At that time, my family talked me out of enlisting and instead tried to get me to go to college to be commissioned as an officer. College was not the right place for me at that stage of my life and I ended up drifting aimlessly until my situation sent me back on course to join the military.

After a few years of uncertainty and soul-searching, I found myself at a recruiting station, signing up to join the United States Navy. This changed the trajectory of my life and helped me redetermine my priorities. My path took me to Chicago for Navy boot camp and Corpsman A School, then off to Camp Lejeune North Carolina for follow-up training at Field Medical Training Battalion East. Originally, I signed a contract to join the submarine force as a nuclear technician, but never in a million years did I think I was going to be stationed side by side with the Marines.

I ended up enjoying this chapter of my military service. I found my place among my more rough-and-tumble military peers and made the most of the experience.  Many years later, after a deployment to Afghanistan, my wife and I moved to Virginia, where I helped operate a few medical clinics at a Naval Hospital. Once my family grew with the birth of my first child, I realized the time I spent working would never be more important to me than my family and decided to leave active-duty military. 

After the end of my service, my family settled down outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, where I quickly realized that transitioning out as a junior enlisted veteran presented a unique set of hurdles. Unlike those who retire after long and distinguished careers, I didn’t have the safety net of a pension or the same level of well-established benefits. What made this transition even more challenging was the stark shortage of resources designed specifically for junior enlisted personnel like myself.

It was challenging to determine what my next steps would be. Continuing my education in the medical field was a daunting task, especially with the lack of transferable college classes in comparison to my real-life experience. Despite these challenges, I couldn’t shake the desire to continue working with the military community. This longing eventually led me to take a position in the Veteran Service Office at my university. During my tenure there, I had the privilege of working with people from all walks of life, much like my experiences in the military. 

Throughout the challenging waves of my military transition, I’ve been grateful for the invaluable support of those around me. Navigating from military to civilian life wasn’t easy, but with Hire Heroes USA’s continuous guidance since October 2021 – through LinkedIn reviews, resume services, career coaching, and mentoring – I have skillfully steered through each phase of my professional journey. Their support has been a cornerstone in my career progression and instrumental in my recent professional advancement.

It’s the combination of these services, along with the supportive community I found in Hire Heroes USA, that helped empower me in my transition. The Junior Enlisted program, in particular, resonated with my experiences and provided targeted support that addressed the specific challenges I faced as a transitioning junior service member.

As I reflect on the progress I’ve made and the career path I have charted, I am thankful for the tangible resources provided and the sense of empowerment and self-assurance that Hire Heroes USA instilled in me. This journey has been about more than finding a job; it’s been about discovering a new way to apply my military skills and values in a civilian context.

Author: Christopher Brasel

At Hire Heroes USA, we understand that the transition from military to civilian life poses distinct challenges for junior enlisted service members. Recognizing the unique hurdles they face, we’ve developed the Junior Enlisted Program to provide specialized support tailored to their needs. These brave men and women often begin their military careers fresh out of high school, diving headfirst into an environment of discipline, structure, and camaraderie. Yet, upon their transition, they sometimes find themselves navigating unfamiliar territories with limited professional networks and experience outside of their military roles. Our program is designed to bridge this gap, offering targeted career counseling, skills training, and networking opportunities to ensure their invaluable military experience translates seamlessly into the civilian workforce. By focusing on these specific issues, the Junior Enlisted Program at Hire Heroes USA is breaking down barriers and paving the way for a smoother, more empowered transition for our junior enlisted heroes. 

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