Many may be surprised to hear that it’s one of the hardest things Dakota Meyer has had to deal with–transitioning out of the Marine Corps.
I met with Dakota Meyer at the Hiring our Heroes Program at Camp Pendleton to discuss his personal experiences. I asked him what he would say to Marines who think all the doors are shut because of the PTSD stigma some have against veterans.
“The reason Americans think that every servicemember has PTSD is because of veterans. That doesn’t give you an excuse to stop living. P-T-S-D is equal to L-I-F-E. Go out and contribute to society and do your job. Everyone struggles with it to some degree. It’s what you do with that PTSD that matters. You can use it as a crutch or you can turn it into fire to do great things”, says Meyer.
Meyer even uses the Marine Corps as perspective for not letting excuses rule your life. “How many times did we go out on patrol without all the gear that we needed? Did we say we weren’t going to run the mission?” No, we didn’t. Did we still go accomplish the mission? Yes, we did.”
Dakota on Military Spouses
I talked with Dakota about military spouses and the difficulties faced with frequent moves and sometimes lack of job opportunities.
“It’s definitely something that I’m passionate about. I firmly believe that behind every great servicemember, is an even better spouse. Military spouses bring assets to the table that are overlooked: it’s overlooked inside the community, and it’s overlooked outside by the employers. It’s a disgrace that a military spouse has sacrificed so much while their servicemembers are gone taking care of our nation, that they’re not looked at as equal… it’s unfortunate.”
Dakota’s Personal Transition Out of the Corps
What many don’t realize is that Dakota Meyer faced transition obstacles himself. He received the Medal of Honor two years after he had EAS’d out of the Corps, so he can relate to the struggles that veterans face.
“When I got out, I barely had a resume. I took my buddy’s and made a few changes. I went through the old VA week-long TAPS class. I didn’t really learn anything; it was just a check in the box. I networked and was fortunate that a friend helped me find some contracting work. It wasn’t necessarily my dream job, but it was a bridge to figure out what I was going to do. Several jobs later, I ended up having to resign, I got blackballed and I couldn’t get any work. I was a train wreck. I lost my job, was drinking heavily, and living in the basement of my cousin’s house”, recalls Meyer.
It was a dark place and time for Dakota Meyer. He made the decision to start taking the first steps to take control of his life.
“Sometimes you feel like you’re going to drown and you’ll have to tread water. You’re going to have to do whatever it takes to cross that lake and it’s only one step at a time. We have to understand the expectations”, tells Meyer.
He says the same rule applies for transitioning out of the Corps.
On Leaving the Marine Corps
Many Marines and service members sometimes find struggles with leaving the tight-knit community to civilian life.
We discussed his story, “It’s a struggle every day. You’ll never, ever, find the same brotherhood inside the Marine Corps that you will outside of it. But it’s what you make of it. You have to find a new purpose and with it, you’ll do the right thing. My purpose is for veterans, to help out and give back… to put smiles on people’s faces. That’s my fire. That will never go away.”
Meyer found his purpose helping veterans. “I’m not a Medal of Honor recipient. I’m a United States Marine that received the Medal of Honor. It’s unfortunate that people only know me as the Medal of Honor recipient. The only metal that I have to wear is the metal around my wrist, that’s the names of my teammates. The rest doesn’t matter.”
While Meyer feels we are millennials ahead of providing help for transitioning servicemembers compared to when he left the Corps, it’s still an issue that needs to be addressed today.
“We’re falling short right now, it’s the biggest gap we have. I always refer back to what General Krulack said, “We make good Marines, we win our nation’s wars, and we return upstanding servicemembers.” We’re struggling on how to get our upstanding servicemembers back into society”, says Meyer.
It’s why Dakota Meyer said yes to working with Toyota and the US Chamber of Commerce.
Working as a Spokesman
The Hiring our Heroes program is making its way around military bases to help veterans and military spouses connect with employers and programs. One of the aspects of the program Meyer appreciates most if the Resume Engine program that is designed specifically for military veterans and Career Spark for military spouses.
“Your resume is the first thing that an employer is going to see. The Resume Engine takes your MOS and military skills and translates into a resume that civilians can read. It gets you started and basically builds you the whole house, you’ve just got to put the paint on it,” Meyer states.
The Resume Builder even goes one step further to helping military families find work. They’ve built in a database that employers can utilize for keyword searches and zip code to find the people they want to hire.
Toyota is a major sponsor of the resume programs and the US Chamber of Commerce. I asked Meyer what it was about Toyota that made him want to say yes and work with them on a regular basis.
“I’ve seen how hard it was for me. Toyota was led by a Marine and it has a lot of passion for servicemembers. Toyota has a culture that is amazing, it’s a culture to look up to. They have great people in their organization”, says Meyer.
“I love being part of the Toyota and US Chamber of Commerce because they provide a unique opportunity to make a difference in servicemembers lives. I get to work with great people who are helping our servicemembers go and do great things. It’s a win-win.”
If you’re a veteran or a military spouse and would like more information on job tools, click to find out how Hiring our Heroes can help you.
About the Author: Kristine Schellhaas’s success as an entrepreneur and nationally renowned advocate for military families is the result of her unwavering passion, fearless commitment, and unique authenticity. She founded USMC Life in 2009 as a way to help inspire, connect and educate Marine Corps families and has dedicated thousands of volunteer hours helping military families through five wartime deployments. Kristine has written a memoir entitled 15 Years of War, which is scheduled for release in summer 2016.
Born and raised in Boise, Idaho – Kristine currently resides at Camp Pendleton in Southern California with her two children and dog and currently serves on the advisory board for two military non-profits. In her spare time, Kristine enjoys reading, as well as celebrating life and red wine with friends. To book Kristine for speaking or discover more about the author, please visit KristineSpeaks.com
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