While the transition back to civilian life after a military stint or deployment is often full of happiness, it can also be difficult and stressful to assimilate back into life at home. Roles and responsibilities within the household have often shifted and new circumstances have often arisen during time away.
Once their military service ends, veterans can face obstacles in assimilating back into civilian life. One common struggle is finding post-military employment, which is why some veterans choose to own their own business and pursue franchising.
In fact, a recent survey shows that 63 percent of veterans and active duty service members who envisioned a second career as a small business owner considered owning a franchise. Franchising allows veterans an opportunity to apply the skills they gain in the military, such as leadership, work ethic and discipline, to manage and run their own business.
Beyond skills they gain in the service, there are several qualities those with military training have that help them become successful franchisees, including discipline and drive. Of those surveyed, 54 percent of service members felt confident that the skills they gained in the military help them to be successful in the civilian world.
When Wade Franklin, a former U.S. Navy Officer, made the decision to strike out on his own, he looked for a franchise option where he could leverage these skills with a franchisor that provided support to veterans and was backed by a strong brand reputation.
“After realizing I wanted to own a business, franchising seemed like the way to go,” said Franklin, who now owns a The UPS Store in Arlington, Virginia. “The UPS Store has other veteran franchisees in the network, which is a great avenue of support. They also have a system in place for training and setting up franchisees for success.”
As a participant in the Veterans Transition Franchise Initiative (VetFran), a cooperation of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Veterans Corporation and the U.S. Small Business Administration gives veterans the opportunity to fulfill their desire for a second career. Since partnering with VetFran in 2004, it has awarded franchises to more than 150 first-time franchisees. Of the 4,500 locations in the United States, more than 250 are owned by veterans.
Franchisees complete a comprehensive training program to develop the knowledge and day-to-day operational skills needed to own and operate their own business. The training focuses on everything from marketing and operations to hands-on print services training.
To help make the readjustment process easier, here are a few tips for returning soldiers and military families to find their new normal:
1. Handle Personal Obligations
Being on active duty may have caused you to have to put things on hold or allow them to lapse. Upon your return, remember to renew your driver’s license and vehicle registration if it has expired. Renew or reactivate vehicle insurance and have any necessary maintenance performed on your vehicle, especially if it hasn’t been driven during your absence. If you have left the military, register your Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty with your county’s veterans service officer and registrar, and rescind any active power of attorney you may have.
2. Take Care of Yourself
While a proper diet and exercise were undoubtedly built into your military routine, the onus falls on you to take proper care of yourself upon returning home. Remember to maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, re-engage in or find new hobbies to occupy free time and make time for rest and adequate sleep.
3. Reconnect with Family
Trying to make up for lost time overnight is an exercise in futility that may make matters worse. Go slow as you ease back into your old routine as the process of rebuilding relationships with your spouse, children and extended family can take months. Routines and responsibilities have likely changed in your absence, and new experiences and memories were created. Take time to immerse yourself in your family’s photographs and stories from the time you were gone and share with them as much of your military experience as you’re comfortable with, allowing the whole family to connect and find new bonding experiences. If necessary, parenting and relationship classes and programs are available.
4. Head Back to Work or School
If you were in school or employed prior to going on active duty, checking your status with school or your employer can be a good first step toward reintegration. Investigate your educational benefits, including the GI Bill, if you decide to go back to school. Look into unemployment insurance or assistance programs, such as the Transition Assistance Program, if you’re not returning to your former job or were not previously employed.
5. Watch for Signs of PTSD
While returning to a normal routine as a civilian takes time, months of anger, rage, isolation or unpredictability may be signs that a former service member is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. While rebuilding connections can help alleviate some of the effects of PTSD, it is important to get professional help if you begin to show signs of the disorder – which 11-20 percent of veterans from Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom experience, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Local VA hospitals or clinics, as well as the Military Crisis Line (800-273-8255), are among the resources available to veterans dealing with PTSD.
Other articles by Jonathan Childress