By the numbers

In a survey of over 6,200 military members, active soldiers and veterans came together to list the challenges they face day in and day out.

  • 56 percent: military pay/benefits 

  • 42 percent: hange in retirement benefits

  • 38.3 percent: rising number of service member and veteran suicides

  • 37.7 percent: PTSD and combat stress

  • 33 percent: veteran employment

And when asked to catalog the challenges veterans face while transitioning back into civilian life:

  • 49 percent: loss of sense of purpose or camaraderie

  • 47 percent: loss of connection with military community

  • 45 percent: finding employment

  • 42 percent: acclimating to civilian culture

  • 40 percent: civilian day-to-day life

SOURCE: Blue Star Families

Many veterans encounter significant obstacles as they attempt to navigate the education system and the labor market after their service. It’s left up to veterans and their families to seek new fulfilling career opportunities, but without an education from a reputable university, it can be difficult for service members to transition into civilian jobs. This has been a painful reality for the Jenkins family.

New challenges

After serving in the Marine Corps, William Jenkins retired in July 2015 as an E-6 staff sergeant. Upon returning home, William began the search for work with the help of his wife, Tuawana.

“The biggest hurdle for me was to step out of my comfort zone and meet people,” William recalls. “I did not want to network. I hoped that my résumé would speak for itself.” Within three months of transitioning back into civilian life, he accepted a job with a government contractor.

A wife’s wish

Being a military wife can be difficult, but it didn’t keep Tuawana down for long. While her husband was on active duty, she applied for an MBA in Business Administration at Liberty University.

“The course load was intense, especially when trying to take care of my little ones,” she shares, “I spent a lot of late nights and early mornings trying to meet deadlines, but I did it.” Tuawana obtained her MBA in 2015 and soon after accepted a position in human resources. Together the couple advocates for the importance of higher learning.

“My proudest experience has to be obtaining a college degree,” Tuawana says. “Many enlisted service members put their education on the back burner for their careers, and spouses put theirs on hold to raise families or support the service member.” While the road from battlefield to career can be difficult, public and private initiatives alike are helping our nation’s unsung heroes put their best foot forward.

Marching forward

Besides caring for their three children — 12-year-old Julice, six-year-old Nathaniel, and five-year-old daughter Aryanna — William and Tuawana spend their free time volunteering with the Boy Scouts of America.

“Initially, the main goal was to be able to spend time with Nathaniel and meet other parents within our new community,” William says. “After some convincing by the Cubmaster, I decided to take on the role of Den leader. I didn’t think I would have the time and energy, but the other parents in the pack have been extremely helpful and supportive.”

With hard work and determination, the Jenkins family has found their new normal. And their story isn’t uncommon; with fewer deployments abroad and the increased availability of resources, our nation’s veterans and their families are finally getting the support they deserve.