Nov. 11 is an opportunity for Americans to honor and thank those who bravely dedicated their lives to serving our country. While we applaud their dedicated service, it’s essential we also recognize that one of their most formidable missions could still be on the horizon — the often difficult transition to civilian life after service ends.

The road less travelled

To shed light on this systemic issue facing our veterans today, Roadtrip Nation, a career exploration organization, partnered with the USO Transition 360 Alliance to send three transitioning service members on an unforgettable road trip across the country to discover their purpose in the post-military world. During the journey, the trio interviewed fellow veterans who have tackled the same challenges and have found fulfilling civilian careers.

The stories of each traveller represent only a fraction of the estimated 1 million service members who will transition out of the military over the next five years. They prove that there’s more than one way to tackle transition and that while each veteran’s background differs and each has taken a different path in life, they face the same challenges. After spending years defined by their military identity, the question of what’s next for them after they take the uniform off still remains.

"... the travelling veterans discovered that the skills they cultivated in the military aren’t relegated to the battlefield."

Finding new paths

Army veteran Helen Chandler has been in or around the military her whole life — she was literally born in an Army helicopter. Now that she has retired from the military, she has struggled to find an identity that doesn’t revolve around being a soldier. Army veteran Sam Shockley had everything stripped from him in an instant when he lost his legs in an explosion during a tour in Afghanistan. After struggling with depression after his injury, he’s ready to take hold of his life and find a passion that will push him forward. Air Force veteran Bernard Edwards has already figured out what his passion is — helping fellow veterans find purpose and adventure in their own lives. He’s ready to execute his vision, but is seeking guidance about how to make his passion a reality.

Winding from coast to coast before concluding in our nation’s capital, their monthlong road trip introduced them to post-military careers they never knew were possible. From interviews with fitness entrepreneur Derek Weida, skincare line founder Nicole Baldwin, author and businessman Robert Kiyosaki and many more, the travelling veterans discovered that the skills they cultivated in the military aren’t relegated to the battlefield — they can be translated to any number of exciting careers.

A continuing journey

Their road trip was captured in the film “The Next Mission,” which serves as a tool and resource we can all use to better understand the challenges our service members face as they step back into the civilian world. This also reminds us that many service members separating from the military still have challenging missions ahead of them. The pursuit of fulfilling civilian lives and careers will require them to use their greatest weapons — their heads and their hearts.