Thousands of sailors, marines, soldiers, airmen and airwomen leave their Service every year around the world. Whether they served their country in uniform for a few years or several decades, they all have in common that they took up arms, joining a vocation that required them to be committed, resilient, expert, and fit. They lived lives with very little separation between life and work, where everybody relies on each other – prepared if necessary to lay down their life for the man or woman next to them in the fight, as well as for their family, unit and country.
We all have to leave our Service at some time. Some leave as a result of itchy feet, some due to the toll of the tough exigencies of military life, a few through injury or illness, and many just because they got older. With very few exceptions, everybody of every rank and Service finds it hard when they leave. Of course, there are some immediate advantages: on finally taking off uniform there is more personal freedom to go where you want to and do what you please, the opportunity to try new things, free of the obligations that come with military service. But almost every leaver soon finds they have parted with a vocation, a way of life, that gave them purpose and self-respect, that felt like it really mattered, that developed them as individuals and found them lifelong friends. This is true, paradoxically, even for many of those who leave unhappy and determined to get out.
The step back into civilian life reveals a very different way of living and working. It’s not that it is necessarily bad, but it is necessarily very different. The prospects are actually good, many civilians seem to thrive in contented lives flush with more money than anybody in uniform will ever earn. If they want to, civilians can seize all the benefits of life in prosperous, liberal and safe societies can offer. On the other hand, there is no obvious vocation to commit to unless there is another aspect of public service to join, no longer the excitement of operations or the sense of belonging that military service engenders. The point is, the transition feels hard because it is hard. Perhaps the greatest tragedy around military service is not the friends who never returned from battle, or the life-changing mental and physical injuries some of us must bear, it is the thousands and thousands of veterans who find themselves apparently trapped in jobs that employ a fraction of their character, skill and experience, miserable through working for muppets for pennies, when with a little help they could be setting the world alight with their energy, entrepreneurial spirit, and leadership.
This is where ‘Leavers to Leaders’ makes a difference. Based on Sammy Reddy’s personal experience, not always a smooth ride by any means, and his energetic devotion to his own self-improvement and to helping those who also served, he offers a guide to us all on how to make that transition work. The seven action steps have been forged by contact with the hard-nosed, transactional, and charlatan-infested realities of commercial life. The book offers positive advice about what to expect and how to deal with it. I commend it to everybody who is making their transition run and knows they need a compass and a map. Sammy’s own journey shows what can be done, I hope everybody who reads it goes on to show what they can do too.