Anyone who has risked his or her life, experienced being away from home and family, and loyally served this country in the armed forces deserves to be welcomed back into civilian society with open arms. However, a lot has changed in the world for a soldier between the time he or she first enters the military and when it is time to return to civilian life. The process is not always easy and several potential obstacles must be overcome to make a successful transition.
Former U.S. Army Sergeant Michael Bluemling, Jr. has been there. He knows what it is to leave the military with an honorable discharge and feel pride in having served his country, only to find he was not fully prepared for civilian life. He learned many things the hard way during his transition with very little guidance; therefore, he has written this book, Bridging the Gap from Soldier to Civilian, to provide other soldiers with a roadmap to success as they make a similar transition.
Bridging the Gap from Soldier to Civilian is divided into two sections: “Phase 1: Expiration of Time and Service from the Military,” and “Phase 2: Personal and Professional Growth as a Civilian.” I would have expected the second section to be in the book, but I had no idea how much work was involved in getting all your paperwork correct before you leave the service. As Bluemling points out, it is better to have your paperwork in order before you leave than to try to make claims for any types of benefits after you leave the service, only to discover there is no supporting paperwork and you then have to spend months or years going through appeal boards to receive what should be rightfully yours as a veteran.
This first section of the book is specifically broken down into three chapters on “Information and Data Collection,” “Getting all Personal Affairs in Order,” and “Medical Documentation Preparation.” Bluemling walks the reader through all the documents you need to make sure you have copies of for yourself and that, more importantly, are also filed with the military. He makes it easy for readers to work through the process by including in each chapter a 7 step checklist. For example, the first chapter’s list is “7 Steps to Prepare Yourself for ETSing” (processing through the “Expiration of Term of Service”). The steps that follow range from discussing your decision to leave the military with your family and making a list of goals for yourself to contacting your state veteran career adviser and doing research on the new career field you want to enter.
The second section of the book focuses on adjusting to the civilian world once you have left the military. Bluemling makes an excellent point that the outside world has not stood still while you were in the military. Many changes have occurred and you need to learn how to adapt to them. This section is longer than the first and contains information ranging from focusing on your psychological well-being during the transition to earning an education with the GI BILL and also how to start your own business as a “vetrepreneur.” Bluemling is especially knowledgeable on this last topic since he is the founder and CEO of Power of One, LLC, a disabled-veteran-owned company centered on meeting its customers’ needs by providing dynamic inspirational presentations that allow for personal growth and life fulfillment. In addition, Bluemling’s tell-it-like-it-is, yet positive attitude shines through in these pages, making readers believe that if Bluemling could make the transition from soldier to civilian and successful vetrepreneur, then so can they. Each chapter in this section also is broken down into seven steps to achieve that chapter’s objective.
Bridging the Gap from Soldier to Civilian is not a long book, but it’s all the better for that. It is a succinct yet informative roadmap that will make any veteran’s path easier. Also included in the book is a foreword by retired Lieutenant Colonel David A. Rababy, whom I wholly agree with when he states about the veteran transition experience, “Suddenly, you find yourself a stranger in your own land. How do you navigate your way home? The best way I have found is by learning from others just as you have learned methods of dealing with your new life. One person you can learn from is Michael Bluemling, Jr.” Finally, there is an extensive Veterans Resources list at the end of the book that cites numerous websites to assist veterans in all aspects of their transition from acquiring veterans benefits to disability questions, appeals, and pension information. I doubt a more comprehensive list is available anywhere, and it, alone, makes this book worth its price.
Finally, throughout the book Bluemling has several key phrases that stand out. Some read almost like proverbs, and they all offer great advice. One that really stood out was, “You are about to be in for the fight of your life, but if you are properly prepared, everything will be easier in the long run.” I couldn’t agree more. Let Bridging the Gap from Soldier to Civilian be the start of that preparation and lead you to the help and resources you will need to make your transition a smooth and successful one.