Anyone who has risked their life, experienced being away from home and family, and loyally served this country in the military deserves to be welcomed back into civil society with open arms. However, much has changed in the world for a soldier between the time he first enters the military and when it is time to return to civilian life. The process is not always easy, and several potential hurdles must be overcome to make a successful transition.
Former US Army Sgt. Michael Bluemling, Jr. was there. He knows what it’s like to leave the military with an honorable discharge and be proud to have served his country, only to discover that he wasn’t fully prepared for civilian life. He learned a lot of 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 Soldier-to-Civilian Gap is divided into two sections: “Phase 1: Expiration of Time and Service in the Armed Forces” and “Phase 2: Personal and Professional Growth as a Civilian.” He would have expected the second section to be in the book, but he had no idea how much work it would take to get all the paperwork right before leaving the service. As Bluemling points out, it’s better to have your paperwork in order before you leave than to try to make claims for any kind of benefit after you leave service, only to find there’s no supporting paperwork and then months or more to go. years going through boards of appeals to receive what should be rightfully yours as a veteran.
This first section of the book is specifically divided into three chapters on “Information and Data Collection”, “Getting All Personal Matters in Order” and “Medical Documentation Preparation”. Bluemling walks the reader through all the documents you need to make sure you have copies for yourself and, more importantly, they’re also on file with the military. He makes it easy for readers to work through the process by including a 7-step checklist in each chapter. For example, the list in the first chapter is “7 Steps to Prepare for the ETS” (Processing Until “Expiration of Service Term”). 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 veterans career counselor and researching the new career field you want to enter.
The second section of the book focuses on adjusting to the civilian world once you’ve left the military. Bluemling makes an excellent point that the outside world hasn’t stopped while you were in the military. There have been many changes and it is necessary to learn to adapt to them. This section is longer than the first and contains information on everything from focusing on your psychological well-being during the transition to getting an education with GI BILL, as well as how to start your own business as a “vetrepreneur.” Bluemling has special knowledge on the latter topic, as he is the founder and CEO of Power of One, LLC, a disabled veteran-owned company focused on meeting the needs of its clients through dynamic and inspiring presentations that enable personal growth and the realization of life. Additionally, Bluemling’s can-do attitude and tell-it-true attitude shines through in these pages, leading readers to believe that if Bluemling was able to make the transition from soldier to civilian to successful businessman, then so can they. Each chapter in this section is also divided into seven steps to achieve the objective of that chapter.
Bridging the Gap from Soldier to Civilian isn’t a long book, but it’s all the better for it. It’s a succinct yet informative roadmap that will ease any veteran’s journey. Also included in the book is a foreword by retired Lt. Col. David A. Rababy, with whom I totally agree when he says of the veterans’ 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 list of resources for veterans at the end of the book that cites numerous websites to help veterans with all aspects of their transition from purchasing veterans benefits to disability questions, appeals, and pension information. I doubt there is a more comprehensive list 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 all offer sound advice. One that really stood out was, “You’re about to have the fight of your life, but if you’re properly prepared, it’ll all be easier in the long run.” I could not agree more. Let Bridging the Gap from Soldier to Civilian be the start of that preparation, guiding you to the help and resources you’ll need to make your transition smooth and successful.
If you are a veteran reading this review, thank you for your service to our country. If you know of a veteran or soldier who is about to leave the service, get them copies of this book to show your appreciation for their service.