Once a month we will be interviewing a veteran and talking about the challenges they faced both in and out of the military. We want to take time each month to emphasize that you are not alone in these challenges and to help you gain insight by hearing how others have overcome their struggles.
Here on the blog today we have Eduardo Cardosa, a Marine Corps veteran. He is currently in school full-time, a model with NTA talent, and runs his YouTube channel “Eduardo Cardosa Media” - a channel to help individuals seeking information on how to prepare for the military and what to expect. Eduardo was recently hired as the marketing manager at Fuego Energy, a supplement company owned by the Marine Corps' very own "Nava The Beast". He served in 29 Palms, California, Sangin, Afghanistan, and Musa Quala, Afghanistan, and was discharged from the Marine Corps in 2014.
Sheepdog Support Co.: Since your discharge, did you experience a tough transition entering into the civilian world?
Eduardo Cardosa: While getting close to exit, I did “TRS” which was the “transition readiness” program the Marine Corps had developed to help Marines exit the military and into work/school. At the time while getting processed out, I used my tuition assistance to get certified as a personal trainer. I felt very prepared for the outside world, and I was happy to have a plan. Things were great for about a year until my plan started falling apart. I thought having an active job like training would make me completely happy, but I wasn’t used to being away from my military family and that really started to hurt me. I felt as if I was alone, and everything I had done in the service no longer mattered. It was hard being out on my own. For 4 years, I always had a “battle buddy”, my teammates, my squad members, and even at the rank of Corporal you have a roommate. So you’re constantly with someone. That's when I decided to start going to college to utilize my GI Bill. I figured I’d use it because living in Southern California the GI Bill would pay me more than I was making working full time as a personal trainer.
SSC: Do you think that the transition school was beneficial to you in your situation?
EC: TRS could have been way better, instead of making people choose if they want to go to school, work on resumes, or become an entrepreneur, TRS should make individuals do all three options. Because I felt so lost when plan A fell apart, and I didn’t know how to start plan B, or even plan C.
SSC: When did you start to feel like things were improving for you?
EC: After my 2nd year out of the military things started to turn around. I realized I needed to try multiple things in my new civilian life, and really give “civilians” a chance. I was so used to not necessarily liking civilians, and only liking military, that it hurt me when I got out. On another note, something that’s helped me tremendously is keeping in touch with my veteran brothers even if its once a month. Working and being near other veterans has always helped me. It’s nice being close to people who are like minded. Also, working with a military owned supplement company has motivated me to stay in shape. I feel as if not enough veterans keep that part about themselves when they exit the military - their physical fitness. Staying physically fit has helped me so much, rather than resorting to other negative habits like drinking excessively.
SSC: Was there a specific instance or event that changed the path you were on?
EC: When I found out that there were other vets out there, who were just as lost as I was. Also finding out about my benefits. The reason I went to school was because another veteran explained how much the GI bill had helped him, and how he was using his VA medical benefits as well.
SSC: If you could go back to that time when you were at your lowest, what would you tell your younger self?
EC: I would say, you were a great Marine, and no one can take that away from you. But those days are over, and you need to continue living life to the fullest. Quit looking back at those days as “the good ol days” and create new memories and moments in your life. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else is. You don’t really miss the “Marine Corps”, what you miss is your brothers and the brotherhood, and the times you shared with them. I would tell myself to be a positive example for your peers and other future veterans, because there is a successful and happy life after the military. I know things are bad, but they will only get better if you make them better. There are no handouts, just like in the Marines, you have to work for what you want. Earned, never given.
SSC: Our organization was founded to lower veteran suicide rates. You may be aware that veterans are 18% more likely to commit suicide than civilians according to the VA. In addition to this, the Defense Department's National Center for Telehealth and Technology found veterans that did not complete their enlistment were 2.5 times more likely to take their life. One thing I found interesting about this study was that veterans that did not deploy were at a higher risk than those that did. While I personally believe PTS and TBI is a large factor to these cases I wholeheartedly believe there is something else going on.
What is your opinion on the reason veterans are having such a difficult time? Do you think it has to do with experiences in the military, not enough help transitioning once you get discharged, or something else?
EC: I definitely think there isn’t enough help with transitioning veterans from military to civilian. Those TRS courses are so rushed, and they’re usually about a week long. The week provides good info, but not enough quality info. I also think those courses need veterans who have gotten out to share their good and bad experiences. Cuz Marines/Sailors/Army Men, won’t listen to anyone when they get out, so they need to hear these stories and experiences before they get out. I know personally if I’m going through a hard time I will never tell anyone because of pride. So I think those courses that help transition need to be longer and more serious, and tell veterans the reality of getting out. There’s so many things for service members to put into consideration when they’re getting out.
ALSO, a lot of young Marines who joined the military to deploy and “get some” are usually very disappointed when they get out and all their friends are looking up to them and calling them “tough badasses” when in their mind they know they didn’t deploy. Even myself, someone who deployed into a combat zone, face those issues. I did what I had to do, but I still think back and wish I could have done more. I “got some” and even then I wish I helped more so I can see why those guys who never deployed have problems. Young Marines just need to be proud of their service, move on, and enjoy life outside the military.
SSC: As a civilian, we get the impression to not talk to veterans about their service in hopes to not be rude or insensitive. Is this something that you agree with? Is there anything that civilians can do to step in and help?
EC: I feel like a lot of Marines who didn’t go into combat don’t like to talk about their service because they don’t want to tell people how they didn’t deploy into a combat zone. Also those who did deploy into a combat zone don’t want to talk about it, because then they have to talk about the times their friends got hurt and didn’t make it home. Personally that’s why I never talk about deployments, because it reminds me of all the bad things that happened. WITH that being said. The Marine Corps needs to get these young men and women to counseling after those things happen. If not counseling, then make them talk about what happened. It’s not until you get out or go on leave that all those things really start to settle in your mind and start to bother you.
SSC: Do you have any advice for present or former military struggling right now?
EC: Just keep pushing the fight brother. I know it’s hard right now, but think about all the times shit was hard in the military. It was over eventually right? Treat your life that way, things get shitty, but they only get better if you make them better.
SSC: To close the interview I’d like to open things up for you to share a story from your service that will resonate with other veterans - something funny, a good memory, motivational, the topic is up to you.
EC: My first weeks in the fleet, a lot of the physical training (morning PT) was in full kit. Plate carries, Helmet, kevlar, gloves, boots, FULL battle rattle. I was also stationed in 29 Palms, so we had “the sugar cookie” a hill made of the softest sand, so every time you took a step up the hill, you would slide back 3. My senior Marines loved taking us there, and we would run that thing for an entire hour. I remember one of my seniors saying “you’ll thank us for this later”. Haha and I just remember thinking “I hate all of you”. Fast forward a couple training months down the line, and we were in Sangin, Afghanistan. One of the most dangerous places in Afghanistan, and it’s very well known within the infantry Marines who deploy. My first real firefight mission/patrol was a “QRF” mission. Quick reaction force. We were going to help another platoon because they were running out of ammo. They were also about a mile away, through the corn fields of Sangin, which are watered daily, making them into mud, and the most impossible terrain to get through in a hurry, because like the “sugar cookie”, you’d take one step, and the mud in Sangin would pull you down about a foot. I remember running and thinking about how much it sucked, but at that moment countless hours of running up the sugar cookie came back to me. And I remember thinking “holy crap that damn sugar cookie”, really is helping me out right now. Of course we made it to the other squad who needed back up, because that's what Marines do. They get the job done no matter what. That's the best thing about Marines, when they say they’re gonna do something, they get it done, every time.
SSC: Thank you so much for joining us today and thank you for your service to this country. For those reading the blog and wanting to learn more about you where can they find you?
EC: YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/eduardocardosomedia
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