“Forrest Gump” is a story of someone with complete innocence living in a world that is losing theirs. His purity and quest for belonging led him to see the world, make a fortune, and live a very full and noble life.
More than just the feel good movie that some see, it is a great example of a properly executed military transition.
The film showcases two veterans, Forrest and Lt. Dan, in their journey for inner peace and belonging.
Forrest came home after having some pretty intense experiences from his time in service: training and hazing, extreme combat exposure (holding his best friend in his arms while he died), and an extended stay in an Army hospital.
He could have just gone home and done nothing – just given up by adopting a victim mentality. Instead he lived a life of continuous action – helping so many along the way, and leaving his mark on American culture.
He was a man of his word, starting a business in his best friend’s memory, and even partnered with a disabled veteran – helping Lt. Dan with his own recovery.
He took deliberate and decisive action – with even the zenith of his recovery being him running across the country multiple times.
DISCLAIMER: Forrest Gump is probably my favorite movie – if you aren’t a fan, then you can get bent.
With that out of the way, lets get started…
1. Focus on your family
“And just like that my time in the U.S. Army was over, so I went home”
The mission was always first, now is time to spend as much time with you family as you can. They went through a lot as well as you due to your time in service. If you were deployed for any length of time, you will never truly know how hard it was for them.
Do everything you can to help those you love the most, and the first step is just showing up.
Say what you want, but he loves his mom so much that he just bolts.
Drop everything and take care of those you love.
2. Be a man of your word
Forrest made a promise to his best friend that he wouldn’t let go of – that when he and Bubba got back from Vietnam they would go into the shrimping business together.
With Bubba’s passing, Forrest could have just done nothing. Thinking that he couldn’t do it on his own – or that since Bubba was dead, the promise didn’t matter anymore.
Even when others didn’t understand his reasons, he pushed forward. He didn’t hide or shirk from his responsibilities.
What are the promises you made to yourself or others of what you said you would do if you go out of the military? Or if you ever made it home? If you make it out alive?
You may have never said them out loud, but write them down. And act upon them.
3. Honor the fallen
Those promises that you make to yourself when the rounds are impacting as you hit the floor or run for cover are not yours alone. Those same requests and prayers have been uttered or thought with the final breaths of our fallen comrades.
You made it out alive, you made it home – they didn’t.
Honor them by living a full life.
Pack as much love and experiences as you can… for them.
Keep them in your hearts in everything that you do.
Do what you can to help the Gold Star families. It doesn’t have to be “Bubba’s share,” it can be as small as reaching out and telling them that they are in your thoughts and prayers or just how much their son or daughter meant to you.
4. Find your tribe
The brotherhood and camaraderie that you had in the service will be very hard to find in civilian life. Meet with other veterans often since you speak a common language and share similar experiences.
Reach out to them often. A steady cadence of interaction will help everyone involved.
You never really know what others are going through, so even just a simple text can do a lot.
Because these are also the people who remember how you once were.
Now that you are out, people don’t see you in uniform everyday. They don’t have the understanding of what you have done or been through.
Your civilian counterparts have seen the movies, but they can’t recall how Kuwait always smells like a used urinal disc or why its so important to actually give a crap about your subordinates’ health and welfare.
5. Establish a routine
When things are not going so well, go back and do the things you know you should do to get back to baseline: get better sleep, eat healthy, and work out.
Go back to the well. Much the same as on deployment, that routine helps you get through the grind. Yeah there is the “Groundhog’s Day” effect, but if you are consistently doing the little things right, then the big things take care of themselves.
Find a battle buddy for accountability purposes.
6. Keep doing PT
“The first thing we do and the last thing we cancel.”
Keep that steady routine of fitness as a cornerstone of your life. Your mind will always need an outlet for that energy.
You have to keep going to keep your monkey brain at bay.
That energy will build if you stop for an extended period of time – so much so that you feel like running across the country.
7. Deal with your issues
Things will not get better with time alone, seek whatever help you need be it from the VA or from the private side. Whether it be physical or mental – go get help sooner rather than later.
File a VA claim if needed, but mainly go get help. You are tough, you are strong, but you by no means have to do it all on your own. Go get with a professional to get ahead of your problem before it takes root in you forever.
8. Don’t be an asshole
Remember, you volunteered to go. There was no draft. So some (most) people didn’t serve – and that’s okay.
Do not adopt a holier than thou mentality. Lashing out to others will only hurt you in the long run.
Instead, be nice.
And remember, no one owes you anything.
9. Never give up
Warrior Ethos: I will always place the mission first, I will never accept defeat, I will never quit, I will never leave a fallen comrade.
Your time in service doesn’t define you, but it is a part of you.
Just because you aren’t 100% sure of what you want to do, or what you think you are capable of doing isn’t a reason to give up.
Pick something, anything – and get after it.
Know that you can make it through.
Start that business, learn that skill, get that job – whatever it is.
The ancients had a prescribed flow of life: student, soldier, businessman, senator, and then philosopher. Don’t pigeon hole yourself into one thing.
You can do anything in your life.