Caught Up in the Storm of the Government Shutdown? Five Lessons Veterans Have Learned

If you find yourself among the thousands of government employees caught up in the government shut-down and you have previously worn the cloth of our nation, here are five things you know from experience.

1. Confidence from Overcoming Hardship

No one who has served in the military - regardless of war, service, component, duration, rank, or role - has not experienced hardship. We know what it is like to be exhausted, afraid, angry, and to feel alone, even when surrounded by people. However, we also know that we have the strength of character and will to get through tough times. These are the hard-won lessons of service.

Getting through the turmoil of shut-down, especially if financial and family pressures are mounting, is hard, but you know that you have dealt with worse and survived. Self-confidence rooted in experience counts - a lot.

2. Lead Yourself

Almost everyone who has served in the last 30 years is familiar with General Colin Powell's leadership lessons, lessons he kept on his desk in times of peace and war. Three of those lessons are particularly relevant in this situation:

  • Don't take counsel of your fear or naysayers.

  • It can be done. Don't let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.

  • Remain calm.

3. Take Care of the Team

When worrying about job and finances, it is easy to forget that you are not in this alone. Your family and friends are worried too. Emotions are contagious and children are particularly sensitive when their caregivers are worried or afraid. This is an opportunity to model what adults do when things are hard, and these are lessons that can last a lifetime.

4. The Best Defense is a Good Offense

Take a proactive stance. Engage with financial institutions. Make the calls, don't wait … most will want to help you through this rocky time. Research your State's unemployment process. There is a time lag between application and first check, so if you need to take this step, it is better to act now than to wait. There is a caution, if you are going to receive back pay at some time, you may have to repay the unemployment benefit.

5. Take Care of Yourself

Worrying about finances and job security is stressful and stress takes its toll on your physical and emotional well-being. If you not working, set a normal routine for yourself. Keep "normal" hours. Get dressed and out of the house. Engage with others, don't isolate yourself. Exercise to clear your head and build your stamina.

Seek professional help if you feel yourself on shaky ground. The Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1) or text 838255 offers 24/7 services.

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If you decide to look for employment, contact Still Serving Veterans at 866.778.4645 or 256.883.7166. 

All our services are offered free of charge.


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Paulette Risher, Major General, US Army (Retired), Chief Programs Officer, Still Serving Veterans, prisher@ssv.org