I’m a few weeks away from separating from the military after eight years of service. Do you have any advice for me as I start my journey into civilian life?
Staff Sergeant Tony Scalapetti
Hello, Sergeant Spaghetti. First off, thank you for your service. Second, it was very wise of you and you demonstrated an incredible amount of foresight to come to me for life advice — considering I’ve been an ex-Marine way longer than I was an actual Marine.
A lot of society would like you to think that seeking a formal education or trade and gracefully moving forward with life would be the most logical course of action. But what they don’t understand is that the real money is in military-themed apparel.
There are thousands upon thousands of these startups, predominantly made up of men who look and think just like you, all desperately vying for a piece of the pie in a submarket that makes up less than 1% of the population and is mostly dominated by two companies with decades of more artistic experience, resources, and corporate infrastructure than you. Make sure you’re pushing original themes like Vikings, Spartans, or sheepdogs, or you can just pick any basic color and toss it right onto a single stripe on the American flag. And if you really want to be edgy, you can throw in some neat designs of 14th-century Teutonic Knight crusaders that will probably get you on a watchlist from the Southern Poverty Law Center. Spicy!
If you’re too much of a coward to risk it all in the niche apparel game, then may I suggest you throw all of your energy into getting a 100% disability rating from the VA. I have three words for you: tinnitus, tinnitus, tinnitus. Disregard every educational or professional opportunity you’re provided. Get yourself paid and get out there and spend your free time, which there will be a lot of, yelling at strangers on the internet about things that are relatively inconsequential.
You’re a veteran now. That means you have to name drop that status in every conceivable avenue of discourse — from politics to art to sports culture to historical analysis, even technology. Your eight years in the military gives you keen insight on nuanced issues that no subject matter expert like David Christian or Elon Musk can equal. The civilian world isn’t equipped to deal with the intelligence you’ve developed after your time in the world’s third-largest fighting force, but you must have the bravery to ruck on and remind them how much of a smarty-pants you are.
If all else fails, move to rural Thailand and live the life of a quiet expat fisherman until you are forced to engage in violence against a local paramilitary force like in Rambo.
These are your only options to find success in the civilian world. I hope this helped, Spaghetti!
I love you,
Jack Manford Mandaville I
This story first appeared in the Summer 2021 print edition of Coffee or Die Magazine in the Dear Jack column.