Brothers, Army vets transition after military career
For many military veterans, transitioning back to civilian life can be a struggle. Twenty-eight-year-old David Smith experienced that firsthand.
While serving in the U.S. Army, David deployed to Iraq two times. He was also stationed in Germany and Fort Bragg, N.C.
He joined the military after graduating from high school, looking for what he calls the “real experience.” When he signed up, he marked the fourth generation in his family to serve in the armed forces.
“I worked as a mechanic and found out I didn’t really like that,” David said. “I wanted to do more with my life.”
After four and a half years in the military, David came back home to central Georgia where he tried to start a normal life again.
“I found myself kind of antisocial,” said David. “I hadn’t been home in a while so I really didn’t know the lifestyle. It was a tough transition.”
That’s when he decided to further his education taking a few courses at Georgia Military College then transferring to Georgia College.
“At that point the goal was just to make it through college,” David said. “I knew I wanted to be a businessman, just like my grandfather, but I had no idea I would make it this far.”
Soon he found himself easing back into society and making new friends. He even started working as a community director in Wells Hall and joined several student groups and organizations.
“That transition period was tough. It was tough on me and my family,” said David. “I came through it though. The faculty and other students at Georgia College opened my mind to learning and helped me grow as a person.”
David’s shift from a shy, introverted Army veteran to a college graduate is now complete. In May, he received his Master of Accountancy degree from Georgia College.
“It’s surreal after everything I’ve been through to finally get to this point,” said David.
Sitting in the audience at his graduation ceremony is someone he’s been close to most of his life-his brother Ryyan.
Just five years younger than David, Ryyan followed the family tradition of joining in the Army.
“After high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Ryyan said. “So I went in to the military to get my focus. It made it easier knowing my brother did it too.”
Ryyan’s three and a half years of service took him to Iraq, South Korea and New Mexico.
“I met some amazing people with different backgrounds than me,” said Ryyan. “But to experience a warzone like Iraq, it makes you grow up.”
Coming back home for Ryyan was a little easier. He saw the success his brother had in college and decided to pursue a degree in computer science.
He is enrolled in Georgia College’s dual degree pre-engineering program, and this summer he transfers to Georgia Tech.
“I want to thank Dee Fuller and all the people working in the Learning Center. They always encouraged me and helped me when I needed it,” said Ryyan.
With the educational foundation they established at Georgia College and the support of family and friends, the brothers plan to continue to push forward toward their goals.
Although they’ve come so far, they still don’t talk much about their military experiences especially their time during Operation Iraqi Freedom, but both can agree their future is bright.
“We are proof that veterans can achieve anything they want to after the military,” said David.