Life after service: Back to a civilian lifestyle

Chris Vitols, junior in clinical psychology, poses at Sparrow Coffee on June 21, 2018. (Olivia Bergmeier | Collegian Media Group)

Veterans come from the various branches of the military with different stories, experiences and lessons; here is a veteran’s experience returning to civilian life after deployment.

Chris Vitols, junior in clinical psychology, talked about his experience in the Army as an E-4 specialist working as a CBRN tech.

Vitols began his military journey at Fort Riley in the 1st Infantry Division. He worked in the First Engineer Battalion before beginning his Hardship Tour as a CBRN tech in a nine-month deployment in South Korea.

“I was in a striker,” Vitols said. “We did operations out of South Korea.”

During his time, Vitols said some of his deployments would have included Jordan and Kuwait, but ultimately the Army’s plans changed.

After serving three years, Vitols said he decided military life was not for him. He joined the Green to Gold program and began studying at Kansas State. Vitols said even though he decided to hand in his military life for a civilian life of a student, he learned many lessons from his experiences while serving.

“I’ve learned how to prioritize,” Vitols said. “I’ve learned how to understand what is important as well as how to let go of certain things, how to have a thick skin.”

Common sense is something Vitols said is instilled into soldiers.

“They preach common sense in the military,” Vitols said. “That’s something they try to instill in you whether it’s from basic training or your first unit. They’d rather not have a bunch of smart people; they’d rather have common sense people.”

Vitols also said everything in the Army is at an eighth-grade reading level.

“The knowledge is given,” Vitols said. “It’s just how you use it.”

Life after service can be difficult for many veterans. Vitols said his experiences were not as taxing as others’ backgrounds in the military, but he would like people to understand how life after serving can be difficult.

“I never had rounds thrown at me,” Vitols said. “There’s a lot of baggage people bring. There’s a lot of things that don’t click.”

He also talked about how there are some vets at K-State who will dive under desks after a particularly heavy book falls and creates a loud noise on the floor.

When asked what advice he would give veterans entering back into the civilian realm after serving in the military, Vitols said, “Stay positive. There’s going to be a huge handicap all the way through.”