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Life Lessons from the Military: What These Veterans Learned from Serving

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I posted a question on Quora asking veterans if they learned any life lessons from the military.  Specifically, I asked the following:

For veterans and active duty military, what are some important lessons you learned while serving?

life lessons from the militaryThe response was actually very interesting.  I appreciated these veterans taking the time to share their experiences with us.

While I never had the privilege of serving myself, my wife and I both have family members and friends who served.  I can't imagine what being half a world away in the middle of a war zone is like.  The closest thing I'll ever come to witnessing something like that is on television or the movie screen.

Of course, that is nowhere near what it's like.  These brave men and women risk their lives for us on a daily basis.  No matter what side of the political spectrum you fall, we all must respect that.  We want them on that wall, we need them on that all.  Sorry, couldn't help myself!

With that brief intro, I wanted to provide with some of the best answers to the question on life lessons from the military.  Veteran or not, I believe we can all benefit from what these brave souls have endured.

Related articles on life lessons:

One of the best life lessons from the military is you learn to stop complaining and become more grateful.

This is a lesson that showed up twice.  From my limited knowledge, I imagine one of the first things any branch of the military does is tear you down and build you back up.  Complainers and whiners are shown the door.

Paul Frick, a former Marine, put it this way:

1. It can always get worse - so stop whining.
2. If you can't sleep because it is too loud, you aren't tired.
3. If you don't want to eat that food because you don't like it, you aren't hungry.

Echoing Paul's sentiments (and using more direct language) was Jacob Taylor, formerly with the Navy:

Most of us that are or have been in the military have spent at least 4 years eating little bits of [crap] where the packaging literally says “not safe for human consumption.” Every time I hear someone say “this isn't that good” I want to open hand slap them in the face.

I guess we better eat our vegetables around Paul and Jacob, huh?

But, in all seriousness, I think what we're learning here is to be grateful. By complaining and whining about our lot in life, we disrespect our blessings.

Something we take for granted like good food was not a luxury for those fighting for our freedom. Rather, they ate whatever was put in front of them.

No wonder they force complaining -- and your wants and desires -- right out of you. Sounds like if you're a complainer (and I definitely am), you wouldn't make it long!

Said James Powell, a former sergeant with the Navy, "The greatest thing I learned was to be grateful for what you have even if you are trying to achieve something better."

Other people are essential.  That's another one of the life lessons from the military that came up a lot.

We all have situations where people annoy the heck out of us.  Family members.  Friends.  Co-workers.  Neighbors.  You get the idea.

But, for those that serve, one of the best life lessons from the military was the need to rely on others.  You need people that have your back and can lift morale.  After all, you're in a war together for months or years on end.  There needs to be that bond, trust, and camaraderie.

As Jacob says:

You need people.

You see a lot of people getting divorced after back to back deployment, [guys] losing their girlfriends who they thought where their entire life, adultery, and just people who have a hard time fitting in.

All of those situations could be temporarily fixed by having a beer with them and making them feel not so alone.

I have some ... rad friends who I would have never met outside of the service. The military essentially put 10 strangers from all over the country and I into a small room for the better part of two years and we made it through all of [it] by ... making each other laugh.

Again, it goes back to the people. While you may not get to choose who you're in the trenches with in military life, you get what you put into the relationships.  Military vet Greg Meehan gives a wise insight when he said, "Compassion and friendliness will carry you a hell of a lot further than anger and poor temperament ... A person demonstrates their character by how they treat people they feel are beneath them."

Veteran Joe Connor reflected more on what he learned after military life.  As Joe put it, "You will likely never find anyone that you can trust or bond as deeply with as your former comrades.  You will probably never meet anyone that will know fully who you are, or could even pretend to understand who you are."

Of course, two of the best life lessons from the military you could possibly learn are leadership -- but also how to follow.

Perhaps, one of the key life lessons from the military you always hear about is leadership ability.  Companies want to hire veterans because they can take an order and they do a darn good job.  That's important in every day life.

While leadership aptitude is important, one's ability to follow is also essential.  Vietnam vet Dennis Mulgannon put it this way, "I not only learned how to follow, I also learned how to lead. And, I learned how to teach others. And, I learned from those I was tasked to teach."

Clell Harmon, a 26-year veteran with the Navy, summed things up rather succinctly:

1. Be on time
2. Be ready
3. Shut up and pay attention
4. Do your job to the best of your abilities because if you don’t people can die.

Life lessons from the military stick with those who serve.

It's evident that these veterans learned things that will forever be a part of them.  Gratitude.  Friendships.  Bonds that transcend distance.  Leadership and the ability to follow orders.  All crucial ingredients in a life well-lived.

We thank all of you who make these sacrifices.  To the rest of us, we need to remember to be more thankful for what we have.  Hence, it's crucial we take things like our health and finances seriously.

I'll leave you with this quote from Greg, "It always could be worse, you could be having to do what you’re doing with people shooting at you."

Something for all of us to keep in mind on Monday mornings.

Are you a veteran?  What life lessons from the military did you learn?  If you're not a veteran, what have you learned from those you know who served?  Please share your thoughts in the comments.

  • I’m loving these quotes. I’m not a veteran, but I can definitely see their points. When you’re fighting for your life, struggling to eat, and carrying everything you need to survive on your back, I’m sure you have a much, much deeper for life. Makes me never want to complain about anything ever again.
    MyMoneyDesign recently posted…How To Keep Our Jobs From Being Replaced By RobotsMy Profile

  • While I never served, I have the greatest respect for those who do or did. Thank you for sharing their lessons today. While I need to stop complaining as well, I agree that the best way to do that is to be more grateful for what you have. And that includes gratitude for the people who are there for me day in and day out.
    Gary @ Super Saving Tips recently posted…8 Summer Travel Tips I Know Will Save You MoneyMy Profile

    • That’s a great attitude, Gary! We can all be more grateful for the blessings we have! Most of us (myself included) take so many things for granted. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts ????

  • I love this!!! I didn’t have the privilege to serve but I feel like I have learned a ton from those that were military. I feel like they always figure out a way to solve a problem no matter how hard it is. That no is not an answer and they’ll always find a way to do it on time. I’ve tried to take some of these best examples and apply it myself. Definitely something I’m still working on but making progress everyday 🙂
    Mustard Seed Money recently posted…The Power of Self-TalkMy Profile

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Rob 🙂 Yeah, the “I can do anything” mentality is prevalent and inspirational. I see it in my father-in-law who was a Marine in Vietnam. He passed that mindset on to my wife.

      Not that running a marathon is anything close to being shot at in combat, but for my own life it’s given me that mindset. If I can run 26.2 miles and do all the training to get there, I can do … whatever I set my mind to!

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