INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - It's a national disgrace: Veterans in the age range of 18 to 24 face a staggering 30 percent unemployment rate when they return home after being discharged from the military. But there are exceptions, and we found one: a highly successful Navy veteran who discovered what he wanted to do by reading an article in the newspaper.
Jeffery Steinbronn is a Warren Central High School teacher who was career Navy for 22 years. He worked on ships, submarines and even aircraft carriers. Through all of that, he discovered something about himself: that he loved physics and had been living physics for more two decades.
When Steinbronn retired from the Navy, he already had a chemistry degree and a master's in business. He could have been a financial planner, but then he caught an article in the Indianapolis Star.
"Almost every Sunday, there was something about education and how bad things are going, and what the dropout rates were," Steinbronn said. At that point, he realized his calling: He wanted to teach and to make a difference in young people's lives.
His transition to civilian life wasn't quick. He wanted to know that teaching high school physics would make him happy, a choice that isn't often available in world of military assignments. And getting that gut feeling takes time.
"Spend those months or two, when you're in that transition, figure out what you're really good at that you like to do, not what you're good at because you're forced to do," Steinbronn said.
The military, he said, will often train a soldier or sailor to do a specific task. That task or line of work becomes part of the sailor's identity while in the military, and oftentimes the newly discharged will feel that that is the only thing they know how to do, therefore the only thing they can or should do. Steinbronn encourages them to follow their hearts.
"Don't try to think of, this is what I think I want to do. No, just take it honestly. What does your heart really desire? Get to where you want to do it," he said.
Steinbronn got another degree, a master's in education, and joined the Indianapolis Teaching Fellows Program at Marian University. He successfully transitioned from life in the Navy to life in a classroom teaching advanced placement physics. All because he took the time to figure it out.
There are more than 1 million unemployed vets, and there are training programs for them. But the tough part is figuring out, like Steinbronn did, what your heart wants, not just what you're trained in the military to do.
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