A Greensboro, North Carolina, man is sharing his story to inspire for this upcoming Veterans Day. Ernest Hooker opened up to WXII about the challenge of transitioning from military service back to the civilian lifestyle in hopes to bring awareness to the struggle and help people like him in the future.
A U.S Army veteran honorably discharged nearly 20 years ago, Hooker recalled the struggle of figuring out exactly what to do with himself after getting back to North Carolina in the Nov. 9 report. He quickly learned that finding something to occupy his time and focus on was the most important thing to get over the transition.
“I’m living proof of going from combat boots to books,” he told the outlet. “Those footsteps are your monuments of your life experiences. Whether they’re hard or whether they’re good. The footsteps that I’ve been taking, I’m not taking just for myself. I’m taking the footsteps of men and women who continue to serve and the veterans that continue to serve.”
Hooker explained that it’s typically the lack of structure leaving the military that makes it difficult to adjust. The easiest way to overcome the learning curve is to occupy yourself with programs and work that give the same camaraderie and focused directives. He encouraged other veterans making the transition to find things like businesses or higher education institutions. He posited that working with nonprofits dedicated to assisting other veterans is also a good option because it’s fulfilling to help others who came from similar challenges as you did reach their goals.
“If they want to go to a vocational school, that’s fine. If they want to go back to college, like myself, there are resources out there,” he said. “There needs to be more resources for veterans to go into politics, to go into history, to go in whatever capacity. Just giving the veteran an opportunity, you know, opportunity means a lot.”
Hooker himself went back to school following his discharge. He’s now an adjunct professor at North Carolina A&T who volunteers for other veterans outside of teaching academic classes.
Hooker shared that he’s looking forward to attending the Nov. 11 Greensboro Veterans Day Parade with his A&T students. Organized by the nonprofit organization Disabled American Veterans along with North Carolina A&T, the parade begins in downtown Greensboro and will go on for two hours — uplifting active duty military members “WWII veterans, Korean War veterans, [and] Gold Star families.”