In the days leading up to Veterans Day, WNPR brings you stories from veterans and those in their community.
Nick Vaughan served with the U.S. Marine Corps and is an Iraq War veteran.
"I think the first time I really, really had a sense that my actions had consequences that mattered was when I deployed for my first time. You can’t screw up. You can’t slack off. Like you need to put all of your effort into everything you do.
"My first two deployments were from 2004 to 2005 and then 2006 to 2007 both in Anbar Province and at that point I had come to the end of my enlistment.
"But with the way that the cycle had worked, there was nobody experienced that was going to be going back for the next deployment. Because I had those two tours' worth of experience, I extended my enlistment for another year just so I could go back and provide some leadership and experience to the people that were going over for their first time.
"I think I experienced some of the frustration that everybody else experiences as a veteran when you come back and you’ve put in all of this work and you see what you’ve accomplished and those skills aren’t understood in the outside world. And pretty much you’re starting from the same starting line as some 19-year-old kid that just graduated high school. You have to go through college and go through the whole process all over again.
"I was very lucky in that when I got out, I chose to move in with friends from the Marine Corps who’d gotten out a little bit before me. So I was able to take some of their experience and they’re like, “Look, what you’re feeling is normal. Like, don’t worry about it. Don’t fret. There’s ways around it.” It was a combination of those friends helping me wrap my head around the way my life worked now.
"First and foremost you’re not alone. There’s somebody out there who has gone through, if not exactly what you’ve gone through, something very similar. Don’t hesitate to reach out. One of the things I’ve noticed about all the veterans that I've met since we’ve been out is we’re very eager to help people that are getting out. We don’t want people to struggle. There’s very much an attitude of 'we take care of our own.' There’s somebody out there to help you. You’re not alone. Reach out. And let somebody else talk you through what you’re going through.
"So for me, Veterans Day is a chance to reconnect to the people I served with, and kind of remember the good and the bad of our old times together."