In civilian life, you can pretty much chose your own path. You have the freedom to choose the vocation that matches your interests and talents. More importantly, if you decide you don't like what you are doing or who you are doing it for, the freedom to change is yours. If you're a CPA at Citibank and would rather cook gyros in your own food truck, you can give notice and go for it. If you like being an accountant but that large corporation doesn't fit you, you can work for a family firm or even hang out your own shingle.
But the military is different. There is not the option of just trying it out to see if you like it. When you enlist, you make an oath, execute a contract and are locked in for years. Don't like it? Don't fit it? Tough. You raised your hand, signed on the dotted line and that's the way it is.
Unlike a civilian job where you can quit when the mood strikes you, in the military there are only two ways to make a change. You can do your time (like my friend did) and endure the job, tolerate your co-workers, deal with the culture, counting the days until you are again free to make choices and do your own thing. Or you get out early - often with a negative characterization of service that will stay with you for life. Many do this, but don't realize the consequences until it is too late to undo it.
Also, there is a significant difference in both culture and lifestyle. As a civilian, you can live where you want, act however you like in your off time and effectively divorce yourself from your job and co-workers as soon as 5:00 arrives. Not so in the service - particularly if you are single. If you are not married, most often you live in barracks. If you don't get along with your colleagues at work, the military most likely will make you live with them. You have little if any privacy, which means that your individuality is curtailed. In the civilian world your boss will not walk into your home any time they like, giving you a hard time for what your closet looks like or if you didn't make your bed. In other words, if the culture doesn't fit you it's sorry Charlie - no escape, no respite and certainly no deviation to be who you really are.
So my friend found out that military life wasn't for him. He isn't alone in that. But unlike other soldiers who found their home in the service and thrived, in hindsight I owe him a little extra respect. He soldiered on and endured greater challenges and psychic hardships than I did because that life was what I wanted. It wasn't what he expected, wanted or needed. But he did his time, served the best he could and learned things about himself that he never could have known had he taken a safer, less courageous path. For that, I respect him much more now than I did then. There are lots of Americans who found out the hard way that the military wasn't for them, but they gutted it out and served honorably. I'm grateful that they gave it a go and held up their end of the bargain.
Well done my friend. Well done.