In 2004 Scott Darling – then a Corporal in the United States Marine Corps – was driving a 7-Ton truck in Fallujah.
Today, a civilian living in Fort Worth, Texas, he drives a mail truck for the United States Postal Service.
The two trucks are worlds apart in many ways, but close in others. Here’s the story of the road he took on each…
“My brother told me if you’re going to go in go for the best,” said Scott, recalling his decision to enlist in the Marines. His brother was a major influencer in his decision, as was his grandfather – a Navy Seabee who had been a father figure to him growing up in Texas.
After making his decision, Scott recalls the nighttime bus ride to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego and the intense feelings he experienced.
“Terror, nervousness, questioning whether or not I made the right choice,” Scott said.
He did make the right choice.
“It takes you to a place of rock bottom and builds you back up,” said Scott, about boot camp. “You can pretty much handle anything from there.”
Mentally, he stayed strong by establishing a strong bond with a fellow recruit from Texas (“a piece of home” he called him) and physically he gave it his all every day even in times of failure.
“It toughens you up, makes you a man,” Scott said, of boot camp.
Scott’s MOS (military occupation specialty) was a radio operator, but when he was deployed to Iraq in 2004 he became part of a truck platoon.
“Bullets and beans and troops,” said Scott, about what he drove. “Getting them to where they needed to go.”
His immediate thoughts on Al-Karmah (“Garma”) Iraq: hot and dangerous as hell.
“Every bridge we passed under was every safety video we’d seen up to that point,” said Scott, of the city in central Iraq located about nine miles northeast of Fallujah in the Al Anbar province. “It just ran through my mind [improvised explosive device]. It was pretty alarming.”
He saw the worst in humanity: combat and the loss of a unit brother.
He saw the best in humanity: members of the Red Cross coming to tell him (four months into deployment) that his son was born.
“The day we got back I got to hold my son for the very first time,” Scott recalled. “That was pretty surreal – getting to see people never thought I’d see again.”
As happy as Scott was to be home, though, it was tough at first.
“It was real hard to adjust back to life,” Scott said. “’Hurry up and wait’ was what I was used to, so staying in one place too long [made me] anxious. It’s like somebody turned the volume down on the whole world. People who yelled just sounded like they were talking.
When people blew their horns in traffic Scott was miffed and just wanted to tell the impatient motorists there are bigger problems in the world.
“People have no idea,” Scott said.
Adjusting back to the civilian work-world was hard too. Before he left for Iraq Scott had worked for the DISH Network. When he returned the company seemed like “a different world” to him. He went through some retraining, but chose to leave.
He tried some other jobs, like working for an armored truck company, but didn’t feel comfortable at any of them either. It was a tough time.
He took civil service exams. And then – kind of like when he enlisted in the Marines – he found his place.
“I found my niche as a postman,” Scott said.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) currently employs over 113,000 military members and veterans in their organization. According to their website, “We value the leadership, reliability, and high-tech skills veterans bring to the organization, as well as their loyalty and integrity.”
When the USPS hires, military service is treated as prior employment and some veterans (as well as their spouses, widows, widowers or mothers) can receive preference in hiring (which Scott was pleased to utilize).
Scott loves the structure and stability of working for the USPS and finds his skills as a Marine transfer well.
“You get tasked with a lot of things to do and some of them you may not even be trained for,” Scott said. “If they’re shorthanded they want you to do it all.”
That doesn’t bother Scott, who is always able to handle the surprises that come with the job – whether new policies, weather issues, truck problems, route changes, etc.
“I’m still pretty gung ho about whatever I do,” he said.
However, he has seen others who are not veterans shy away from trying new things or improvising solutions on the spot.
“I’ve heard people say ‘Well that’s not my job,’ ‘I don’t know how to do that,’ ‘I haven’t been trained to do that,’” Scott said. “Instead, I wonder why people don’t say ‘Well, I don’t know how, but I’ll find out how to do this and how to do it the way they want to do it.”
Just like boot camp, he works hard every single day.
“There are people who skate and people who work as hard as they can until they retire,” said Scott, noting he is definitely in the later group.
Another aspect of working for the postal service Scott enjoys is helping others and giving back to the community. In particular, he likes participating in the Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger® Food Drive.
This yearly food drive takes place in more than 10,000 cities and towns across America. Since it was begun in 1991, over one billion pounds of food has been collected and donated to local food pantries nationwide.
“Focus on the positive,” said Scott, about one of his philosophies since leaving the Marines and transitioning to civilian life. “Do things for yourself and others especially. I like seeing others succeed or helping other Marines adjust.”
In addition to finding the perfect civilian job for him, Scott credits his family, children and best friend (a fellow Marine) with helping him succeed after military service. “My rock” is what he calls them.
To men and women considering joining the military or those coming out of the military and transitioning to a job in the civilian world, Scott has the same important words of advice from his own road traveled:
Don’t let people tell you ‘No.’ Fight whatever doubts people have about you. Make goals – make small attainable goals and achieve them. Before you know it you’ll reach big goals – things you never thought you’d be able to do. Don’t count yourself out before you give yourself the opportunity. Just try. – Scott Darling, Corporal, USMC
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