The journey from military life to civilian life is a complex and profound transition. When veterans exchange their uniforms for everyday attire, the sense of camaraderie, structure, and purpose that once defined their world often fades into the background of a vastly different civilian landscape. This abrupt shift can leave many feeling disoriented as they grapple with the task of rediscovering their identities outside the military framework.
Although each soldier’s journey is unique, there are common challenges that many encounter during this period. Among the most prevalent issues veterans face are the quest for new employment, adapting to less structured daily routines, and the challenge of articulating experiences that defy easy explanation or understanding.
Taylor Gunner, a 29-year-old retired Marine turned content creator based in San Diego, is one of the many veterans who has experienced firsthand the challenges of transitioning to civilian life. Taylor enlisted in the Marines at the age of 18, leaving her native Missouri for California. She served four years of active duty in aviation logistics, thriving in her role. However, a spinal injury forced her to medically retire prematurely at the age of 22. Faced with the reality of returning to civilian life, Taylor grappled with uncertainty and concerns about her future. She reflects, “The military made me feel at home regardless of where I was because of how close my colleagues and I were. We worked and lived together and shared all our everyday experiences. We were, and still are, a big family.”
Drawing upon her experience of overseeing millions of dollars for the U.S. military, Taylor decided to utilize her love for numbers and organizational skills as a means of reintegrating into society. She pursued higher education, dedicating four more years to earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting from a prestigious school. She secured a top internship and a job offer from a multinational corporation as an internal auditor, what she initially considered “the dream job.” However, upon entering the corporate world, she found the work less challenging and structured compared to her military experiences. Despite the countless hours of work and study invested, Taylor discovered that building a business around herself presented a more significant mental challenge and proved a better use of her time and degree. Her passion for content creation and her fan base on OnlyFans became a means of feeling fully understood in society once more.
Taylor’s journey into civilian life led her to an unconventional path. A devoted fan of superheroes and cosplay since childhood, Taylor leveraged her “quirky interests” to embark on a career as a content creator. She believed it not only to be a lucrative endeavor but also a way to navigate her reintegration into society more smoothly.
“I started just talking to people and the community that was there. It ended up being a really healthy outlet for me after I transitioned out of the military because it was a way for me to get to know people with an open-minded outlook and also learn about myself in the process,” Taylor explains.
Motivated by her own experiences, Taylor recognized the sense of isolation that many others face. This empathy fueled her desire to provide additional support and companionship to her online community, especially those going through similar transitions.
To achieve this, Taylor introduced “buddy checks,” a practice where she reaches out to members of her online community to check on their well-being. The term “buddy checks” draws its inspiration from a military practice where soldiers regularly check on each other’s physical and mental health.
“When you come back from the military, it’s easy to feel alone since you don’t have your battle buddy by your side. So, I try to make sure I can be exactly that for them, even if it’s just online,” Taylor says. She adds that even simple gestures like asking her community members about their well-being or how their lives are progressing can make a significant difference.
In addition to the buddy checks, Taylor has launched several initiatives to support her community, including sending care packages to deployed individuals, maintaining communication with those who are not current subscribers, and creating safe spaces for conversations about navigating boot camp. “I also do charity hikes and have created my own merchandise, such as military patches, with the hope of giving back to this community that has shaped me.”
Beyond the support she provides to community members with military backgrounds, Taylor has also worked diligently to assist non-military supporters. She values all her supporters, whether they are officially subscribed to her channels or not, and hopes to continue offering meaningful support to everyone.
“Community and human connections are the invisible threads that bind us all together. Our stories, struggles, and dreams are our lifelines,” Taylor says. “We can truly understand the essence of our shared humanity through these relationships. Our strength doesn’t come from standing alone, but from standing together.”