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When the Battle Continues

After High-Stress Combat, Many Navy SEALS Face Even Tougher Struggles Coming Home. The SEAL Future Foundation Is There to Help

Thanks to Hollywood blockbusters, popular video games, and the heroic raid that took out the world’s most wanted terrorist, the Navy SEALs have become a symbol of American pride and invincibility. 

But for many members of the special operations team, leaving their Sea Air Land family to return to their homes and civilian life presents a new set of challenges. Years of training and leaving on long combat deployments have honed them to perform at a high level in dynamic and high-stress environments—but often at a cost. Transitioning SEALs can find themselves struggling to translate their military service in ways that make sense to a civilian hiring manager. Many struggle to find the same sense of purpose they felt serving in the SEAL teams.

The nonprofit SEAL Future Foundation works to ease that load.

Outwardly, these are high-performing individuals who should have no problem with whatever comes their way, but often this is a false assumption,” says Caleb Foreman, chief marketing officer for the foundation and former SEAL.

In the Teams, routine administrative tasks are handled so that operators can remain hyper-focused on training and maintaining their elite standards as operators. Civilian life means navigating a new set of challenges for the first time—without the support that was available to you throughout your service. 

The average SEAL spends eight to 10 years in the SEAL Teams—and despite reaching an elite tier of the military, they have lost ground to their civilian peer group.

“It’s a shock when they’re paying for health insurance for the first time. Or doing their first resume at age 31,” Foreman says. 

There are also emotional challenges. The job has trained them to master the ability to compartmentalize stress to execute a mission, and this kicks in during a stressful scenario. This often means emotions are shut down when yielded to this instinctual reaction. 

“A lot of guys don’t want to bring back stress or baggage into their families and tuck it down deep inside—in their mind, protecting their loved ones from that burden,” Foreman says. 

The foundation was started by Jonathan Wilson, who got a successful job in finance on Wall Street after his service. But he had trouble adjusting, and after nine months, he left that job to return to the previous life he knew. 

During this time, Wilson came up with the concept of an organization specifically designed to assist the transition of Team members out of the military and into civilian life. He created a community to help them take those steps, and the SEAL Future Foundation was born. 

The support system comprises programs that address health, career, education, and community aspects. This spans giving them the tools to be physically, mentally, and professionally fit for their new post-SEAL chapter. 

“Our team is staffed with guys who have walked the path before them,” Foreman says.

The foundation’s impact has been strong. Foreman shares a story about how the support system stepped in and prevented a suicide with a weekend in-person intervention at a former Team member’s home.

“We’re really changing lives, and sometimes it’s literally saving lives,” Foreman says. “We are producing solutions that move the needle.