By Danielle DeSimone

Transitioning out of the military can be a challenging experience for any service member.

But for those whose service has spanned their entire professional life, like retired Lt. Col. Roger Miranda, the idea of just now navigating the ins-and-outs of civilian employment can seem like particularly a daunting task – after all, the military has been the only employer he’s ever known.

Thankfully, for Miranda, who served in the Army for 22 years, the USO Pathfinder® program, which is available at over a dozen USO locations in the U.S., was there to lend a hand during his transition back to civilian life.

The USO Pathfinder program – which has been supported by 5-year USO partner USAA – helps service members and military spouses through the process of transitioning out of military life.

Building a Path Through Transitioning Out of the Military

As part of the program, participants get a personalized Action Plan and one-on-one support from a USO Pathfinder Scout, or advisor.

Scouts support service members and family members up to one year before their transition and ensure continuity of care by extending support up to one year beyond the service member’s date of separation.

After joining Army ROTC in college and enjoying a military career of modeling and simulations, Miranda’s USO Pathfinder Scout in Fort Hood, Texas, assisted him in finding a career outside of the military in software training.

Roger Miranda used the USO Pathfinder program to help him transition out of the military and find a successful career as a civilian. | Photo credit USO Photo

“Once I found my niche, I thought, ‘Ok, I’m going to do this!’” Miranda said.

Once the pair developed an Action Plan, Miranda worked with his USO Pathfinder Scout on everything from mock interviews to resume reviews. More importantly, he was able to retire from the military with the comfort of knowing a job was waiting for him once he got out.

“This is what transition should be,” Miranda said.

Despite successfully making his transition out of the military into a new career, Miranda admits, living as a civilian has taken some adjustment.

Miranda noticed the biggest change was, “going from the military, where everything is very structured and process-driven, and then having to adjust to a corporate office environment where there’s not always a clear process for everything.”

Transitioning from the military also means learning to live without the constant support of the military community.

When asked what he considered to be the best part of his service that he would miss the most, Miranda, who served multiple deployments in Afghanistan and Kuwait, replied:

“It’s always the people that you serve with. Camaraderie is created through shared hardships, and there’s no greater hardship than being deployed in a combat zone.”

The Path to the Super Bowl LIV in Miami

In addition to receiving the benefits of the USO’s Pathfinder program, Miranda, along with his wife Cristy, was gifted a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend Super Bowl LIV for free courtesy of USAA, in partnership with the USO.

Once the couple arrived in Miami on Friday, they were immediately welcomed at the USAA Salute to Service Lounge at the Super Bowl Experience, where they had the opportunity to meet Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans and other pro football players as well.

Once again, Miranda was in a room surrounded by the familiarity of the military community: service members, veterans and other members of the community were all brought together for the experience to acknowledge their service and thank them for their sacrifices.

“This is amazing,” Miranda said. “It’s been a non-stop roller coaster ride.”

Since 2015, the USO has partnered with USAA, the financial services organization that offers insurance, online banking and investment services to service members, military families and veterans.

According to USO Sr. Account Manager Kirk Parker, the USAA and USO partnership has brought forth the opening of a new USO center at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, as well as events in which USAA employees come together to stuff USO care packages for the troops. Additionally, the financial organization has sponsored past NFL viewing parties at USO centers and provided support for service members transitioning out of the military.