Corporal Patrick Robbins just landed back in The World, rejoining civilian life Sept. 16 after his tour of duty with the U.S. Marine Corps. The Corte Madera native is experiencing some fish-out-of-water uneasiness right now. Marin County doesn’t have too much in common with Afghanistan. There are a lot of adjustments to make.
The Veterans Connect event taking place Sept. 28 at the Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium in San Rafael is designed to assist new military veterans like Robbins, many of whom are having trouble finding the help they need to acclimate into society. Starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, vets can get face-to-face assistance from specialists associated with Veterans Business Outreach Center, Legal Aid of Marin, CalFresh, College of Marin, Marin Interfaith Council and others.
“That’s definitely something I’m going to check out,” Robbins said just a day after returning to Marin. “I think it’s great that people out there are supporting service members and prior service members, their families and their spouses. That’s awesome. It represents unity in the community that lacks in other parts of the country. It’s nice being a new veteran knowing that you have support.”
The Sept. 28 event runs concurrently with the second annual POW/MIA Recognition Day, which attracted hundreds to Marin Center last year in its inaugural event. Part of a national recognition effort for former prisoners of war and those missing in action, the program will feature guest speakers, music, a video presentation and a free barbecue.
Although this is the second annual POW/MIA Day in Marin, this will be the first Veterans Connect event to be hosted by the County of Marin and the nonprofit Marin Alliance for the American Spirit.
Robbins joined the Marine Corps at age 19 after training in San Rafael with the House of Steel recruits overseen by USMC Lt. (Ret). Gregory Allen. Robbins went to boot camp in San Diego and infantry school at Camp Pendleton, then joined the 7 at Twentynine Palms (The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center) in Southern California. He continued training, focused on handling a 50-caliber machine gun, and spent many months touring Southeast Asia with his unit. He started nine months of combat zone deployment in Afghanistan in March 2012.
“The biggest thing about this transition now is waking up and not having to be anywhere,” he said. “For the first time in my life, I do not have any immediate obligations or responsibilities. But I’m keeping in mind that it’s all on me to get back on track. I gotta use that drive and will I had as a Marine to get me going in school now.”
Robbins, who has a lot of family in Martinez, is attending Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill and eying a degree in business. Courses he took with the USMC are being credited toward his general education. He’s also getting married next year.
“A lot of guys don’t think they have options, so they stay in the military longer and have trouble figuring things out on their own when they get out,” Robbins said. “A lot of people my age haven’t been that far from home and aren’t used to not having Mom and Dad taking care of them. Then when you’re in the service, you’re being taken care of, too. So getting out and not being taken care of right away can be weird and frustrating.”
Robbins said letting service members know that there is valuable guidance out there is a big deal. There’s a lot of assistance inside the military, he said, “but when you get out it’s all on you to go find that support. You have to keep moving. You have to set goals and go after them. It’s a big step and you have to stay focused.”
The Marin Alliance for the American Spirit, a Marin-based nonprofit, is only two years old and just gaining momentum. Learn more about it at www.maasservices.org.
Interview by Brent Ainsworth, Bay Area Journalist, on September 20, 2013.