As many Veterans can relate, after transitioning out of the U.S. Navy, Jenna Carlton struggled to find her place. She was a young Veteran and was not interested in joining in on the disgruntled and negative conversations about time spent in the military. It was disheartening to see everyone going through the same, unproductive motions.
Jenna knew she needed to find a community… but she couldn’t find one that felt right, so what did she do? She created it.
Q1. Tell us about your time in the Navy
Jenna: I graduated high school with only 36 students in small town Wisconsin and I knew I wanted to see the world. I enlisted in the Navy and spent 4-years serving in Meteorology and Oceanography. I enjoyed what I was doing, but I just didn’t see myself doing it long-term. I decided to separate after my initial commitment. I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Public Policy at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and had an internship at the House of Representatives with the Committee for Veterans’ Affairs, and that’s where the spark really started for wanting to help Veterans.
Q2. How did you come up with the idea for The Millennial Veteran?
Jenna: After many visits to the American Legion, I was really looking for community in my age group. I saw everyone going through the same motions. No one seemed settled or happy with what they were doing, and I wanted to find a way to bring people together, share experiences, and share information. The need for a positive, productive environment was huge.
Q3. What was the process of starting the community you have today?
Jenna: Well… it wasn’t easy. It was a standstill in the beginning. In 2020, I started a Facebook page and was sharing it through word-of-mouth, friends of friends, and in other groups I was in. It started to go downhill when people began posting inappropriate stuff to the page. Conversations quickly became the “salty and angry Veteran” group, and that wasn’t what I wanted the community to be.
I had to post a message saying that we were inclusive and supportive. We weren’t going to have negative conversations here and I received a lot of hate for it. After the initial hump, things started looking up.
I began interviewing random people on the Facebook group about their military service. Through those conversations, I was able to create content, share thoughts and resources, and it led to an entire Instagram community.
Q4. How have you grown The Millennial Veteran?
Jenna: Finding people who are just willing to support and share the group has been instrumental. I was lucky enough to attend the Military Influencer Convention last year and it was exactly what I needed.
I felt like I met my people! Everyone was super nice, really helpful, and just willing to give me advice to continue growing The Millennial Veteran. Through those great conversations, my page started blowing up. The right people were seeing my messages, sharing it with their friends and co-workers, and the community started seeing steady growth. I’m now at over 28,000 followers on Instagram and that is super exciting for me!
Q5. “Vet Chats” - What is that?
Jenna: Vet Chats is the podcast I started with the intention of continuing to help the Veteran community. Each episode I host a guest who shares their transition story, they highlight what they’re doing now, and what helped them through the transition period.
My whole goal is to bring people into the Veteran community and let them know they have a place. I want to empower them to own their Veteran identity no matter their age and encourage them that we don’t have to continue the salty, disgruntled veteran attitude. I don’t sugar coat anything, but we have honest and productive conversations. Productivity is always the end goal.
Q6. What is The Veteran Workbook?
Jenna: On June 12, 2023, Women’s Veterans Day, I launched The Veteran Workbook. After a few years of doing the podcast and hearing people’s stories, I realized there was a huge need for some type of product that helped guide people through their transition. All these different themes came up in conversations like identity, recreating structure, planning for the future, figuring out who you are outside of the military… Everyone was thinking the same things. I created a guided workbook to help walk Veterans through their questions and ease them into civilian life.
Q7. What does the future hold for The Millennial Veteran?
Jenna: That’s a good question and I’m not entirely sure. I want to continue to grow the community and provide a safe space to talk about their military service. My dream would be to get The Veteran Workbook into transition programs such as “TAPS,” the Transition Assistance Programs at military installations, and the VA.