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How I Found Transition in a Box

Updated: Mar 30

This is the latest that I have ever written my first article of the year, apologies. Temper your expectations – I love the topic, but I am still fighting with the presentation. I have had a general outline for several weeks, but the facility has been extremely busy, we made an earlier than usual trip to see my Mom, got the annual round of golf in with my uncle for his birthday and most importantly my first grandchild was born. Saphira Janae was born mid-January with all fingers and toes and is the cutest little thing you ever want to see. To guard against future inactivity, I am going to start writing multiple articles in advance because the mind torture that I put myself through when I know that I have to get something done is excruciating.

I started the journey of documenting my military transition experiences just shy of 5 years ago to shed light on the challenges that service personnel go through when changing careers. It was early 2018 and service-related suicides were at the forefront of the conversation. That conversation has been a bit muted of late, but the suicide rate has not gotten better. As a matter of fact, it may have gotten worse because then it was determined that 22 Veteran deaths per day could be attributed to suicide. Today that number is reported to be 44. And the only

reason that I say may is because they were just starting to ask the question of service and the numbers were probably more elevated all along. So, I started Vlogging and posted daily updates for six months on YouTube about my last days in the Army to break down the mystery of leaving the service in hopes of helping in any way that I could. Please don’t go looking for them. They are horrible. They are also the reason I started this written blog about the challenges that I have found in my own personal career change to Amazon; what I call my transition in a box.

The one thing that service personnel have is perspective. That perspective is borne out of shared hardship from both training and real conflict. So, do not be surprised when you hear that one of the common themes that Veterans fall back on when times get challenging at Amazon is that it could be much worse than “boxes.” The moniker refers to the trademark Amazon boxes with a smile that the whole world is familiar with by now. This crass way of referring to the all-important business model that has changed the way that people shop and manage their households is a standard coping mechanism that has spanned hundreds and maybe thousands of years of soldiery. We laugh when others cry, we cry when others laugh and we draw on reserves and resilience when others quit. Like I said we have perspective, and at Amazon that outlook allows some to chalk the hardest moments up to the empowering thought that it is just boxes.

I have personally taken it a step further. The “box” has allowed my body to heal. I have found a voice that I had lost in my later years in the service. And I have been able to ply skills and leadership techniques garnered over a long career in the Army…and no, I did not try and weave Liam Neeson’s famous Taken line into the article – I distinctly remember him talking about “a particular set of skills.” Don’t get me wrong “it’s just boxes” has gotten me through many tough spots during Peak, Prime and daily ops. Hell, I have used it to motivate and ground hard discussions, but I will say what so many Veterans may not ever say. Amazon, the box, gave me a tremendous chance at life after the service. I love the culture, the day to day challenge and most of all I love the fact that I am still relevant as a leader.

This article is nothing like the outline to be honest. I have literally written a fluff piece that is full of rambles and bad jokes. I have also written the article that I needed to write. I recognize my mortality and that I need something to keep me goal-oriented and focused on the life that I have. I promise that I will write more about Amazony things in the near future. Give me this one. I think that I needed to shore up my resilience a bit - it’s my blog by the way. And I am fine; just needed to draw on a bit of perspective. It’s boxes, you know.

Lee Flemming is a retired Army Colonel currently working at Austin 2 (AUS2) Fulfillment Center in Pflugerville, Texas as the General Manager. Lee is a 28-year Army Veteran with extensive operations and management experience. The Boots2Amazon series includes regular installments meant to inform and educate Service Members and the public about life after the military and transitioning into employment at Amazon.


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