Mark Piatkowski, 23, of Williamsport, recently was honorably discharged from the Army and has returned home after deployment in Iraq. After four years in the service, transition from soldier to civilian life has been a big change for him.
"Up until about a month ago, it hadn't sunk in that I was really out. It still felt like leave," Piatkowski said.
"Having all this freedom makes me a bit uneasy. It's uncomfortable because it's out of your safety bubble. Sometimes I feel a little lost, but then I think it's a good thing," Piatkowski said.
"You enjoy it when you finally get out you have so much free time. At first that's great, but then it's like, 'Whoa, what do I do now?' " he said.
The adjustment has been gradual, as he adapts to seeing his old friends and being in charge of his own time.
"Being in the Army's like having two separate lives. You get used to the productivity and you're busy all the time. You deploy, and it feels like you're part of history," Piatkowski said.
He said it is good to be back in Williamsport, but he does miss seeing his friends in the Army.
"It really is like a family. The Army sucks so much, but you're all going through it together. You'd be surprised how close that can make a group of people," he added.
Piatkowski is trying to find a contracting job oversees, doing private security. He said he misses traveling and experiencing other cultures.
"I liked being deployed. It sucks and you're hot all the time, but you're affecting things on a national level," he said.
"People get lost in these 9-to-5 jobs that they hate. I don't want to do that. I want to do something more purposeful with my life," he added.
Piatkowski originally was drawn to the service because of his desires to travel and make a difference at his job.
"When I went in, I was working third shift at Weis stocking shelves. I didn't want to be stuck doing that forever," he said.
Piatkowski, whose father also was in the service, traveled around extensively as a child. He was born in Greece and learned Greek before English. As a child, his family lived in many countries including Africa and England.
"I went into combat arms because I wanted to see the world, and the Army let me do that," he said.