Writing your next chapter

Bill Molnar has been serving his country for his entire career. He and his family have been stationed across the nation and across the globe. “I did four or five years in Cheyenne. And then I did a year in Korea,” Bill said. “After that, I went to Offutt (Omaha, Neb.) and did seven years between two different jobs there.”

For the Molnars, the Air Force has been a consistent backdrop to their family’s story. In fact, the Air Force has been a part of Bill’s life even before he enlisted. “My dad was active duty for most of my childhood. We actually moved from South Dakota to England, and then back. I talked with a British accent through some of elementary school after we moved back here.”
Bill said.

With his retirement from the Air Force approaching, the next part of Bill’s life is going to stand out from the rest of it as much as his temporary British accent did in South Dakota. So, as he comes closer to the end of his decades-long career in the military, he, like many others before him, is presented with both challenges and opportunities in crafting the next chapter of his life. 

Pursuing your passion

Between the shift in culture and the actual process of leaving the military, transitioning into civilian life can be a daunting task. In preparation, Bill connected with an organization called the Warrior Care Program (Care Coalition), a program from U.S. Special Operations Command that serves people with combat-related conditions. Similar to SkillBridge, this organization helps military personnel who are approaching their retirement by coordinating and facilitating fellowships. 

Service members who are preparing for retirement are matched with a career of their choosing, and then the Warrior Care team contacts that workplace to see if the service member and the employer would be a good match for each other. 

For Bill, he has always had a love of tinkering and fixing things. And Bill sees this passion as more than just a skill. He compared this inclination to how he would take care of his in-laws: “My parents-in-law have a grandfather clock that I would tune for them and get the time running properly every time we would visit them in Dallas. That was how I was able to show them that I cared about them.”

Shifting gears

For Bill’s next chapter, he wanted to combine his love of the mechanical and his love of helping people. So, he sought out a career with a nonprofit garage — an increasingly popular concept in which an organization works to get cars back on the road for people who need them the most. At the time Bill was searching for an opportunity that matched his interest, SHIFT Garage in Rapid City was searching for a new shop foreman. 

“SHIFT exists to help people get back on the road. When we do that, people are able to get to and from work and are able to create those opportunities in their lives,” said Chris Erickson, Director of the SHIFT Garage in Rapid City. “We accomplish that by repairing vehicles for the cost of parts, and we also give away donated cars to people who go through our program.” Chris had been searching for a new shop foreman for 

a few months when someone from Warrior Care contacted the garage. “Bill is the perfect match for us,” Chris said. “He brings a lot of leadership, commitment and mechanical skills to the Garage.” 

For the last few months, Bill has been working at SHIFT, but he’s still active duty. “I’m excused from my regular duties to do this fellowship, so I can learn how to run a nonprofit garage,” he said. “And because I’m still on active duty, SHIFT isn’t allowed to pay me, so whatever my pay would have been for these last few months now gets to be redirected into repairs.” 

 Bill is leveraging his 20 years in the Air Force to craft an exciting next chapter for him and his family. The Molnars couldn’t be more thrilled in what the next months and years will bring. They’re grateful for their time in the Air Force and are grateful for the opportunities that lie ahead. Writing your next chapter is a big step — whether that’s in two years or two months. But, Bill encourages anyone who is considering their post-military plans to follow their passions — the possibilities are endless.