Kenya’s military veterans have long been celebrated for their dedication to serving their nation, often putting their lives on the line to protect their fellow citizens.
However, the transition from a life of service in the armed forces to civilian life can be a challenging and often overlooked journey.
Jacob Ng’etich, born in Kaplamai location in Trans Nzoia county in 1969, began his military journey on May 4, 1990.
Over the course of 14 years and 70 days, he dedicated himself to the Kenya Defence Force, determined to protect his nation from internal and external threats.
His service was not without distinction, as he achieved a Class One certification as a mines and explosive disposal expert while serving in the 10th Engineering Battalion in Nanyuki.
He was not just any soldier; he was a committed paratrooper and a hardworking serviceman, known for his dedication and fair conduct throughout his employment.
Ng’etich’s life took a turn when he was granted permission to participate in various athletic camps in 1999.
“In 1999, I was granted permission to participate in various athletic camps. I joined one in Kapsabet county and later took part in the Kampala International Marathon, representing the armed forces and securing a sixth place,” he said.
Little did he know that his pursuit of athletic excellence would become the catalyst for his troubles within the army.
Upon returning to the 10th Engineering Battalion in Nanyuki, Ng’etich was shocked to discover that he had been marked as absent from work and subsequently confined to the guard room.
The next day, he faced the devastating news of his dismissal, despite his earnest efforts to defend himself.
Leaving the army with only the clothes on his back, Ng’etich faced a stark reality.
His dismissal came without any payment for his work benefits, leaving him and his family in distress.
The burden of transitioning from military to civilian life was exacerbated by the fact that potential employers were often hesitant to hire him once they discovered his military background.
“I once secured a job as a watchman, but the moment the building owner learned of my former military status, he dismissed me without explanation,” he says.
His military expertise, including the skills to handle a gun, did not translate into civilian job opportunities.
He claimed that he had not engaged in any criminal activities to support his family, despite the hardships they faced.
Ng’etich’s dream of rejoining the army led him to participate in cadet recruitment exercises over the years, hoping that the military would reconsider his plight.
However, each time, he was turned away upon recruitment officers spotting the word ‘dismissed’ on his Kenya Armed Forces Certificate of Service.
He questioned the rationale behind the military investing considerable resources in his training, only to dismiss him unfairly.
His certificate of service, which describes his conduct as fair, recommended him for employment by any willing employer, but in practice, this recommendation had not translated into job opportunities.
Currently, Ng’etich depends on an old motorcycle, which was given to him by a friend, for transporting water.
He sells 20-liter jerry cans of water to the town’s inhabitants, pricing each at Ksh15.
“I transport eight jerry cans of water per trip, which earns me Ksh250. Unfortunately, this isn’t enough to support my family of seven children,” Ng’etich said during a Current interview with the Standard.