RTFU

What About Us?

By
Updated: August 24, 2012

By RU Contributor – Yeti

I recently came across a question posed by Ranger Up on 18 August 2012. They asked “What do you think is the biggest issue facing veterans?” It was great to read some of the 258 responses and I agreed with a lot of them. The most popular answers were issues with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), help with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and support in the civilian job market.

But the more I read and had time to think about the responses, the more upset I got with this generation of veterans and active duty Soldiers. Issues with the military in the last 10 years have been front page news. PTSD became a common acronym in America and suicides are getting worse every day. No one knows what the answer is and everyone seems to have an opinion.

Well, here is my opinion. Take it for what it’s worth and understand that this is not meant to be a bash piece or a “suck it up” solution. Also, before anyone throws out the argument of “this guy is probably a POG (person other than grunt) and doesn’t know what happens in combat,” let me tell you that I deployed to the Kornegal Valley and I experienced the unfortunate suicide of a squad leader and the effects it still has today on his friends and family. I have seen my fair share of combat but other Soldiers have seen much more. I don’t claim to be broken beyond repair or perfect by any means.

When it comes to PTSD (or should I use the new phrase of PTS), the best analogy I heard was “Anyone and everyone can suffer from Post Traumatic Stress. It can be because of a car accident, a firefight, or watching your friend die. Think of it as weight loss… we could all stand to lose 5 lbs (light PTS), but some of us are clinically obese (severe PTS).” We need to understand that everyone handles situations differently and I would be affected by a catastrophic IED more or less than the guy next to me. For this reason, PTS can never be taken lightly and should be handled by the individual in their own way. We all need to look in the mirror and find the appropriate solution.

However, when I hear someone say “the Army won’t help me with my PTS” I have to ask the question: “What are YOU doing to help yourself?” At a certain point we need to fix ourselves and help our brothers (and sisters). Quit running to the doctor for more medication each time you feel a little down. Rather, go to the gym, grab a beer (not 30) with a friend and talk, find a hobby that brings you joy. Sometimes Soldiers also take advantage of the PTS diagnosis because it is the easy way out. There is no reason someone should bog down the already over used VA with a claim of PTS because they heard a loud boom.

When it comes to the VA I have mixed feelings. I’m grateful that the resource is there to help so many. But veterans expect a perfect system. They expect to find the cure within the walls of a hospital. Please understand that the VA is severely broken in the sense that they are busy and overused. The majority of their employees have never served in the military so they might not know the solution. But they are working everyday to improve to help everyone they can. Remember this next time you make an appointment and you are put on hold for 45 minutes, or when they give you a prescription for anti-depressants and send you on your way. Be patient and help find a solution. Maybe talk with other veterans in the lobby and suggest a support group rather than another appointment with the same doctor that told you to “up your dosage”. Need more proof that the system is overused? Try and refill a prescription at any military base in America and count the number of retirees sitting in the lobby.

Famed journalist Tom Brokaw coined the term “The Greatest Generation” for Americans that grew up during the Great Depression, fought in or supported World War II, and then returned to rebuild America into a superpower. They put down their rifles and picked up a hammer. I know they had issues as well, but they dealt with them and overcame the obstacles. In fact, their issues might have been worse than ours because of the lack of knowledge/resources available at that time. They basically suffered in silence yet still accomplished greatness.

What about us? How will history remember OUR generation? The trend that I’m seeing is that we entered the military after 9/11, got beat up, and now we are returning to the civilian sector jaded. We have a chip on our shoulder. All I hear is veterans talking about PTS and the VA screwing them over, not finding a good job, and expecting the Government to give us what we deserve. We shouldn’t be remembered as “The Entitled Generation.”

First of all, I don’t trust politicians. They have a difficult job but something about the system ruins good people. If they promise to work on veteran issues, I believe that they are concerned but I also understand that there is only so much they can do. Is it right? No, but that’s the world we live in. The Government has enough programs in place to ASSIST individual success. However, to expect them to give us a handout is asking too much. If you don’t like it, do some research and get involved. Run for office, work on a campaign, or write a letter and suggest a reasonable solution. Don’t get on Facebook and bitch about POTUS… that does nothing.

We all joined the military knowing what to expect, especially those that joined after 9/11. If you didn’t research the benefits and consequences of military service before signing that contract then shame on you. The government never promised me a job after my time in the Army… but I knew going in that it would help and benefit me as a person and it would help set me up for success. I’ve always said that the military will help or hurt. For those that do the right thing and take advantage of the benefits and training, the sky is the limit. But the trend I’m seeing is that more and more Soldiers get bitter and find an excuse as to why the military and the deployments ruined their life. Let me clue you in on reality… the military did not ruin your life, you did it to yourself. Some of the problems you are facing aren’t veteran problems… they are LIFE problems.

When I said earlier that veterans have a chip on their shoulder, it ties back into the sense of entitlement. Please understand that I despise our peers that Occupy Wall Street, protest military funerals, or can’t find Afghanistan on a map as much as you. But just because I volunteered to deploy doesn’t give me the right to walk over them. This goes back to the consequences of military service and knowing that we will never be accepted in every circle of society. The next time you are sitting in class or you start a new job and someone asks “Have you ever killed anyone” just smile and move out. You can’t argue with stupid. Just succeed quietly and know that they will never understand.

My goal is for this generation to be remembered as a population that stepped up when others didn’t. We volunteered when others hid. But that’s only half the battle. Now is a critical time in our history that will shape the rest of our lives and the future of America. Are we going to roll over and be known as men broken by war? Or are we going to sack up and inspire the next generation?

Don’t forget what we have already accomplished. We fought 2 of the longest wars in American history while our peers protested. We sacrificed our families and friends for round two… or three, or four. We dealt with a new type of fighting and adapted to daily changes in the battle, changing the future of warfare. All of this with budget cuts, greedy politicians/contractors, and an apathetic media.

I believe that the media has way too much power and influence in this country. They dictate how we are portrayed and they choose to tell our story. We should be telling our own story and not allow the media to paint us as victims. They run some heartfelt stories but I think that can hurt our image sometimes. Ever notice how even the “nice” stories involve a struggling veteran?

Now is the time to prove that we can change the future. We can prove to America that our generation is not a “one trick pony” that can only succeed in combat. Wear your unit shirts when you volunteer for Team Rubicon or Habitat for Humanity and spread the word that veterans are an asset. We have been shown more support for our profession than other generations before us, and we need to “pay it forward”. Remember all those care packages you got when you were deployed? Then send a care package to a homeless shelter, or an orphanage. Let them know that as a veteran, your service doesn’t end when you take off the uniform. We committed to protecting America, but do something to improve America every day.

We have the potential to RUN this country in the next 10-20 years. There should be a veteran in every corporate boardroom, on every city council, and in all political campaigns. This year is the first Presidential election since 1932 that neither major party’s ticket will include a veteran… and it should be the last.

Everyone has heard the term “stay in your lane.” Well, it’s time we stay in our lane and fix veteran issues together. Who cares if Civilians do not understand? Make them understand that the stigma of combat veteran can be rewritten. Go above and beyond in every endeavor. Lets rally to save ourselves and America the only way we know how… adapt and overcome.

RU has done a great job with a series of shirts that sum up the attitude we all need to embrace. But my favorite is “Good things come to those who WORK their asses off and NEVER GIVE UP”

 

 

 

Comments

comments

27 Comments

  1. Drew Z.

    August 24, 2012 at 2:51 am

    I won’t comment specifically on PTS, since I am not a doctor and don’t personally suffer from it. IMO I think people could be more proactive as well, but I don’t really know so I tend to keep that opinion to myself.

    The other issue you bring up, people bitching about their situation but not really doing anything effective to change it is the bigger problem. It is symptomatic of the larger attitude that is swiftly outpacing all others right now. I do blame the government for fostering this mentality. Both major parties are now embracing big government and claiming to have all the answers to our problems.

    The nightly news readers have given alot of face time to protestors but neither the protestors nor the media have ever bothered to examine whatever issue is the root cause and fix that.

    It is analogous to our current healthcare system as well. Many doctors are more than willing to diagnose you over the phone and call in your rx to the local drugstore, and people think that is great service. In reality it sucks, and amounts to nothing you couldn’t find on Ask.com only with a drug pad, but people don’t care if you fix the problem, they only are concerned with alieviating symptoms.

    The so called Greatest Generation grew up having to be resourceful and hardworking. They also had to take care of their property because it was not easy to replace. I was born in the 70’s and things were much easier. Today most everything you buy is too cheap to last, but most of us have enough money we don’t care. I know people who have never seen 100k miles on their odometers, they don’t keep cars long enough. Things have been so easy for so long many people don’t know how to handle any kind of hardship without meds.

    It seems like everyone is afraid of everything and expects the government to keep us safe, even from ourselves. There is an entire culture that strives to be victimized, whether their aim is a lawsuit or attention, or maybe they just blow little insults out of proportion because they have all the needs taken care of I don’t know. I only know the attitude in this country is not good right now, and I don’t see it getting any better next year either.

    Today’s uniformed grew up in the same environment as the Wall Street squatters, so really we shouldn’t expect more from them. Except we do and in large part they deliver. The part of their personality that drove them to Serve makes them fundamentally different. Never-the-less today’s military and new veterans comprise a very large number of people, so some are bound to be different.

    And too be honest, asking 19 or 20 somthings to do 2 or 3 or 4 tours while nobody at home seems to actually give a crap, lose your family because you are gone too long, come home a little scarred up and no decent job prospects and no money…can you blame them?

    • Haole Wahine

      August 28, 2012 at 5:29 pm

      Well thought out. I especially like the “people don’t care if you fix the problem, they only are concerned with alieviating symptoms” and “Things have been so easy for so long many people don’t know how to handle any kind of hardship without meds” comments.

      In answer to “can you blame them?”; yes, I can blame them. Having been a military wife during the Viet Nam War era, I can blame them. We were 19 or 20 year old somethings, and my husband served 5 years of continually boomer sub patrols (home 3 month, patrol 3 months with family hearing nothing from them — for 5 years); and not only did no one at home care, but they went out of their way to denigrate us a “stupid” and worse. So, yes, I can blame them. I recognize most of your points being legitimate, But, yes, I see too many rising above the same situations, so YES, I hold each individual accountable for their own actions.

  2. Mr. Twisted

    August 24, 2012 at 10:41 am

    Fantastic article, especially the last half.

    One caveat, however. The suicide rates among WWII veterans has actually been quite high and vastly under-reported. Though they certainly suffered in silence, as the saying goes, it would seem that many of them paid for doing so.

    This right here was money, though:

    “Don’t forget what we have already accomplished. We fought 2 of the longest wars in American history while our peers protested. We sacrificed our families and friends for round two… or three, or four. We dealt with a new type of fighting and adapted to daily changes in the battle, changing the future of warfare. All of this with budget cuts, greedy politicians/contractors, and an apathetic media.

    We have the potential to RUN this country in the next 10-20 years. There should be a veteran in every corporate boardroom, on every city council, and in all political campaigns. This year is the first Presidential election since 1932 that neither major party’s ticket will include a veteran… and it should be the last.”

    More need to hear that.

  3. Will Black

    August 25, 2012 at 2:05 am

    I agree with this article. A buddy from my last tour and I were talking about how we’re among the very few from our unit that got out and are not claiming PTSD and disability. It’s become common, like it’s owed to you. So many of my Army buddies tell me “you did three tours, go get your disability rating.”

    I served, I’m proud I served, I wouldn’t change a damn thing about any of my experiences. I think I’m better for having served. I did face discrimination when trying to find a job because of my vet status, but I didn’t bitch and cry, I kept on. Now I work for myself, making decent money, applying the work ethic and drive I learned from the military.

    This country only owed me GI Bill money when I got out. Any problems I face outside of that I can handle on my own. If I could handle not having the right equipment, enough rest time, or decent fucking food in Iraq, I can handle a bunch of retarded civilians and a shitty job market.

  4. O'Brien

    August 26, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    As far as I know the Marine in the first pic smoking is a Pike Co Kentucky Native. He committed suicide after he got out.

  5. able34bravo

    August 26, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    I agree with this article to an extent. I have gotten help for my PTSD issues because I was proactive about it, I hounded the VA endlessly and when they wouldn’t help, turned to civilian groups to advocate my case to the VA until they finally had to help. I recently had one of my former soldiers move in with my wife and I, and I’m helping him do the same- and another of my former soldiers is looking to do the same.

    Others don’t or won’t do this. It could be because they don’t know any better. I was in the Army for 10 years, and saw a vast difference in the maturity and in the knowledge held by our NCOs. Soldiers today don’t know of the options available to them because they’ve never been taught to look or ask. All they know is “authority figure says no, so I’m stuck”.

    I think the waiting for the government to fix it comes from the idea that we got these problems while in the employ of the government. If they are going to take me and make me into a finely tuned killing machine (or finely tuned paperwork machine, or whatever), then they are responsible for what happens when they’re done with me. Unfortunately, just as was said in this article, the government isn’t going to help us all.

    As for the job market, I was unemployed for 18 months after I got out of the Army. I can say from personal experience that I got call backs on 80% of the resumes I sent out in which I left out military experience (despite the ten year hole in my work experience). Invariably during the course of the following interview, they’d ask what I did for those ten years, I would tell them, and the interview would abruptly end. On the resumes I sent out with my military experience, I only got call backs on about 15% of them, and those were all door-to-door sales jobs with high turnover rates and did not have regular pay. I just had to keep looking until I finally found somebody that would hire me despite my exemplary military record.

    Sadly, military experience is a liability these days, and that’s something the government can’t fix.

    • Haole Wahine

      August 28, 2012 at 5:51 pm

      I appreciate reading that you are helping others with the info/experience of navigating the system. God bless you all.

      I do disagree with your statements that the begin with something like “the govt (insert verb)”. While I agree with the govt being the system we have in place with to provide most of these services, I would say the government does not owe anything. Americans are the ones who have the debt. We owe all of you, your comrades, and families a debt we can never hope to fully repay. Making sure “the government” acts as our agent to keep the promises WE have made must happen. Not sure of all the how we do that, but I do what I can by making sure all TEXAS Vets know what TEXANs have charged our representatives to supply for the needs of our VETs. Again, God bless all of you.

  6. Sinist3r

    August 26, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    I agree with most of what you said, getting out, and getting active is a major benefit to any returning soldiers mental health. Hike, Bike, Mountain Bike, Climb, White Water Kayak, Run, do whatever you enjoy, it will help you stay physically fit,it will keep you mental fit. Besides the endorphin release you get, most everyone feels better when we are physically fit.

    That being said, I will still get on Facebook and bitch about Obama. Not because of what he’s not doing for me, but because of what he’s trying to do the country. Sorry, you won’t dissuade me from that.

  7. Sapper John

    August 27, 2012 at 12:54 am

    One of the biggest complaints that I heard from other Veterans about the VA system is that “none of the people there are Vets…how in the hell do they know what I went through”? So I did something about that. Tomorrow is my first full semester in college in SOME time. I am a Social Work major with the full intention of receiving a Masters of Social Work in order to become a counselor of Combat Veterans at the Vet Center or within the VA system. So I’ll spend 3 or 4 years in college to get a job making about 70% of what I was making before. I am so freakin’ excited about the opportunity to help other Soldiers that the “challenges” of school or the drop in pay I will receive seem like a small price to pay. So that’s what I’m doing. Who’s with me? BTW, of the 44 accepted into the BSW program this semster there are only 3 men. Haven’t really worked with that many women before in either the Army (12B) or civilian world (trucking), so it should be…interesting.

    • Haole Wahine

      August 28, 2012 at 5:54 pm

      Good choice. God bless you with your goal.

  8. RYDAH

    August 27, 2012 at 2:55 am

    Well said,YETI! My sentiments mirrors yours! RANGER-the-f**K-UP!

  9. Brendan Doran

    August 27, 2012 at 7:28 am

    Author is right that there need to be vets in leadership positions everywhere: because we’re the last group I see that have a true sense of duty and sacrifice, the last moral cohort. EVERY other American Profession, Office, Clergy, any position of trust has been compromised and is openly for sale. So apparently the fates have spoken that we shall have no rest. So be it, accept our Fate. Duty will certainly distract our minds.

    • Haole Wahine

      August 28, 2012 at 5:57 pm

      It saddens me to read your comment. I am so sorry that your experiences have jaded your outlook. Yes, continue with your sense of duty, and please accept my gratitude and prayers for the good your sense of duty has done for me and my family.

  10. pdubble

    August 27, 2012 at 8:29 am

    I protested the wars before I signed up. I signed up because I still felt that my country needed people to ensure we didn’t lose on a bad decision or two. I don’t like the line about volunteering while peers protested. I don’t think protesting is a sign of weakness. I think apathy is.

    This piece has something I think that can go further. The greatest generation came back from WWII and presided over a huge growth in the middle class, the space race and an economy that remained strong until the majority of that generation started dying off. The volunteer ethic that “we’re all in this together” was never lost until they became too old to be a large part of our society. We can be that next greatest generation if we would take the camaraderie we learned and have and apply it and ourselves to reestablishing the dominance of the US.

    I know PTSD and war wounds are big issues. They will always be big issues, but if we don’t give this country the leadership it has been lacking for the last 20+ years it’s going to have been all for nothing.

    • Haole Wahine

      August 28, 2012 at 5:59 pm

      God bless, and continue on with your leadership.

  11. Jim Davey

    August 27, 2012 at 8:42 am

    Splendid commo reflecting the positive “can do” attitude that has always formed the backbone of our nation’s response to difficulty.

  12. Derrick Johnson

    August 27, 2012 at 10:05 am

    I am a licensed psychologist, and I assure you that this issue is not being addressed adequately or correctly.

    What is PTSD? It’s a catch-all phrase that is meant to capture the entire spectrum of reactions from people to physical and/or psychological trauma.

    Issue 1: Our families, and the “set up” that kids get (and have gotten) from their parents figures prominently in how well, or poorly, an individual will deal with traumatic events. Think of it this way. If a child learns dysfunctional ways of coping with life, and learns to apply only childish rules to live by in relationships… what is that child ultimately going to perpetrate and experience themselves?

    Answer: They will merely live with, and within, the paradigm they were taught by their parents. We all come from some level of dysfunction, simply because none of us are perfect.

    Issue 2: American’s are far less capable of demonstrating resilience and psychic strength… due to issue #2.

    I’m a 20 Army veteran (having served both enlisted and commissioned officer time), and I have had a lot of time to examine all of this. If you have questions, pleaes contact me and I’ll be happy to provide more information.

    • Yeti

      August 27, 2012 at 10:42 am

      Dr Johnson,
      I’d love to talk with you about this and this article. What is your email?

      • KatieK

        August 28, 2012 at 9:17 am

        I also would love to join this dialogue. I am an Army psychologist currently deployed for the 2nd time to N2KL. Yeti – how do I get in touch with you?

        • RU Rob

          August 28, 2012 at 9:24 am

          Katie…you just did. I am forwarding your email to Yeti.

    • Haole Wahine

      August 27, 2012 at 12:09 pm

      Derick Johnson — I would like to set up a dialogue. Please contact at email [email protected]

  13. mark

    August 27, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    I do agree with some of the things that was said about this issue. First and formost nothing is handed to you. You have to work hard and fight for everything. Just because we were in the military does mean we are automatically given a free pass. As the one person said ptsd effects people differently. Just because a person didnt see war time, death, bombs, killing or gun fire doesnt mean he or she doesnt have ptsd. If you think of what ptsd mean its a tramatic event that has scared you emotionally. The person could of had a horiffic time in their shop, raped, beat up,threatend, teased. These are all things that could have a tramatic effect on a persons life. Its easy for someone to say just suck it up,shut up and just color, grow a pair. I know people have seen death, killed someone and even ran someone of the road. Some of these people can handle it but than again some may not. The point is we are not computers and we act different in every way. Take responiblity for your own care. Dont let someone give you a low ball rating. Call the Va as many times as needed to get the rating you deserve. The Va wants you to except their first offer. They dont want you to go back to the doctors and ask questions. They want you to give up. Their is far to many vet not getting what they deserve. I went do a job fair in norfolk, va. that turned out to be a lunch-in for vets. I talked to many vets that were in vietnam, homeless and recieving nothing from the Va. Their is no reason their should ever be a homeless vet in america. Now on the other side of the coin. I have met many vet who think they deserve special treatment just because they were in the military. I am all for helping vets out but if they just want to live off the Va and not be productive people they have another thing coming. Get off your ass and find a job. If you cant dont give up and sit home and become more depressed. There are opportunities out there for vet and all you have to do is fight to get them.

  14. Lovey

    August 28, 2012 at 11:40 am

    This is why guys like Nick, and the others at RU are success stories. They didn’t depend on “a job” to appear or work for them, or on the government to come in and rescue them. They went out and made it happen. Guys like that, who take responsibility for themselves and their well-being, who take responsibility for making an opportunity for others to succeed, and who MAKE their own future by going out and creating it instead of waiting for it to be handed to them– those guys are the success stories, the two-front heroes of this war generation. They were heroes in their service, and they’re heroes in the civilian sector. That’s what America was built on, and that’s what will insure her survival through this entitlement generation.

    Excellent, excellent article.
    LL~

  15. SFC (ret) smith

    August 29, 2012 at 4:43 am

    I had a soldier in my battalion committed suicide. I Saw him that Morning I was getting off that morning from Retirement Staff Duty and he looking like he had a bad day. We talked a little and some one had been looking for him for a work order. That was a Friday. The next Monday I heard he had died of and alleged suicide. People are not made to kill people are process mutilated bodies all the time. They have soldiers that specialize in those area’s. The Armies budget and the former presidents attack on Iraq with false intell for gas put soldiers in a bad position. They all became infantry regardless of mos. The also became mortuary affairs and every kind of other jobs they were not trained to do. The people that do those jobs sometime enjoy it. This put alot of people at high risk and caused lots of unnecessary deaths. It is cool as long as you are hyped up and in the fight but once you are out of the combat zone you get daily reruns of what happened from sleep to wake up and back to sleep if you ever get any sleep. The dreams and night mares never end. The psychologist try to compare themselves to you with their little life issues and also talk to us sometime more about their problems and should be paying us. I take some fishing to help relieve the stress and talk soldier to soldier while fighting the big ones. Losing a soldier as a drill Sergeant and a plt,squad leader, and peers is like losing a son/daughter,brother/ sister/brother and sometimes like father and uncle when your leader die in battle. This is loosing family and civilians think that we are broke if we can’t go back to life and business as usual. They need to be educated because they only make it worse by judging and shunning us like we are some kind of bacteria. The Va works at trying to say they fixed you to either keep you from getting benefits or trying to take the back. We have a battle on every side and it is time for those we served and protected to step up and help end some of the unnecessary battles that we are fighting because they are a part of them or looking the other way when they could stand up.

  16. SPC Jackwagon

    September 3, 2012 at 5:40 am

    My dad did 20 in the Navy and has recently been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. The VA is doing good things to help him get the care he needs as he begins the slow decline that will inevitably come.

    That’s what the VA is for: if you’re in need, to give you a lift and get you back on your feet. Once you’re back on your feet, charlie mike. We veterans are resourceful enough to find work in some field or another. We know how to work hard, long hours without complaining and do a damn good job at whatever we’re going to do when we get there.

    After my time in service is over, I’ll probably end up in foodservice. My MOS has me behind a desk at work, but I know how to deal with pissed-off people who want something. We know how to work with people in the absolute worst environments possible, and still get shit done.

    I’m sure I have a mild case of PTS. Ever since November last year, my right hand shakes and I tend to space out every so often. But I have gotten better at accepting it and carrying on. The writer is right in saying that a lot of us have it in some form or another, even if it isn’t the ‘wake-up-screaming/sweat-soaked-sheets’ kind. Any work that has you seeing death in your day-to-day work will get inside your head sooner or later, just like it got to me.

    Regardless of POTUS and the rest of those we elected into office, I fully believe that our skills of hard work and dedication of purpose can help our country out at any level. Even if we don’t all get elected into office and work at the Capitol, plain hard work will always help a situation more than throwing money at it. Most people nowadays are just not willing to get down in the dirt, roll up their sleeves, and sweat from sunrise to sunset. Veterans are. Except for the Air Force …

  17. SgtKevadrin

    October 17, 2012 at 8:46 am

    I wholeheartedly agree and am inspired by this article. I would like to know if anyone has decided to try to work with VFW or any of the other vet orgs to help spread the word, lets sack up and work on ourselves. Lets get ourselves fixed from within.

    There are enough of us around, can we not formulate a plan to share this, before and after we get out?

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