What About Us?
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”