There is much talk about the veteran civilian divide. Indeed, there is plenty separating those from Sparta and those from Babylon—to butcher a pair of historical metaphors—but as a writer, I know there’s plenty they have in common, and one thing in particular: their reaction to writers, negative, as it were.
After being accused of sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman while on temporary assignment in Virginia Beach, Petty Officer First Class Gregory Kyle Seerden, 31, of Missouri, had his cell phone confiscated by the he Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
Iraq was the prime mover. Sure, my ex kicked my ass, and boot camp also put my butt into gear. But Iraq was the tipping point. It’s what politicized me. So much so that I have changed my legal middle name
When I left the Army, I confused physical courage with some of the greatest aspects of this country—or humanity, for that matter. I think many veterans share this sentiment, as it’s part of the culture we’ve given so much to.
If a man says he is going to kill himself, we have a straightforward piece of information to work with. If a man is at risk for a fatal disease, like a heart attack or lung cancer, and refuses to change his behavior, how should we consider that?
Adulting is hard. If you have lived on this earth at least forty years or more and engaged in the hopes and failures of this world, you know this. You also know that it takes unexpected kindnesses to make the super hard days tolerable and the next day “get-up-able”. Community is key.
Veteran privilege. This a phrase that invokes a broad range of reaction depending on who the audience is. From bland nonchalance to foaming mouth religious fervor, the American public’s feelings about veteran privilege runs a gamut of emotions. Does veteran privilege exist? Some people would reason that yes; given the advantages veterans have in obtaining government employment, the almost automatic respect veterans are given, and the retail discounts that many corporations are generous enough to offer military warriors, veteran privilege exists in many forms.
Sometime in early ebruary I first came across the phrase " veteran privilege" in a comment on a Blog Entry -- the location of which now escapes me. I was immediately taken aback because I related it to the current references to the phrase, "white privilege," which apparently means that just being white as opposed to anything else confers, in and of itself, and regardless of any other factors, privilege.
Almost everything I own is a result of the war in Afghanistan. My car, my clothing, my guns, my apartment. The income I have invested in stocks, and other financial funds are also because of the war.
The day after the election felt all too familiar. It felt like 9/11. Then, as now, that day only promised a long road ahead. The years that followed, I dreaded a war I felt duty bound to fight.
At a recent writing conference in Manhattan, I lunched with a group of other attendees. They were mostly newly retired women; savvy, professionally accomplished New Yorkers now looking to focus on the book they’d always dreamed of writing. We started talking about our work, and I told the women that my writing centers on the Global War on Terror, with a specific focus on the impact the war has had on the homefront to which our warriors return
I’m not sure if public schools still do this but I remember standing, hand over heart, reciting the pledge of allegiance before the start of class each day. During this period in my life, even in the midst of a crack epidemic that gripped my neighborhood in its jaws like a vise, I loved my country.
In 2013, I volunteered to support a soldier serving in Afghanistan. I am a civilian from a family whose last contribution to any war effort involved fighting Hitler and Tojo, but the lingering ramifications of 9/11 bothered me, in particular the wide gulf between the protected and our protectors.
A transition is defined as movement, passage, or change from one position, state, stage, subject, or concept to another. For over a year, I have been living this definition. Where is my movement directed? Has my state changed, or if it does, will I fully grasp that it has? Conceptually, what does the label “student veteran” mean to me and to others?
If someone were to ask you to define military service in America, you might conjure up images of tough soldiers and marines running into battle in some far flung country; a navy sailor on a submarine, quietly waiting as an enemy vessel passes close by; a pilot being pushed back into their seat by inhuman amounts of pressure as they conduct close combat maneuvers. What doesn’t come to mind is some 20 something year old Coasty leaning off the back of a john boat trying to take a sample of a sheen as it passes through a small creek off of the Passaic River in New Jersey
Long-distance relationships are hard under any circumstances. Add in stress of danger, work, separation of home life, and more (you know, the other stuff that comes from being deployed, not just on a work trip), and it's a scenario that's downright painful. Yet there are plenty of spouses who live this reality every single day.
Back when my husband worked in TRADOC (that's training + doctrine), he told me a story I've never forgotten. It was about a call they got at basic training: a wife called because her husband wasn't getting his mail quickly enough. His drill sergeants had a field day. The man got in a world of trouble, and his mail never came any faster – it simply took as long as it took.
The military life is not an easy one, adding parenthood to the mix complicates it even more. As parents we have a huge responsibility to raise our children to be the leaders of this world and in my opinion, it is our responsibility to expose them to the world, to teach them to think outside the box and to appreciate the little things in life
In today’s world raising children is not an easy feat. There are a lot of external factors that affect parenting styles. Adding the adversities brought on by a military lifestyle complicates everything even more. Our military children are forced to deal with a lot of life challenges at a very young age and it is our job as parents to help them overcome these life stressors and teach them how to be resilient.
My better half thinks my aversion to taking hikes is a little odd. I try not to say much, but for the most part being amongst the splendid silence of nature does nothing for me and even less for my soul—assuming I have one. This isn’t just a function of my relationship with my significant other. Many others have recommended hiking or backpacking to me as a prescription for an obvious illness that I have, and yet which no one can name.
Like any responsible fashion-conscious New Yorker, I follow every luxury retailer on Instagram. It is a hardship to keep up with all of the trends, a social media minefield of knowing things like what is the current it-bag and making sure not to carry it, myself. The goal after all, is to be trendy without being like everyone else.
I decided to go to Barnes & Noble during my lunch break. I usually tell myself I’m just going to browse but wind up spending money I don’t have and adding to an ever-growing unread book pile. During the visit, I picked up Portraits of Courage, a book by former President George W. Bush
“Oh, you were in the Army? I could never do that. I can’t even do a pullup. And, I like to wear makeup.” I might be paraphrasing just a bit, but it’s pretty similar to the response I hear after a new female pal learns that I’m an Army veteran. No questions or curiosity regarding what life in the military is like, just that immediate barrier thrown up between us.
When I was a grunt in the military, I remember our reaction to the now still ubiquitous “Thank you for your service” (TYFYS). It speaks to the element of Sparta that I was a part of that few people around me were not against the war and in the particular unit I was in, to include myself, many were for it. I won’t bother with the anthropological explanation for this phenomena, but I do want to paint the background to our reactions.
As the oldest of four kids, and second oldest of twenty grandchildren, I’ve had my share of opportunities in leading others. Accountability rested on my shoulders. My elders directed their questions to me if we did not complete our chores
Whilst in a heavy dream state, the kind that weighs your head down with pressure, I nearly poked my eye out with my thumb. This awakened me. A reflex reaction, similar to a mosquito bite, or an inner itch in the ear - the jerk surprised me more than the piercing pain.
After much deliberation I decided to leave active duty military service and return to my mother’s home in New York. It was March 2002 and I was an E-5 sergeant and had been one for all of six months. Back in the unit I should still have been considered a buck sergeant but I do not remember ever being called one following the attacks.
I return from an active duty tour to find that my house is no longer my home
I open my door to my house and there is another family living in it
As I sit in a guard tower in a Balkan country, I wonder what my life would be like if I had attended college instead of joining the military. I think of the man I am today, back to the boy I was around seven years ago; who my friends were compared to who they are now; what’s important to me today compared to years past. I often imagine life if I never served.
For the purposes of this story we’ll call him Zach. Zach and I shared the same Battalion but the similarities ended there. I am black and Zach was white. I am from New York City while Zach grew up in the backwoods of the Midwest region of the United States. Our body shapes, the way we talked, what we ate, everything that could possibly be different about two individuals was on display whenever we interacted.
How do I break away from the warrior spirit the Marines instilled in me? As I venture in the civilian world I remember the best and worst times of my life. Serving at the age of 17 was an extreme honor, and regardless of how you feel about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that was the pinnacle of my military service — being a part of the mission, a part of the team, and knowing that I was saving lives.
I’m starring in a movie, and I’m doing nothing but running. I run really hard and long. High and low. I stop to spit out a lung before I completely exhaust myself, but no, I don’t do that. I don’t stop for a single second because I’m in a race and I need to keep running.
It is well documented, and currently widely accepted, that the Vietnam Veteran generation was reviled and abandoned while serving on the battlefield and upon returning home. We were abandoned both individually and institutionally. We were unwelcome in the workplace and on the college campus.
Bridging the gap. A term veterans hear often, and yet we still continue to struggle to understand what it means to serve and what it means to be a civilian. I got out of the Marines in 2014, and after indulging in a lifestyle less than honorable — including working at strip clubs, cutting class and hanging out with less than upstanding citizens — I finally decided that enough was enough, and moved back to Queens, New York. Once I was sober I realized that civilian life was not what it was cracked up to be.
In April of 2000 I came home to my mom from the US Navy after three years of service. Earlier that year I was honorably discharged early but re-enlisted because I wanted to be in service to my country for a while longer. The transition to my new duty station was difficult and when I asked for help, I was given none.
Marine Corps take the wheel,
Take it from my hands,
‘Cause I can’t take this student loan,
I’m letting go,
So give me rank of Lance,
Save me from this road I’m on,
Marine Corps take the wheeeeel.
~ (with apologies to Carrie Underwood)
At first, when asked the question, “What does it means to serve,” it sounds similar to, “Why did you join the military?” “Serving” never occured to me. Escape did.
One steamy night in the summer of 1969, at Marble Mt. Air Base near Da Nang in Viet Nam, a rocket exploded near me and I died. There was screaming, explosions, dust, smoke, chaos; I had no torn flesh, no blood in the dust, but I died.
I was not surprised when I learned that the Marine Corps’ nude-photo-sharing story proved to be just the beginning of an even bigger problem – encompassing all the major branches of the military in a sexual scandal that has rocked the nation. I thought back to the time of my own Army service when a new female colleague’s “hotness” was instantly up for debate and where pornography was enthusiastically collected – “I’m almost at a terabyte!” – especially during deployments.
I refuse to be disgusted or outraged by the revelation this week that thousands of Marines and other military members actively violated the privacy of their “sisters in arms” by posting their naked pictures online without their knowledge or consent. I refuse to default to the usual complaint about the top brass doing absolutely nothing while their subordinates engage in predatory behavior.
When veterans return home from war they are left with physical and mental scars that hinder life significantly. PTSD and TBI are a string of letters that need no introduction in the acronym overdose of military jargon – and these have unfortunately creeped into civilian speak because of the large scale of these issues.
Growing up in the third wave of feminism during the 1980s, girls of my generation were taught that not only were we able to do it all, we were able to do it all without men, and that in fact, doing it without men should be our #1 goal as strong, modern young women.
I knew that the 2016 Presidential Election would be contentious; the change of power in the highest office of global influence always is, especially when there has been a controversial leader in power for two terms and reelecting an incumbent is no longer an option.
Each day in this election season there were articles and stories aplenty that highlighted our veterans and military. It feels like they are being used as a political football these days. It got me to thinking about the new crop of student veterans on campus this fall who are looking to navigate their way through college.
Generally speaking, cities like Chicago, L.A. and New York swing their state in a particular political direction with little to no recourse. The election tomorrow should be no different. What should be different is your level of commitment.