Before the Veterans Day Parade in NYC, I asked a few Vets this question: What three things do you want civilians to know? I spoke to some Vets that were there with IAVA (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America) and a Vietnam Vet. These were not in-depth interviews as there was an impending parade. You’ve heard of speed-dating? This was a speed-survey. But I got a lot for investing just a few minutes.
Tireak, Marine Corps Veteran
1. We need a hand up not a handout. We’re proud.
2. We’re normal. Don’t be afraid to learn about Veterans
3. Tom Hanks had an interesting idea about service in a speech he made at Yale. He talked about our years of service and challenged them to match that service by helping Veterans transition from soldier to citizen.
I pulled this excerpt from Tom Hanks’ speech:
We all will define the true nature of our American identity, not by the parades and the welcome home parties, but how we match their time in the service with service of our own….Give it four years, as many years as you spent here at Yale, in acts both proactive and spontaneous and do the things you can to free veterans from the new uncertainty that awaits them.
Lyndsey, Army Veteran
1. Please don’t forget the family. I get a lot of thanks. That doesn’t recognize the strength this takes for our family members.
2. Not everyone has PTSD.
Lyndsey mentioned trying to do a project at work involving soldiers. It was not embraced for fear that “something might happen” because of PTSD. She felt this was an inaccurate perception and an overreaction.
3. Take advantage of our leadership skills. Capitalize on our service. We can handle stress and deadlines. We already have.
Moses, Marine Corps Veteran
1. We’re still people. We’re human, not robots. I still yell at the TV during the game. My Giants are killing me. (NY Giants lost that day)
2. We’re not helpless. We’re used to leading and we love to serve.
3. Serve with us. You see Vets doing Team Rubicon, helping with Hurricane Sandy. Involved in giving back in so many ways. Serve with us in the community.
Matt, Air Force Veteran
1. We’re very motivated. We continue to serve in different ways after [our military] service.
2. “Thanks” goes a long way. When I travel I shake the hand of someone in uniform….I know it meant something to me.
3. Employing a Veteran is the best decision you’ll ever make. They’ll be the best employee you ever had.
Maria, Army Veteran
1. Embrace PTSD as normal. It’s not a stigma. It’s normal to be different. Handling this kind of stress can take even greater strength.
2. Employers shouldn’t think we are without experience because we don’t have industry experience. Our skills are transferable.
3. I would also say more support for the families.
Tom, Vietnam Vet
2. we want to know people care
ME: Okay Tom, everyone wants jobs. Could you be more specific about what Veterans need?
TOM: We need mentors in different fields. Vets often don’t know how the skills they have acquired translate to a specific industry. Personal attention makes a difference. I organized a job fair but kept it small so they got personal attention.
A few more voices
This is obviously not the entire list of everything Veterans may wish to share. (Also I’m missing Navy and Coast Guard here) but maybe it’s a conversation starter. I didn’t speak with Paul Rieckhoff who leads IAVA, but I heard him say three things that day that stood out to me so I’m adding them in.
1. Vets aren’t a charity, we’re an investment.
2. We’re not a problem, we’re the solution.
3. Make every day Veterans Day. Put them on the frontlines of your company.
One day closer
Almost all of my volunteer work has been for deployed troops. But each day, every one of them gets one day closer to completing their service. To becoming a civilian again. They will be shaped by their experiences. Some will have scars both seen and unseen. But whatever their individual story, I hope they will find the support they need to come home and thrive. Last, but of course not least, thank you to all our Veterans and their families.
© Gina left the mall, 2012