The 3 Things Veterans Want You To Know

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

1. jobs

2. we want to know people care

3. jobs

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

20 thoughts on “The 3 Things Veterans Want You To Know

    • Thank you so much for sharing and helping our Vets be heard! You know, until I asked, I never knew “industry translators” or mentors were needed. That and more is doable. We owe it to our Vets to help make the transition back a success. The funny part is, by helping them, we wind up benefiting because they have so much to offer.

  1. PTSD has been so rampantly used as a movie/sitcom material that it has ended up with people misinformed about it. In India veterans get jobs pretty easily (esp. in banks and other govt offices) and the respect they command is totally deserving. But there are many low-ranked ex-servicemen who dont get the benefits they deserve.

    • My knowledge of PTSD is limited to what a few troops have shared with me about their own personal experiences. There was a range of severity. What’s amazing is what they’ve been able to accomplish living with it and working through it with their families. I know not every troop is lucky enough to have the support they need. (Here or in your country) I’ll have to learn more about PTSD and do a post on it in the future.

  2. I agree with the assessment of PTSD. It’s the same with autism. So many movies focus on one aspect of PTSD that people get this all-consuming notion that that’s how it is for all soldiers. My BIL has been deployed twice, one to Iraq and once to Afghanistan, and he is well adjusted now that he’s back home. That doesn’t stop the issues at re-acclimation to home life, but it’s not PTSD.

    I’ve seen many events on post designed to assist spouses in transferring their volunteer work into a resume and learning how to make that experience work for them, but I have yet to see a program on post that is set up to explain the transfer of skills from soldier to civilian careers. Certain specializations set you up well for transferring to a civi job, things like EOD transfer fairly easily from what my BIL has been telling us, but others may need more guidance to see how their specific job set can impact future hirings. 🙂

    • I almost changed my mind about adopting a soldier because of the impressions I had of PTSD from the media. I was concerned what I might be getting myself into. If I stopped then, the rest of this journey would’ve never happened. I wonder if any good documentaries have been done on PTSD. If not, there is clearly a need.

      I thought Tom was right about mentors or “translators” in different fields. After reading what you said about the programs on base I now think he is even more right. I’m hoping to speak to him again about it. If we come up with a brilliant solution, I’ll post it 🙂

  3. Those are very interesting replies, especially about jobs and PTSD. There’s a real push for veteran job assistance; hopefully, that will pan out. I took care of a 91 year old WWII vet today who’s still sharp as a tack. He was among the first American soldiers to come upon the concentration camps near the end of the war. I always enjoy hearing vets’ stories.

    • Helena, I think there is an increased push for Veteran job assistance. Especially over the past few years. My impression is that the logistics/mechanics of that push have not yet caught up with the need of Vets or the goodwill of civilians. I think awareness or mentoring programs could help in that regard.

      Knowing how kind you are with your patients, I’m happy that Vet crossed paths with you. Happy that he is still “sharp as a tack” and able to share the history he lived through.

  4. We so agree with you! Thanks for the post, and liking our Be the Change post….When it comes to returning the favor (read: sacrifice) to our Veterans, we are of like mind!!

  5. Jobs are a huge concern, especially for soon-to-retire (in four years) veterans like my husband – his military career doesn’t translate to the civilian workforce. In the past, guys like my husband would slide right into a contractor job, but those are diminishing. He’s already wanting to find something now, but no one can hold a position for four years LOL 🙂

    • I think it’s smart that he’s thinking about what’s next. Although 4 years is kind of long to hold a position 🙂 The troops I’ve gotten to know have a variety of career fields. But when someone at my old job asked what I thought of hiring vets, I said, “It would be awesome because my guys get sh*t done” In my world, I think that best translates to film/television production. Producers make things happen and there’s a ton of logistics. But I have no idea what it would translate to in other fields. That’s why I thought Tom’s comment about mentors was so interesting. Maybe construction is best for your husband, but it would be nice to have options. More mentors in more industries could help with that. I wish you both the best of luck and thank you both for all you do!

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