In honor of Veterans Day, we present the second blog, Connecting With Veterans on Veterans Day, of a two-part series by YouCaring interns Kenny Healy and Jacob Sheehan, both active duty military personnel and both second-year students at Stanford Graduate School of Business.
In our previous blog post Nov. 10, we challenged you to build from scratch a new relationship between veterans and society. We believe that listening to the stories of individual veterans is the key to overcoming this challenge. We have identified three ways to do this, outlined below.
Talk to someone in your family or at work who has served in the military. Go to your local Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital and spend time with veterans. Listen to their stories. Ask them what it meant to them to serve their country.
Give to the veterans community. Local organizations in every community do fantastic work to build mutual understanding between veterans and society. We are introducing two fundraisers from organizations that do just that in the San Francisco Bay Area. We appreciate any contribution you can make to these worthy causes.
The first fundraiser is in support of Swords to Plowshares (STP), a community-based, not-for-profit veteran service organization that provides training to Bay Area attorneys to help veterans file legal claims with the VA. This fundraiser focuses on providing additional meals for veterans at STP’s permanent supportive housing facility in the Presidio of San Francisco.
The second fundraiser is to support NPower, a nonprofit that mobilizes the tech community to provide veterans access into tech careers through training and internships.
Serve alongside veterans in your local community in a volunteer capacity. Many veterans have chosen to continue to serving after their time in the military. Get involved with organizations like The Mission Continues, Team Rubicon, Team Red, White & Blue, or Habitat for Humanity to serve alongside veterans.
Veterans Day is a time for reflection. Regardless of whether you talk to veterans or give to veterans causes, we challenge you to reflect on common experiences in the veteran community. We have outlined some themes and issues that weigh on the minds of veterans and active duty service members as a starting point for reflecting on what it means to serve.
Reflections: The Military Experience
The military instills lifelong values. Those who share the bond of wearing the uniform learn the values of respect, loyalty, perseverance, family and sacrifice. Many veterans carry these values with them for the rest of their lives.
People join the military for different reasons. Although many members of the military serve out of a sense of patriotic duty, the reasons for joining the military are often much more diverse. Many join for the educational opportunities, avoiding economic hardship, escaping a family situation, or even as a path to citizenship. Others join purely out of a desire for adventure and excitement for the unknown.
Progress is hard to measure. Military units rotate through combat theaters at a frequent rate, and unit leadership change is constant. Many veterans risked their lives to make a small amount of progress, but that progress can be quickly reversed or simply forgotten. Especially with Vietnam and post-9/11 veterans, it makes reflecting on one’s time in service more complicated and unclear.
Deployments are not according to your schedule. Many veterans joined the military during a period of war in part to test themselves in combat. But being able to control when, where, and for how long you deploy is completely out of your control.
Redeployment results in mixed emotions. Many veterans are relieved to come home from deployment and reunite with family. Homecoming may be one of a veteran’s most significant memories. For others, redeployment can be a shift from playing a significant role in a team and carrying large responsibilities to a job that feels much more mundane and bureaucratic in the U.S.
Reflections: The Transition Out
‘We’ versus ‘I’. The transition from the military to industry can be difficult for veterans, many of whom pride themselves on not selling themselves and to always put the interests of the team first. This conflicts directly with the need to sell your individual attributes and accomplishments during job interviews. However, for organizations that do hire vets, they are likely to have an employee who puts the needs of the team above himself or herself.
Hesitation to talk about personal problems. Many veterans find it difficult to ask for help after spending years helping others. Many veterans fear that by speaking up, they could potentially miss out on the action or let down their team. After service, many don’t want to be viewed as a victim or a burden to the society they served. This makes it even harder to address complex issues like PTSD and suicide among veterans.
We encourage you to listen, give, serve, and reflect on this Veterans Day.
Read the first blog, The Untouchable Veteran, in this two-part series here.