Welcome Aboard: An essay about leaving the military and joining the transnational world.

Each and every person is different in their experiences and knowledge; however servicemembers’ and veterans alike share a common bond that most civilian will not understand.  Transiting from one life to another is difficult no matter the situation but when you have been taught to do as you’re told and not think, returning home is complicated.  Joining the corporate world as soon as possible may help to ease the transition but is it the best option? For some it may be, for myself it was an eye-opening experience for sure.

Joining the military is something that is often undertaken as a youth and, although most everyone talked to about it says to really think the decision through, we jump without true contemplation.  I can only talk to my experience and a little to those that I have talked with about this but having dealt with students and Truth in Recruiting most stories are quite similar.  Joining the military is an experience that many will agree changed them and the shared experience of Boot camp and reporting to the first command create a culture of close knit comradery that extends beyond time served.  No matter the experiences gained through service one thing is true about all who transition from servicemember to veteran; there are no training programs to teach how to be a civilian again.

As time counts down to the final days attached to the command feeling are aflutter thinking and planning ones return to the life they left before joining.  Returning gear and partying harder than ever before, then when that final day comes and the last signature is put on the service record, which is if you’re not Stop-lossed, you’re given copy 4 of the DD214 and told to have a good day.  The thought of freedom sets in and the idea that one no longer has to shave twice a day to simply stay in regulations dawns and life seems pretty good.

Returning home is a great pleasure and people around town will thank the veteran for their service, only not truly understanding what their job was or what they did in the name or patriotism but they thank them anyway.  If ones lucky then a job will fall into their lap which pays better than the military, hourly at least, and just like leaving your parents’ house for the first time, freedom sets in again and crazy nights follow.  Slowly learning that the people you are spending time with have little in common and can’t even understand that sticking together and taking care of one another is all you know at this point.

Speaking from my experience leaving the military and turning straight to the corporate world was easy, for a while.  Taking advantage of the “tools and skills” that I learned while in the service and how they looked on paper I found myself working for one of the largest service provider in the world of oil and gas.  I was like many still quite brainwashed into believing that the means were justified by the ends.  I felt right at home in the hierarchy and how the system worked listening and doing whatever my managers asked of me.  Striving to make a higher wage and reach the next milestone of status within the organization.

Working hard and showing that I was not just Joe Schmo but that the military taught me how to work and treat others I quickly found myself watching after the managers in all that they did.  Knowing the job of the person below and above you has always come easy but when the lines are pushed and one tells their manager that they can do their job and they are not needed it puts a damper on the moral.  Finding little things wrong with paperwork and having more experience than the manager are not bad things, but voicing them can be detrimental.

Open door policies and handling things at the lowest level are preached in the corporate world as well as on board ship but they are not followed.  There are no shared experiences, communication, and a lack of trust is felt in a workforce that has nothing to bind it together.  Many veterans hold with them a feeling of isolation due to their experiences as well as the token “thank you” received when they come home.  In the corporate world there is little difference, unless other veterans or active reserve members are also working there no amount of explaining can make civilians understand just what we were a part of.  Paying attention to detail will most likely be the trait that moves to the forefront which sets veterans aside in the corporate workplace.  Being able to understand and follow procedures and write them if they are not there proved to one of the few useful skills that transferred into the corporate world in my experience.  Those same traits were the reason why I am where I am today.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that no person should be subject to discrimination in hiring, promotion, or pay due to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.  These laws have been in place for almost 50 years now.  One area that is not covered is discrimination due to military service.  Having the manager call you into a meeting with HR to tell you that “your military background is influencing your thinking and performance to much” is not touchable from a standpoint of the EEOC.  Although this treatment can be seen as discriminatory, abusive, unethical, or immoral there is no protection under the current law that protects the veteran in the workforce. When an action or comment like that is made to a someone who has relied on their training in situations that could never be understood by the person saying them it may tend to make the veteran question what they actually know.  Or think they know.

Questioning the impact of the military experience and how the current culture of America has shifted is a slow process and one that will take a veteran by surprise over and over again.  Finding a reason to break out of the comfortable and into something that is not so is hard but one thing that we share as a community is just what we miss in the civilian world; comradery.  Iraq Veterans Against the War is the community that I truly call home.  Production is seen through the work that we are currently undertaking and shows true resolve and the real character of each and every one of us; weather veteran, active duty, civilian, or supporter.

Solidarity with Afghanistan

In any given situation, if we chose to judge a group of people because they look differently than we do, then we are wrong; the culture is wrong.

I am a veteran of the Global War on Terror and served in support of both OIF and OEF, as such I have come to question the actions that the military has taken in nations such as Afghanistan and Iraq.  Having the opportunity to speak with people from Afghanistan and knowing Suraia personally, has allowed me to understand to a greater extent how my actions and the actions of the current UN forces are having in oppressing the people of these nations.  I am an active member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and I call into question the expansionist ideals and militarist mindsets that are driving the U.S., and consequently the UN, to oppress people of other nations while not focusing on the problems at home.  Peace starts at home in our local communities, not in a distant land forcing others to struggle to survive.  I stand in solidarity with Suraia Sahar, Laila Rashide, as well as Afghan Peace Volunteers.

Luke Daniel
U.S. Navy 2004-2008
OIF / OEF

A poem from APV to IVAW (11/4/12):

Sleepless nights
Wondering if tomorrow will be like today
Futureless,
driving a dirge without music

Lost
On an upside down weighing scale
As if the world were
somewhere else

Even promising young hearts
choose the one doomed road
out of the hundred other
more imaginative ways.

But warm hands from friends
offer a shift
out of stubborn uncertainty,
suggesting that not all men are corrupt.

The changes in your lives,
your decisions to leave the frenzy,
and to tell and to cry,
are revolutionary.

How can we not hope
that the human family will awake
because each of you
worked to preserve love.

This time, I decided to piece together the sentiments of the APVs in the verses below.
Thank you for gathering together in solidarity.

Love and thanks,
Hakim and the Afghan Peace Volunteers

Link to a fellow Afghanistan veterans Statement: Afghan Women

The original story that brought this to light: Remembrance Day protest an insult to Canada’s war dead

The follow-up statement by Suraia and Laila.

UniversiTea with the Humanists Doing Good in Colorado

I had the chance to speak at one of the local humanists events a few months ago.  Below are the topics covered and just a few of the highlights from the conversations that followed.

Military

  • Working with military and veterans
    • There is a difference between military and civilians when it comes to a work environment.
    • Military, from my observations, have a different way and different culture that is ok when it comes to working with others.  Military will expect those around them to know the job they are assigned to do and how to do that job.  We are also trained to understand that we may have to do the job of those above or below us.  Understanding and being able to do the job above yours is what got me into trouble in my current employment.
    • Busy work is despised when it comes to simply filling time.  spending hours cleaning, stripping paint, painting, preparing for war, and so on has build a distaste for needless tasks like re-mopping an area that was just mopped.  In these cases we will tend to work much slower and use that power to show a kind of disrespect toward whomever tasks us with that task.
    • It was brought up that most of what we talked about could be compared to shared experience.  Not only a shared experience type of setting but also the upbringing of each other.  One member stated that his upbringing has played into his discipline in taking care of others.
    • Talking about transiting from one chapter to another, substance abuse is the topic, there has to be some sort of training that will indoctrinate the person as to how to act around others and not become selfish.
  • Differences between civilian and military
    • There are certain things that military have gone through that act as a kind of glue.  When you talk to a vet or active duty member, you know that they have spent time being beaten down and then built back up on the same basic principles.  every member of the armed forces goes through boot camp and that is one thing that most civilians will never understand.
    • For that reason, most military can fight with one another and the next day carry on like there was never an issue.
    • There is an unspoken understanding between veterans and military personnel that should something happen then they will not be left behind or forgotten about.  This will play heavily when talking about a large workload or partying.
    • We talked about one experience that a fellow veteran had where a friend was left at the airport and he had to drive to get him.  He was later accused of drug use because of the drive and lack of sleep that hindered his next day’s performance.
  • Differences between moral or ethical standards
    • What is moral in the civilian world is very different when in a closed system such as the military.  There are many different actions that can and will be taken in the military that would be looked at as unethical or immoral in a civilian stance.
      • Wire brush experience
    • Shared a story about one of my shipmates that chose to never shower or wash his clothing.  The process that we used to change this behavior was to throw him into the shower and attack him what wire brushes.
      • This behavior was allowed and even endorsed by the chain of command.  Dealing with things at the lowest level meant that we were to deal with the issue ourselves and correct that deficiency using any means necessary.
    • The use of ostracism was one of the main tools that we used to correct issues that we were unable to solve otherwise.  One of the most utilized and overlooked of all tools that we were trained in.
    • The cycle perpetuates itself.  crossing the equator or passing through the arctic circle are huge hazing accomplishments.

Transition: Civ to Sol, Sol to Civ

    • The transition going from a civilian to a soldier is one that each member will go through.  Boot camp is something that each of us completes before being called a soldier.
    • Boot camp = breakdown of the civilian and then the rebuilding of the soldier
    • No transition from active to civilian.  When you get out you sign the DD214 and then walk out with just what you are wearing.  All gear is returned and that is the close of that chapter.  There is no training, military feels that it is a waste of time as they do not receive any benefit from the time spent.
  • Organizations for veterans
    • There are many different organizations for veterans.  There are two major problems with the way that they are set up.  Much money is spent on advertising leaving a lack of funding for the actual program.  Or on the flip side, there is no money spent on advertising and an excess of funding at the end of the year.
    • VETS CAFE
    • IVAW
    • Wounded Warriors
    • America’s Wounded
    • Welcome Home Montrose
    • VA Rehab center
    • VA hospital
    • Veterans Court (in the works for mesa county)
    • Voc rehab through VA
  • Reasons for ways of thinking
    • Everything we have already talked about
    • The culture is aggressive and the members are trained to think and act in a certin way that will allow others to learn the ways either by choice or through actions taken against them.
    • Trained to not show weakness.
    • Hazing
    • Physical abuse
    • Mental abuse
    • Ostracism
  • Post 9/11 compared to pre 9/11 veterans
    • PTSD
    • No Gulf War Syndrome
    • TBI
    • Civilian murders
    • First war fought in the streets (urban)
    • MTS

Environmental

  • Community gardening
    • Guy works over 12 plots in Denver (land that is not his but gained the approval to use), he is able to produce enough food for 33 employees and still sell $400 a week at the stand.
  • Guerrilla gardening
    • Using others land to grow food
    • Repurpose land usage to grow food
    • Grow food not lawns
  • Burn scars and the effect they are now having on the communities near Colorado Springs
    • Landowners near Co Springs are needing help with the burn scars.  The city is not willing to help the landowners pay to have mulch laid on the property.  They are laying mulch on the forest.  1600 an acre.  The burn scars have allowed the rain water to create mud flows that have washed out many of the private roads in the area.

I would like to hear the opinions of those in the group about the local police force as well as if anyone feels the nation is heading toward a society that is accustomed to dealing with violence in the community and if that is justification to allow officers to act with current levels of force.

Human Population at its Capacity?

I was asked this question the other day in my environmental science class.  Below is the question and my response

What evidence suggests that the human population has reached its capacity on the planet? How can the health of the environment be measured?

When talking about the world as a whole, this is a huge topic.  I would rather take things down to the lower levels.  Say a family of six lives on 3 acres of land and they are able to provide 80% of the items needed to live.  There is no waste and everything produced is able to be reused or composted, 80% is enough to survive but the standard of living is nothing like what we are used to in the higher developed nations such as the United States.  Say two families of 5 work together on 6 acres and are able to diversify what they farm and trades that they make between them, now both sets of families are able to live at a higher level and sustain for themselves through trade.  Add a third family and the need to have more children goes down but the ability to create a more robust trade system grows.  Now you can have one family that focuses on food, one on cattle, and maybe one that works on other items such as technology.  When gathering as a community the human population can accomplish great things.

Once people are gathered in very large groups is when the balance can be thrown off. Meaning in a large metropolitan area, say New York City, people no longer focus on things needed by the community like food production.  The areas that are not as highly populated are then taken and farmed to produce the food that is needed and shipped to different area.  As technology advances so do things like yield but there will be a point when the vast diversity of crops grown dwindles down to only a few strands of each crop.  When the population of any given area has given up its ability to produce what it needs on its own I believe that they have then passed over the capacity.  As a whole, the planet is on the verge of reaching this level unless people start looking for a way to become more self sustaining where they choose to live.

The health of the environment cannot be measured per say but by any one test or type of test.  There are many different valuables that need to be found and or compensated before a large picture can be drawn for the entire planet.