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.

Advertisements

For my Brother

My brother and I have not seen eye to eye on many different occasions.  There are two that stand out as the main issues of our time.  There is much that we have each gone through that make us different from each other but as brothers we still share some of the same ideals.  That being said I will only go into one of the issues today.

As I have grown and gained much more experience in the past few years I have also gained the ability to see both sides of the story before making the decision on what I feel will lead to the better outcome in any given situation.  I am human and in being such I am at fault in my own ways but we seem to have butted heads on the issue of police more often than not.  As I was reading through some articles today another one popped up that sparked this.  The Sun Sentinel out of Ft. Lauderdale covered a story of a man who received 30K when a video contradicted the police report from the night he was arrested.  This is not the first story of its kind and it is not the last, but it should be.

This video and the comments that I shared as a reaction to this video are what caused the breakdown of our relationship.  I shared that there is an abuse of power and that I wish only once that the police officer that committed these acts would be met with the same amount of violence that they showed.  In response to this comment I got, “it saddens my heart to see you share something like this.”

A little background about myself and my brother, I am a veteran of the war on terror.  My ship flew more sorties before getting to the gulf than any other carrier had in the history of the U.S. Navy.  My brother is a police officer for a large metro area and has been on the force for ~10 years.

The next story that I will highlight is the recent shooting in NYC.  This shooting occurred killing two people and injuring nine others.  The suspect killed an ex-coworker and then fled the scene, two police officers followed and then when the suspect turned to engage police, they fired.  16 rounds were fired at the suspect, killing him and wounding nine bystanders.  This was in no case a mass shooting like we just had in Colorado but a lack of accountability on the officers for not doing the job, we as citizens, pay them for.  And in light of what seem to be daily shooting in America, how are we to expect that these officers will be held accountable for their actions?  we can not.  This fact that we will most likely see these officers get away with this is the one thing that makes me the saddest.  Having the knowledge that my children will grow up in a world that allows people to kill and wound others then walk away simply because they get to carry a gun and badge makes me angry.

This brave new world that we are creating where my children will fear police because of the actions they take rather than look toward them as someone who can help makes me depressed.  Being given the excuse that “I and the others I work with only want to help people protect their property” is one that I am unable accept.  The system is broken and it is admitted to being broken by those the statement was made about.  Working for the system thinking that there is a chance to change things from the inside is absurd.  When the brass from the department gets arrested this should show that there is no chance of change.  When a veteran State Patrol officer uses the excuse “I was not properly trained on Colorado search and seizure laws” and gets acquitted for murder, the system is broken.

There are now organizations that do nothing but try to keep police honest, as if they should need to be watched over like they were a for profit company.  Cop Block is one of the most active and has gained evidence against most major departments.  These organizations are now working on the front lines and gaining respect throughout the community with their tactics of documentation.  Everything from video recording a normal traffic stop to a journalist going undercover recording police and the violence shown through schools.

Now onto the assaults that are occurring against the mass’s.  There have been times throughout our history that civil unrests have been dealt with by means of brutal police actions and the protests that are occurring today are no different.  Just as the water cannons were used back in the 60’s the current police force is using means that are extreme at the least.  From a simple sit-in where the police force use riot cans to pepper spray kids or the most recent abuse of force in Anaheim CA police shootings.  Why do these people, the police, feel that following the orders of their supervisors is justification enough to break the codes that they have sworn to protect.  The military had problems similar to these awhile back and congress found that if an order is unlawful that it is the responsibility of the person receiving the order not to follow said order.  They stated that in the case where a soldier followed an unlawful order they were then required to accept the responsibility and the consequences of that action taken.  I fail to see the difference between military not following an unlawful order and a militaristic police force not following an unlawful order.  There is a lack of accountability on both sides the higher up the chain of command you go.

Re-learning how to survive in a civilian population is not something that is easy to do when coming out the military, there some things that veterans and active duty service members take for granted and one of those is the camaraderie that is felt between your self and the brothers and sisters that you served with.  The same can be said for a police force would be my guess.  I can no speak on this as it is out of my experience.  However, the ability to turn and not see what your brother is doing is an easy thing to do when everyone is close and shares the same experiences.  Taking a step back and spending some time reflecting on the choices that you have made and the actions taken in the name of others has done me well and may do the same for others.

For my brother whom I love, I hope this finds you well and you can gain an understanding of what and or why our issues are no larger than we make them.  In the words of a wise man, “be the change you wish to see in the world.”