Everything about life after war had changed, and not in the super-awesome ways they include in the recruiting commercials.
My husband hadn’t left the house much – beyond his near marathon distance midnight runs – since returning home. He’d occasionally go to the gun range or check on our horses, but had avoided any type of group or people activities. Even our “wedding” was just him, me, and the minister.
Three weeks after my husband’s return from war, my college friend invited us to attend a dinner party at her new home. I RSVPed an ecstatic “YES!”, and begged my husband to join.
We showed up to my friend’s professionally decorated new home, and enjoyed appetizers that included fresh tuna her husband has caught on a recent deep seas excursion in the Gulf of Mexico. My host and her husband entertained the dinner guests with story after story of their recent vacations – Cancun, Hawaii, Destin, NYC.
About a half hour in, I could tell my spouse was getting extremely agitated. His face was turning red, he continued to position himself where no one could come up behind him, he walked outside “for some air” half a dozen times, and…was that a…yes – he was packing a 9mm to a dinner party!
Our hosts’ let it slip that while they were 28 and 34, respectively, they did not own their home nor were they on the hook for their two doctoral degrees. Their parents had financed both their residence and educations; hence why neither of them had full-time jobs.
My husband exploded into a tirade of, “What the hell…! How can you call yourself a man?! Do you have any f---ing idea what’s going on in the world right now?! People are DYING!”
While our hosts were sunning themselves on Mexican beaches, my husband had witnessed innocent Afghan women and children being blown to pieces by their own people. He’d been involved in multiple fire fights, bombings, and was grieving the sacrifices of his brothers and sisters in uniform.
We left the dinner party. My college fried texted me the next day that she found my husband “offensive” and felt it was best if we no longer did things together.
Such started our long journey of societal outcasts.
Many civilians have a difficult time understanding what our soldiers and their families go through during a time of war. For many, the limit of their exposure is catching a bombing headline, or glancing at the day’s death toll on the 6 o’clock news. The war may be going on, but it doesn’t affect any part of their lives.
During World War II, civilians and military were united in efforts. Those manning the home front worked in ammunition factories, experienced rations, and planted Victory Gardens. Almost every family in America had someone stationed overseas during this period. Such united participation helped to “bridge the gap” between civilian and military.
The Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) was different. Civilians enjoyed the luxury of being completely unaffected by what was happening in the Middle East. With less than 1% of our population serving in the armed forces, many families’ lives were left untouched by the conflict.
Such disconnect between civilians and military manifests as communication and relational issues.
Civilians feel the military member’s views on current events and personal responsibility are offensive and rude.
Military members feel the civilians’ expressed attitudes towards their experiences are disrespectful, and in the words of a favorite veteran, “everything that’s wrong with our country.”
Connecting Our Communities
Bridging the gap between civilians and military is really, really important.
For veterans and their families dealing with the realities of post-war life, being disconnected from their community exacerbates an already challenging time. These brave men and women need our support.
If you know of a veteran or military family member in your community, reach out. You don’t have to understand everything they’ve been through, you just need to care.
Here’s a few talking points to get the connecting ball rolling:
Throughout the month of November, we will be discussing challenges currently facing the millennial military population, such as: societal disconnect, financial struggles, homelessness, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), suicide, and unemployment.
This series isn't "comfortable".
It won't make you feel "good".
That's okay; these topics NEED to be discussed so they can be addressed.
It's my hope that by sparking the conversation, we can help connect our communities with our veterans. Together, we CAN honor our veterans and their family members by providing EFFECTIVE solutions for very present challenges American Heroes are currently facing within our society.
Share the blogs, educate yourself on this heroic subset of our generation, and join in the conversation on Twitter, with the hashtag: #MilitaryGenY .
Next up - "PTSD: No More Stigma" .
About Hannah Becker
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