We are making the same mistake with returning Vets as we made in Iraq the first time. We failed to promote the better option.
No 22 push-ups for me, no challenges, just actual work. All of the foundations do enough awareness and believe me, there are enough egos behind the initiatives. The awareness, beyond fundraising, can be doing more harm than good if you ask some epidemiologists, as highlighted by Malcolm Gladwell’s book “The Tipping Point”. Find a brief review of the concepts here in the New York Times.
We hear PTSD and suicide as if they are near synonymous… and I will say the word or claim of PTSD is over used and overly romanticized. PTSD is not a disorder, it’s a natural human response to exposure of a reality that we hope most will never know. Beyond that, the knowledge is a burden that must be carried. It’s not treated; rather learned to live with. But, I’m not focusing on PTSD. I want to focus on romanticizing the suicide rate and victimizing.
Want to actually impact the suicide rate for Vets? Give them something better to do, a better option. Show them they haven’t lived through the best part of their life. Give them expectations, not excuses. Just like American Military Generals recognized, one of the primary mistakes made in Iraq was failure to build an infrastructure after taking Baghdad. An Iraqi is less susceptible to be convinced to become a suicide bomber, or be bought as a soldier, or fear their family starving, if they have a sustainable way of life, an income, and a contributing role in their community.
Don’t give Vets hand-outs, sympathy and aimless “hugs”. They all have a time and place, but are not the solutions alone or collectively. Put the Vets to work and demonstrate their impact and purpose that is still ahead of them. Sometimes that means giving them expectations. Sometimes that means giving them the chance to fail. All the time it means guiding them to understand how they are translating and demonstrating themselves to others, and most of the time that means equipping them with a meaningful career path.
There is no, single, correct career path for any person – Veteran or otherwise. But with Veterans, going from a role of indescribable purpose, to a role where you aren’t sure if you have a purpose anymore, or if you add value, or if you can provide for your loved ones… is tough. Add the burden of knowing what it really means to have friends, to love, and to sacrifice. They know what it means, and why it is so important to put others before self.
No good gripe or complaint is worth it without a suggestion. What’s my suggestion? Spend less time romanticizing the visible symptom and create a solution for the source. How do I do that? Well, I chose to be a part of Four Block; we work on career development for Veterans. Not a two day, or two hour workshop where we forget about you after. Not a once a month phone call or Skype. But a comprehensive, content retaining, and impactful, LONG-TERM solution to promoting successful transitions of Military Veterans into productive members of society.
They say idle time is the devil. Well, idle ambition is a death sentence. Let’s focus less on romanticizing the excuses, focus on holding each other accountable for desired expectations and reminding us all that we have a purpose. Change the narrative.
As is always the case with my articles here on LifebyDamien.com – views and thoughts are my own, and I welcome yours in the comments as well!