Common Ground

I have heard it said many times, and quite often I have to admit that for the most part; Veterans feel more comfortable talking about things with other veterans.   Mostly it has to do with a common sense of understanding and being able to relate.   It is a basic premise for the foundation of the JollyRoger.   But, I don’t think that it is always exclusive.   For some reason it seems that veterans have always been comfortable speaking to me, even when I was a young kid.

Living in “retirement community” as I grew up in Florida, I found myself literally surrounded by many WWII veterans.   Quite often we would talk about their time in the military and time at war.   As I remember, one man had been a member of a bomber crew shot down behind occupied France.   He was able to elude the Germans and participate with the French resistance.  Mostly causing minor harassment to the Germans, until he was finally able to re-enter friendly lines.

Another WWII veterans had told me that he served as member of a bomber crew in the Pacific, and that he was one of the sister planes to Bockscar when it dropped the 2nd Atomic bomb on Japan.

Was it different for WWII veterans?  Normandy, Pearl Harbor, Guadal Canal, etc….They must have suffered their share of PTSD.   Did it make a difference how they were treated when they returned?  I wasn’t there at the time, but it seems like the public treated WWII veterans with more respect and appreciation.   How they saved the world, and made a mark on history.  It seems like this may be one things that is different between them and veterans of other wars.   I mean people have already forgotten about Iraq, before the war is even over.

As I got older I met other veterans.  One friends father was a Vietnam veteran who spoke about his nightmares when he returned and how he still checks his boots for snakes and things to this day.

Another Father and Vietnam veteran I met somehow opened up to me, and as I later found out had NEVER spoken to his wife or children.   For almost 30 years, they still never knew what he had been through.  They spoke of his anger and how he was just an asshole.  His daughter told me that his burn marks and scars were from drunk games that her father would play with his friends.   They were actually from when the bulldozer that he was operating ran over an anti-tank mine.  The first time that I met him, he was opening up to me.   He had been part of an experimental engineer unit, who would bulldoze swaths of jungle looking for enemy base camps.   When they would find one, the bulldozers would lead the attack.  They would plow through fighting positions and bury the enemy, while APCs and infantry followed behind.   He later was connected to a reunion for his unit, and found out that every single member was diagnosed with 100% disability for PTSD by the VA.

My uncle was a Marine truck driver in Desert Storm.   He went through numerous Scud attacks.  I remember seeing him hit the dirt when someone lit some firecrackers at a bonfire party after he returned.

So where do we go to speak to each other?  Online?  A Veterans Organizations?

Have anyone joined a veteran’s organization? VFW? Amvets? American legion? A student’s veterans organization?

It seemed to me that some of these organizations could already be doing what we are trying to in this group, or that they might have a lot to offer a group like this.

If you have joined one: Do you find it helpful? Do you feel better about being part of the group?

I have heard people give a stereotype or submit the perception of just a bunch of old guys sitting around drinking beer and telling war stories, but what are they really about?  How do we get more people interested and involved?

VFW?  There is even one over here in Korea.  It is just down the street from my apartment.
Vet centers?  I just checked and there is one within 2 miles of my house back home.

I was thinking about it sorta like a support group.  Places to meet, that are full of other guys have been through it too.  People who won’t judge us.  People who we feel have a common understanding of our experiences.   Especially the Vietnam Vets, they have been doing it much longer than us.  They must have found methods to adjusting and for some reason I always imagine it sucking for them so much more…..(I know you can’t compare wars, but I have to admit I really wouldn’t look forward to a walk through the jungle.)

I’m actually very curious to see how many of our generation are getting into organizations like these, and what their experiences are.

VFW Post 10033, you may be seeing me soon.

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3 responses to “Common Ground

  • Domenica

    I am going to write a companion piece later today and provide a link to your post from my blog because it is such an important issue. There are many untapped an under-utilized resources out there just waiting to be championed, and “marketed” as valuable veteran’s resources.

    In the case of the local vets club in our town, it would require pulling them out of the 1960s where the ladies still hold bake sales to raise monies for charity and into the present to network, join forces, promote, and increase public awareness.

    It will be a huge challenge but we’ve got to start somewhere.

  • Uncle Sam's MIstress

    This is a great subject you guys! My husband and I are members of the Disabled American Vets Org. Not too impressed. We are the only young (under 60) couple there and it’s segregated so I am not allowed in with the men. I joined because I am FRG leader and we are working on a joint project with the DAV. My husband was somewhat roped in but now hates to go back. Mostly because of the age gap and when they “talk” the older vets want to point out the differences in the Hell they went through and that our generation has it easy. It can set off more arguments than help in my opinion.

    I would love to find an organization that accepted spouses and vets of our era. The VFW has more of a stigma here of being just a bar and people hang out. You never hear them do anything publicly and believe me, as FRG I have tried to involve them.

  • Opus

    Student Veterans of America (studentveterans.org) is a good place to start if you are, or are soon going to be, a student. On my campus we have our own office, equipped with conference room, computers, couches, coffee pot, etc– most days during a semester, and a lot of nights, any student veteran can walk in and find support from another student veteran. There’s almost always someone there studying, relaxing, stressing, venting, etc. Many of us hang out together outside the office, take trips to baseball games, etc.

    I didn’t find these things at the VFW. The fact that the people who founded SVA a couple of years ago didn’t either is telling– if the traditional veterans organizations really were interested in embracing the younger generations, we wouldn’t need an organization like SVA. But here we are.

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