At the risk of sounding trite or even cliché, I want to be perfectly clear. We owe it to ourselves, quite possibly to our society, to be the best we can be. However, we must keep in mind that besides ourselves, nobody else really owes us anything in this life. This has come to my attention through the development of our company and my own personal journey. But, first…as a childhood assault survivor, I fully understand anger, betrayal, and pain. For over 45 years, I thought of all the ways I could make the perpetrator pay for his vile deed. I killed him a million times or more in my head, but to no avail. He always got away with it. If he’s still alive today, I’m sure he’s dealing with his own issues, hopefully not in the same manner he dealt with me.
As a veteran, I know Freedom comes with a high cost, both in lives and, if you’re a combat veteran, maybe with serious emotional trauma, too. I volunteered for my service. I thought it was my duty, so I’m not sure how the concept of entitlement plays into the equation. I received benefits while I served and since then, I’ve been blessed with opportunities here in America. The Army or our government doesn’t owe me a thing.
As a traumatic brain injury survivor, I understand dramatic mood swings and how out-of-control, unchecked behaviors, can alter the perception that others have of you. I also know how much courage it takes to reach out for help, which is what I did. Let’s just say, I take full responsibility for my actions. Drinking and driving don’t mix. I’m just grateful I didn’t kill another human being or myself and thankful to still be here.
I’ve been wondering how I would even approach the following sensitive subject, but the controversy has already started, and it appears like it’s going to continue. Trading stories about it with many others who’ve worn the uniform, leaves me with an unfortunate conclusion. There’s a growing negative perception about some veterans and, whether we want to believe it or not, their bitter and demanding behavior hurts all veterans. I’m calling it the ‘Angry Exploitation of Entitlement Syndrome’. These behaviors are brought on by an acute sense of entitlement mixed with palpable rage. With some veterans, I and many others, believe their acute anger is caused by a perceived sense of betrayal from one’s own government. Of course, some anger may be justified, but that’s not my point. Whatever the cause of their anger, the only way for them to move forward without causing even more animosity, is for them to learn how to convey their position in a less antagonistic way. By doing so, they will have a greater opportunity to create a better understanding of their position.
The belief that one is inherently deserving, or has the right to privileges or special treatment, is not new to the human condition…neither is anger. The growing negative perception of veterans in general seems to be more pervasive these days, more than it was just a few years ago. Things changed over time as more and more veterans began vocalizing to the general population what they believed they deserved, after their volunteer service. And now, it’s becoming more obvious that some of these veterans don’t realize how their angry outbursts, their verbal attacks against the world, are hurting them (us) more than helping them (us). In fact, it’s increasing the skepticism about veterans and, in some cases, even creating a backlash amongst our civilian supporters, many of them becoming angry themselves and withdrawing their favor for us.
It’s true, I know more civilians and business owners that are tuning out, shying away from veterans or veteran initiatives. It’s sad for me to see this happen. Of course, the blame for this negative public perception may not be totally on the shoulders of the angry veterans, as there are several confirmed reports of organizations mismanaging funds earmarked for them. This damaging behavior further erodes the public support for veterans and adds greatly to the negative perceptions. It can also fuel the anger of those who might feel exploited or betrayed by their own government. Throw in Stolen Valor (dishonest people who claim they have served but never did) and it’s not hard to understand why there’s an increase in skepticism.
Still, despite the growing dissension, I think what’s most important for us to remember is that we have a human connection and to realize every single living person has challenges in life. It’s hard to find anyone who hasn’t experienced some emotional or physical trauma at one point or another in their life. Of course, trauma doesn’t discriminate--the death of a loved one, marital divorce, financial ruin, the loss of a career by downsizing, sexual or physical abuse, combat exposure and many other life-changing events can affect any of us.
Controversies and opinions aside, I believe we can still find solutions that will alleviate the increased angst and skepticism that veterans and non-veterans may have toward each other. We can start communicating civilly in an effort to educate each other about our personal experiences. If we just listen to get a better understanding of each other's position, then we can build bridges over our differences and find common ground under us. Perhaps, we can even have a part in shifting the current pessimistic trend that’s taking place. It won’t be easy for some. Working toward anything that has high social value will have a price to pay. We must be willing to engage without provocation. This is true for any public discourse.
In closing, I ask my fellow veterans to remember this fact. There are more non-veteran citizens in our society than us, and we need to be better role models for our brethren. Maybe, it’s time for us to step up and take a positive stand rather than spending time infuriating others with endless demands and angry diatribe. Maybe, we can use our military experiences and leadership skills to find solutions, not create more animosity with each other. Maybe, we can honor, instead of disrespect.
And, to my fellow non-veteran compatriots, please try to understand us veterans. A little patience can go a long way for all of us. Anger, betrayal and Post-Traumatic Stress exists in your ranks as well. Not all veterans are broken. We’re not stereotypical loose cannons with hair-trigger fingers ready to explode at any moment. At least not more so than anyone else in our society. After all, most of the human population (including, veterans and non-veterans) are doing the best they can, just trying to make sense out of this condition we call humanity. So, go ahead my fellow veterans, be honorable, be all you can be…we still owe it to Our Country and to ourselves, too!
#Honor #Freedom #Commerce #Healing #GreenZoneHero #TaskForceZen #AnchoredSouls