Sunday, August 28, 2011

They Give Me Hope

Just read an article in Time magazine about veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who come home to use their leadership skills to do positive things in this country. I gobbled it up.
So much of what I read about these vets concerns the horrible injuries they sustain, the psychological torture the war imprints on their brains, their struggles to rebuild a life in America. And rightfully so. Their sacrifices are way out of proportion to the justification of the mission. An American Idiot, George Bush, sent these people over there to fight, be injured and to die for reasons that are increasingly exposed as purely political and even completely unjustified.
I come from a generation that gets a bad rap for their opinion of the military, maybe justifiably. Viet Nam was a stupid war, and we protested vigorously against it. But Viet Nam vets were forced to pay the price when they got home; the treatment they received was shameful. They were not the problem; our politicians were the problem. I hate war but I deeply respect our warriors. They do what they do for the right reasons; because they love this country and feel compelled to protect it. They have more guts than I will ever have. I sat in front of the TV when they were drawing draft lottery numbers for the Viet Nam war and prayed I would get a high one. I was terrified. I don't think I was tough enough to deal with a situation like that and I am thankful I never had to.
What I dug about this article was the attitudes expressed by the vets. Their endeavors include doing handicapped-access projects for other veterans; sending elite teams to disaster areas to organize logistics; running an employment agency for veterans; running for public office; running a mentoring program for first-time criminals and much more.
Heavy duty quotes:
"The returning veterans are bringing skills that seem to be on the wane in American society...crisp decision making, rigor, optimism,entrepreneurial creativity, a larger sense of purpose and real patriotism (as opposed to self-righteous flag waving)." Dead on. This country is going soft and we are getting beat. I especially agree with the flag waving comment; so many people use phony patriotic rhetoric to hide their prejudices and hatred.
"We're a group that really wants to see America become a better place. We hate the divisive politics of the baby-boom generation. They're running the country into the ground." I am a baby-boomer and I am embarrassed by the childish display of politicians since President Obama was elected. It disgusts me.
"..conservative sense that is common to veterans: that American society has gone soft and is filled with whiners, an entitlement culture lacking a sense of individual accountability." I consider myself guilty as charged; I have a home, a most excellent family, a couple of part time jobs and my health. And I complain.
Talking about their opinion of politics, "they feel closer to one another than they do to either political party." They said it didn't matter to them whether a colleague ran as a Democrat or a republican; they would support them because they know they have the right leadership skills and their head and heart is in the right place.
As potential employees (paraphrasing) "there is no decision they would have to make harder than decisions they have already made; no amount of pressure to equal the pressure they've already experienced." You cannot possibly argue with that logic. We make our jobs so much harder than they have to be because we wallow in drama.
It must be such a shock to return to this country after laying your life on the line and be exposed to the stupidity, greed and selfishness that destroy us. People who sue McDonald's because their coffee was too hot. Politicians who put their own careers ahead of the future of this country. Wealthy Wall Streeters who put large salaries and huge bonuses ahead of the financial health of this country.
I loved the article because it gave me hope that there is a group out there with the right mentality to save this country. Or at least try to. People who are physically and mentally tough, people who feel they should earn what they get, people who see the need to make America strong in a global economy that is inter-dependent.
I have enormous respect for these veterans as I do for all veterans. But I think some of the older veterans have a sense of entitlement similar to what society exhibits. I work at a legion and I see it in some of the members. My sense is that younger vets do not feel that way. In the article one Iraq/Afghanistan vet is quoted as saying "You know, our generation of vets isn't really into joining organizations like the VFW or the Legion, but we do have a need to share our stories and experiences."
I love the fact that they are vocal about the problems they see and they they are direct in their criticisms. I respect their dedication to put in the work to make the changes this country needs. If the majority of our society felt that way this country could be amazing once again. But I think we have gone too far down the road of laziness, greed and political in-fighting to get us back on track.
One more quote: "It will be a phenomenal waste if 10 years from now, we turn out to be just another interest group, limiting ourselves to veterans' issues" - Michael Breen, VP of the Truman National Security Project, which has provided a home in the Democratic party for returning veterans with a desire for public service.
That quote to me represents an all encompassing point of view, one with the betterment of this country in mind. A desire and willingness to fight in this country as they fought overseas. Proudly with courage, intelligence and determination.
I hope this generation of Iraq and Afghanistan war vets has a huge impact on our society. We desperately need it.

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