For you or for people you know, has military service been a positive experience?

Today is Veteran’s Day, when we honor those who have served in our country’s military. Today’s Question: For you or for people you know, has military service been a positive experience?

  • Steve the Cynic

    For me it was mostly good. One of the many good things is that it was the beginning of my disenchantment with right-wing politics, with its blind loyalty to America and its refusal to acknowledge America’s historical shortcomings.

  • Kurt

    My father was a veteran of WW II. He was wounded in combat, held as a POW for a brief time and saw friends die. When fighting in Europe ended he was scheduled to be in the invasion of Japan. They were expecting massive casualties. It of course never happened because of the atomic bombing. I and quite a lot of people alive today probably wouldn’t be but for that. My father was visably pained every time our forces were sent to fight and die. It sddened him. I think WW II was the last “honorable” war. I’m thankful for what my father and his generation did. I’m thankful for all members of the armed service-I just wish we were more judicious in our deployment.

  • Jen Peterson

    Back in the late 80′s my first husband was active duty Army with the Big Red 1′ based in Ft. Riley Kansas. He was deployed to Honduras for about 9 months. I felt that the Army offered little support for the families on the home front. There was no thing such as the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon (BTYR) groups to support the families back then. I am so proud & honored to be a member of the BTYR of Cottage Grove and that Cottage Grove is a BTYR City. We are here to help and we can be found at CottageGroveYellowRibbon.org

  • James

    I’m thinking there won’t be very many “relevant personal” posts today.

    Unfortunately NPR/MPR and TQ is a little luxury, best enjoyed from the comfort of your car or office or well equipped Twin Cities home, with the perspective gained from a few years of post-secondary education.

    We have largely outsourced our war fighting to young, high-school graduates (or less) from out-state MN. Many of the returning veterans are hurting our unemployed or both. Maybe their families and friends are a little better off. In any case, it’s hard to imagine veterans, their families or friends represent the NPR/MPR/TQ audience.

    It will be interesting to see.

  • Chuck

    Since the revolution, male and female members of my family and my wife’s family have served in the Armed Forces.- Our service members represent every branch of service – Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard in war and in peace. I have relatives that served in the Merchant Marine during wwII.

    We are all proud to have served our country. I think that military service has had a positive influence on all of us.

  • Eric Chandler

    My experience has been good. I wouldn’t change anything. However, I entered the military because I couldn’t pay for an education at the place I wanted to go (MIT) and went instead to the USAF Academy. I often wonder how economics drives choices to serve. I can’t say I’ve met many Ivy Leaguers on my many trips to Iraq. Hmmmmm…

  • http://www.jeffachenvideography.com Jeff Achen

    I entered the U.S. Navy at the age of 17 in 1993 and served until 1997. I remember doubting my decision and missing home terribly. Navy/military life was a big adjustment from life in Grand Forks, North Dakota. I faltered at times and got into trouble, but I learned so much about myself, the world and how to live with integrity and discipline. I grew up so much in my four years of service and for that I am eternally grateful. It is something I wish more Americans could experience. Though deployed to the Persian Gulf at one point, I never experienced combat. This has given me a profound respect for my military brothers and sisters who have experienced combat. I look back at my time in the service with great appreciation and am very proud to be counted as a veteran.

  • Philip

    Mostly positive. I try to remember the good times and put behind the bad ones. I have to agree with Steve the Cynic about being disenchanted with blind loyalty to America, though. As a Christian I came to the realization that neither of the two main political parties in our nation has the corner on morality and with all the time I spent overseas I came to realize what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.

  • JohnE

    As an out state draftee of the Viet Nam era, who is also the son of a WWII Marine vet, I think the individual/personal military service may have a few positive experiences. These experiences are not of the grand social nature but the individual, “geez, that was something that I really can’t talk about but to another vet. Another vet with that type of experience.” My veteran based understanding, hearing of my Dad’s stories from the “last great” war is different from my non-veteran siblings as well as all those non-veterans that loved to listen to my Dad’s “war stories”. The military experience is life changing but not necessarily positive is a non-veteran use of positive. Woo ha!

  • Duane

    Because of the luck of the lottery during the draft shortly after the Vietnam war, I never served in the military. I did have four brothers serve, two in WWII and two shortly after. I am pleased that of the first six posters, only two attempt to demean the objective of Veterans Day by dredging up the turmoil and disregard for honor that found its beginning during the Vietnam War. I had hoped that over the last eight to ten years it had disappeared, but yet there are still people that wont let it die. My grandson recently enlisted in the National Guard, and, although we are apprehensive if he may be activated, my wife and I are proud of his decision.

  • Tkennedy

    I left the Regular Army as a captain and went to work for a global corporation. I have several colleagues at work who also left the Regular Army as captains and now have good jobs (more on the officer side later). That is why it pains me to write this below:

    I have had very limited success with hiring vets. The positions I need to fill are entry level and require a high school diploma only. Starting out several years ago, I thought that these jobs would be perfect for the typical 21 to 24-year-old first- or second- term enlistee who decided to get out and start laying roots. So I hired a few people like that.

    Without getting into the details, my experience has been that the vets I hire expect too much from the employer while also expecting high praise for no accomplishments. We offered full medical and dental coverage, 401K, three weeks paid time off to start, and a 40 hour work week. Nearly all the vets I hired failed to learn how to manage their benefits. They didn’t understand why they had a $20 co-pay at the doctor. They didn’t participate in the matching 401K because they didn’t want to see the deduction on their pay stub. They didn’t understand why they couldn’t all take two week’s vacation at the same time (Christmas). Et cetera.

    Worse, the typical vet was not ready to work. We track productivity by employee and I consistently found the vets near the bottom. After speaking and working with these guys, it’s apparent that their attitude and work ethic is lacking. Many of them had a standoff-ish attitude among their coworkers because they’d deployed and so-and-so stayed home. Generally, their work habits were focused on avoiding tasks and generally hanging back to allow others to accomplish their work for them. They very much prefer to find a small task and extend it as long as possible in order to give the appearance of productivity.

    I haven’t given up, but the last three years have been a big wake-up for me as a civilian employer who also has military experience.

    On the officer side: Just because CPT so-and-so got out after commanding a company and got an MBA does not mean he will step into an executive position. Officers might have to take a pay cut from their O-3 grade to get into a new career. And, you will never step into a position over 120 employees like you had as a commander.

    The biggest fear of a civilian employer (at least, me) is that you will get hired, and then drone on in your office without learning anything about your new career and without managing your own advancement. You can not just wait out your civilian position, take a professional development course, and then get an automatic promotion.

    So, here are some ideas for the guys getting out:

    - Use the headhunter recruiting companies to get connected if you don’t already have an ‘in’ somewhere. Simple, but they stay in business because they work.

    - Don’t copy your OER duty description or award bullets into your resume. It’s lazy and we can tell.

    - Emphasize your accomplishments over your technical duty description. If you were rated as a ‘top 3 platoon leader in the battalion,’ put that in your resume instead of your property book value. Signing for $1 million in equipment is not an accomplishment.

    - Don’t talk down to civilians who don’t have military experience. Sounds simple but I hear it a lot. Also, you might not even know who you’re talking to. (I’ve had an AF vet try to tell me that his four month deployment was harder than the Army’s twelve month deployment because he ‘couldn’t get settled.’)

    - Have a good reason why you are leaving you military career. It can’t be because it’s too much work or you can’t get promoted. We know how easy it is to get promoted and we don’t want to hire a drone.

  • reggie

    I was lucky to have come of age in the period of relative peace just after the Vietnam War. It’s sad that achieving a sustainable peace no longer seems to be the goal of American power.

    The thing I appreciate (maybe even envy) the most about the generations before and after mine is the sense of service. If we could uncouple “military” and “service,” and find a way to engage all young people in some form of national service, I honestly believe we’d have a more cohesive society. As it is now, we’ve made the “military” part so much more the point, that we forget there are many ways to serve.

    None of this should be read as diminishing my respect for those who do serve in the military. They (and their families) make tremendous sacrifices to serve the nation. I just wish the ends were more worthy of the sacrifice, and that our leaders were more deserving of the loyalty of our soldiers.

  • Rich

    Hire Vets first need a serious re-think. Perhaps some time in the future I might have an interest in seeing my kid have shot at a good job in the civilian world but I don’t think he has a special entitlement over anybody else merely because of his service. He volunteered with his eyes wide open and if he stays in one piece will likely do twenty. But I don’t see how he trumps any other person looking for that same good job. Perhaps if he was conscripted while others stayed behind I might expect some special consideration but the era of national service is unfortunately long gone.

  • lucy

    Once upon a time my military experience helped, but now it depends, (referring to applications.) I am considered a Vet in some circumstances and in others it seems as though I have to cough up and show some proof of ‘earned’ battle scars.

  • Hunter

    I think it is a matter of experience, expertise, discipline – and as a later poster suggest – dedicating oneself to the mission above self. These are areas your son will have vast experience in that his age group coming straight from college will likely lack. Those are the trumps.

    Now if he wants to look down his nose at others, and be obnoxious because of all the things he did in the service, yes he will be universally reviled and dismissed by his new cohort of coworkers. Somehow I think that isn’t exactly in the nature of a Navy SEAL though. So I am pretty sure son will be a-ok in the civilian world. Others might have bigger problems, but they were likely d-bag soldiers too.

    Another poster points out that the military ruins the soldier for the civilian world. That is a more interesting dilemma. As someone with my feet firmly in both worlds I can say it’s true. The problem isn’t soldier vanity, it is the lack of a true cause in the civilian world and the petty things which are held up as being important. When the stakes are your life and the lives of those around you and you live with those stakes for long periods of time, well filling out TPS reports in a cubicle kinda loses it’s allure. I am glad for my job but sometimes it is a real drag knowing that the most exciting thing I have ahead of me that day is updating a budget EXCEL file or some such nonsense.

    I often wish I had stayed in the Active force, but being in the RC has afforded me the best of both worlds in many ways. I am fortunate to work for a company that takes very good care of it’s RC members. So I sneakily enjoy my periodic sabbaticals away from the civilian job in favor of the military one.

    And now a paid advertisement for those boys and girls who miss their service – the Guard and Reserves are standing by to accept your willing participation. Please note, we aren’t interested in war stories, golf, and drinking beer anymore. That mentality died a much needed death about 12 Sep 2001. Also please note YOU WILL DEPLOY, just not as often as your AC buddies. If you can handle that come on in, we are dealing.

  • Tom Kennedy

    @Hunter

    You’ve touched on something I left out of my first post: That some vet have trouble adjusting to a smaller scope career. For example, my current career offers me some opportunity to travel and authority to make budget decisions, personnel hiring/firing, and operational responsibility. It is not the same excitement or life-or-death sort of responsibility that I had as an officer. You could go from your TS/SCI clearance and conducting combat operations to filing background checks and attending financial forecasting meetings.

    I’m fine with that, but even a vet with strong civilian marketability might struggle with this shift if it’s still in his blood.

  • Jessica E

    Hmmm… positive? That is a tricky question for me.

    Today, I truly think about and honor those who have served our country in war, especially my dad. He fought in the 173rd Airborne during ’67-’68. At the age of 18, he volunteered to serve his country, and he did in some of the worst fighting of Viet Nam. I’ve heard many of his stories of him humping through the jungle. He wanted me to have an idea of what war was really like. I think that he wants everyone to get passed the glossy veneer of honor and glory restored through vengence. When I was 16 we watched that one movie together (the one with Charlie Sheen) and he told me about his war buddies. Knowing how his stories affect me, he edits them a bit, but it doesn’t make our situation any easier.

    I probably wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Viet Nam. My dad came home, married a lady, had two kids, and was involved in the Kingdom Hall, as a Jehovah’s witness when he met my mom. My parents were married long enough to have me. They tried to make a home on a houseboat off the coast of Jeckyll Island, Georgia. Shortly after their divorce, when I was 9 months old, my mom and I moved far away to New York, and then Minnesota. I didn’t see my dad or talk to him until I was 16.

    Fortunately, in the mid 80′s, with the support of his fifth wife, he got into a VA, where he was diagnosed with PTSD, and began to receive medical care. My dad is a brilliant man. What would he have become if he hadn’t gone to that war???

    Unfortunately, my half-sisters and I grew up without my dad… I barely survived. So, I often wonder what I would have become if it weren’t for that war; if I’d had my father throughout my childhood? In one way, I admit I am grateful for my dad’s experience in the war – I probably wouldn’t be here otherwise – but was it a “positive” in his life?

    Like I said, it’s a tricky question that I’ve wrestled with for the last 17 years. No easy answers, today.

  • Philip

    Tkennedy has a lot of really good points. One thing that we tend to overlook with regard to military life is that it is the most socialist aspect of our society. This is curious when one considers that most of the people who serve tend to lean toward a more conservative world view.

  • STRYKERTYME

    As a 25 year old former enlisted man, I see the attitude described above in too many of my peers. I was fortunate enough to take part in a seminar titled the Marine Civilian Development Program. It was an excellent program, which unfortunately folded due to budgetary issues. It’s a shame really, because it was far more effective than TAPS, and it set the foundation for my transition, which has so far been very successful.

    I think the success came from the environment where the seminar was held (a hotel far away from base), and the quality of the instructors was also very high (Lt. Gen. Martin Steele was a key figure throughout the duration of the program). There was no mention of rank or even last names among the staff and/or participants. We were all on equal footing with the single objective of figuring out the complicated and difficult transition process. I don’t know where I’d be without this experience.

    By far the best piece of information I took away from this seminar was the phrase, “subordinate yourself to the task, no matter how big or how small, don’t be afraid to do windows.” I think this is lost on many of my peers. We have to do a better job of hammering this into the separating service member. When I left I took an entry level job with a law firm, and I made the “windows” phrase my mantra. It helped me to tackle even the most rote activity with the same drive and vigor that made me a successful NCO in a combat zone, which has helped me tremendously in my advancement and success in my current position.

    These types of programs are no doubt more expensive than the current cookie cutter format provided at TAPS, but the long term benefits for service members is far better, and I think a study on these smaller programs is warranted, especially considering future cuts to the force. The mentality of modern era veterans needs to adjust, otherwise I fear the number of unemployed vets will continue to rise at a quicker pace than our civilian peers.

  • Jay Lemeux

    Good Post Tkennedy

    I think the last line is a bit demanding though:

    “Have a good reason why you are leaving you[r] military career.”

    Most guys I know don’t go in expecting to do 20 or to make the military a “career.” The understanding is usually that 4 years with multiple deployments is asking enough as it is.

    I usually just say that I “fulfilled my military goals” of character development.

  • Jim Gourley

    I interviewed for a prestigious (in my view, anyway) position with a government agency as I was out-processing the Army. The last interview question they asked me was “what was the hardest decision you ever had to make?”

    It took me a moment to think, because I honestly wasn’t prepared for that one and I wanted to give the answer that was most genuine. And when I arrived at the answer, I think it surprised me as much as it did the interviewers.

    “Leaving the Army.”

    We actually went over the allotted time for the question because we were all so interested in discussing it. I talked about how it was a real internal moral wrestling match with myself to step out of uniform. I had friends that were going to combat when I decided to leave. As I was answering the question, they were out in Iraq getting shot at. Justifying sitting in that air-conditioned office, not helping my best friends on the planet, and leaving work I’d started undone was difficult. In the end, it really wasn’t something I could justify, only make peace with. The position I was up for would have involved moral/ethical choices on the same level on a frequent basis, and things changed more from an official interview to swapping stories about times we all had to make peace with ourselves about decisions that could have gone better, worse, or either way.

    I got the job, but had to give it up for complicated reasons. It was another choice I had to make peace with.

    In the end, I don’t think being a military member is a qualification or detractor in its own right. It’s about what you invest into your experience and how hard you work to get something out of it. It’s not about what kind of military member or worker you are, it’s about what kind of person you are.

  • Tim Solinski

    @Tom Kennedy

    I am one of the many recently separated O-3s. My service in the Army ended July 1st and after months of searching I will finally begin my civilian career November 14th (Happy Veterans Day to me). I did not use the help of traditional military headhunting agencies because I desired to return to Western New York, once explaining this I was always politely told that “so-and-so’s” agency would not be able to assist me. I did it the hard (my) way, I’ve begun work on an MBA spending my Friday nights and Saturday mornings/afternoons in rigorous course work, and took a pay cut of over 50% from my previous O-3 pay. I am not complaining about any of this, it was my choice. I am lucky enough to have landed a job with M&T Bank, one of the best on the East Coast.

    This insane work ethic was one of the many things that frustrated me as an Officer. The Army I served in was not what I expected, nor was it the one promised to me by my ROTC instructors. They did not lie, they just left the Operational Army before it started to go sour. Unfortunately, I am confident that the struggles you have had with veterans will continue, and will only make it harder for the veterans who are hard workers to get their foot in the door (as if we don’t have enough challenges).

  • Chris

    Nope. The fake “we support the troops” on one hand and on the other “Cut Cut Cut the budget” explains the majority of my bitterness. The other would be my father full of scars from bullets and limited healthcare coverage (he still works 60 hrs per week). It is a disgrace how phoney people are particularly on the Right.

  • Richard

    This Veterans Day, as a letter carrier I would like to recognize these brave men and women for the vital service they have provided—and continue to provide as letter carriers. About one-quarter of letter carriers have served in the military. Your carrier might be one of them

    Of the 280,000 letter carriers about 70,000 are veterans of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines or Coast Guard, including recent service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    But proposed cuts—including eliminating Saturday delivery and most door-to-door delivery—would deprive businesses and residents of needed services. These cuts would lead to the layoffs of tens of thousands of veterans, at a time of mass unemployment.

    The Postal Service is the core of a $1.3 trillion mailing industry that employs 8 million Americans, and dismantling the Postal Service would jeopardize those jobs—at the worst possible time for our economy.

    With the draw-down in Iraq, thousands of Iraq War troops will soon come home, they deserve jobs to return to, and the last thing Congress should do is take away decent jobs from our veterans.

  • Tony

    It was a positive experience for me, overall. It wasn’t glamorous. What made it positive was the personal growth I experienced. I matured faster than I would have, and in ways I would never have because of my military service.

    When I got out there was no expectation of help looking for a job; it was understood that I was on my own, same as anyone else. There were veterans benefits available for school, and I used those. That meant for me that I graduated college with no debt. I bought my first house using a VA loan.

    Years later when I went back to school to get a teaching license, Augsburg College reduced my tuition because I was a veteran, which I thought was very nice of them. I didn’t expect it or even ask for it.

    But times are different now. When I was in the military it was definitely un-cool to be in. When I got out no one cared where I had been or what I had done. It’s nice that it’s different now.

    My concern is that the favorable way veterans are thought of will be a passing fad. Reading the comments on this blog it seems others may share that concern. Commitments made to veterans are considered to be “on the table” when difficult budget times come around. It’s hard to think of anything more dishonorable than that.

    Part of me thinks everyone should have the benefit of maturing through military experience. If everyone did, the budgetary thinking of many would likely be colored differently than it is.

    Another part of me knows full-well the size of the”ick” factor that can be associated with military service. It can be argued there’s a certain amount of maturing one can do without.

    Yet considering all, for me it was a net positive experience because I’m a better person now for the experience of military service. I can say that in late middle-age.

    I don’t know how the positive maturity experiences military service has provided me can be imparted to those who have never served. I only know that military service was a valuable experience.

    And I also know this: If you have no ick on you, you ought to go get some on you before you talk about putting commitments made to veterans on the table when your budget gets tight.

  • Unknown Soldier

    My dad, many of his friends – USMC, though mostly all now deceased – and my retired Army uncle, alive and kickin’ in central Massachusetts, all hail from “The Greatest Generation.” I cannot begin to fathom what they went through in WWII and Korea.

    But I look at the Sailors with whom I now serve on a big deck amphib and the Marines with whom I had the privilege of spending eleven months in Iraq and cannot but helped be moved by their magnanimity. What’s more, few if any have any sense that they are owed anything for their service!

    The one thing I liked about Veterans Day used to be a day off, in garrison. However, after stopping in at the ship today and having one Sailor on duty thank me for my service – while tongue-in-check, a kernel of truth lying underneath, nonetheless – brought a smile to my face and a tear to my eye: his service, and the service of a hundreds of his shipmates, puts anything I’ve ever done to shame. For that, I know I owe them more than I could ever repay. This is a Veterans Day I’ll never forget.