An associate of mine, Allen McQuarrie, who works with the PRO-ACT/Pennsylvania Recovery Act-Bucks County Council on Alcohol and Drugs, writes aptly on the subject of US veteran; the challenges of getting benefits for them, and getting assistance to them. Allen is a very good writer so I am just posting his comments below without any editing aor addition.
“Having met veteran after veteran returning to civilian life, I find they fall into two major categories: some come home and assimilate and others do not. The former are not spared from having similar trauma or adjustments but assimilate nonetheless. The latter have real reasons to stare beyond you when “help” is offered anyway you offer it. They abhor being cast as unfit for duty even if they have long since stopped being called to duty. Once a soldier, always a soldier. I have attended workshops conducted by professionals who share their experience with veterans and they make no exceptions when they model ways to reach veterans. Their paramount rule is: ” Never treat them as exceptions from those who are fit. Never offer them “help” because that stereotypes them as unfit. Even if we couch the way we offer help in language we think is Ok, they don’t hear it that way. They don’t see what we are offering as a value added. They politely listen. leave and never return.
Having been in front of groups of veterans where the right thing said works elsewhere, with seasoned veterans, it does not. All the usual and customary language we use for civilians is not what the veteran hears as resourceful. The boundaries we define to invite people into our midst who are seeking recovery, excludes veterans. They perk up and listen with an ear attuned to a military model of their own so well refined that a combatant will only listen to another combatant, special forces only listen to special forces, women veterans listen only to women veterans and branches of the services favor their own kind. Even the era fought makes a big difference. Today’s veterans are not joining yesterday’s veterans organizations. Veterans have and use an an inner ear that enabled them to survive that once acquired is never lost. Civilians have no military experience, no veteran’s inner ear and lack the finely tuned sensitivities necessary to model the model.
What we civilians see as most important to us is not seen as important in the least to them. To be relevant, a veteran told me: “In the military, we learn amateurs master tactics, we master logistics.” It is hard to resemble a military veteran’s thinking never having been in the military. We have never been “compressed into being a soldier and we have no idea how challenging decompression can be.” Speaking to a veteran is different in every respect. Kevin Medican provided us with “Trauma Informed Training.” Afterwards, The PRO ACT Veterans Committee sought training from the head volunteer mentor at Walter Reed Hospital and Bethesda Naval Hospital. We decided to employ the logistics that would help us be relevant to veterans. Otherwise, nothing we offer them will be sought by them and it will be seen as alien to their experience. Even agencies that purport to be designed to be helpful have been staffed by the uninformed don’t work. Because we can’t “complete the mission” otherwise. The PRO ACT Veterans Committee has a prescribed mission and purpose. That is to support a veterans effort to come home by veterans mentoring veterans. To do so, we cast a wide net.”
PRO ACT Veterans Committee