By Jason Graven
Just a Regular Guy
Less than half of one percent of the population has served in the United States Armed Forces since 9/11. This statistic is every bit as important, and MUCH more accurate, than the “22” that has become synonymous with the descriptive term “veteran.” With an increasingly shrinking percentage of veterans shouldering a greater amount of our wars on terrorism, being subjected to combat tours 5 and 6 times or more, the issue of veteran suicide should not be one where the answer is lost on our veteran population. Many times though, it is.
Veterans do NOT want free stuff. If an organization’s mission statement, or their sole purpose in the world, is to provide something for free to the veterans, there should be a red flag raised immediately. Don’t get me wrong, as a veteran, I too, would certainly partake in some free swag if offered, but I would take it knowing that the issues still remain. You can give me everything in the world free of charge, provide me products and services without payment, maybe even thank me for my service, call me a hero, and subject me to a standing ovation from time to time, make me the lead in the town parade and give me a key to the city, but none of that changes what we feel inside and many times can actually make them worse. No, I do not want treated as special or warranting of privilege. What I want as a veteran is a place to belong.
With less individuals voluntarily signing up for military service, we are becoming an increasingly “special” demographic, especially amongst those who volunteered after 9/11 knowing they/we were going to fight sometime/somewhere hostile. That does NOT mean I want to be treated as such. It means that when I walk the streets there are less people like me; less of those who understand where my frustration arrises. It means that, I, more frequently than not, feel alone in my ventures and have fewer places to turn if I ever felt that I needed to express and vent the feelings I carry. It means that I am more at risk to feel like I have nowhere to turn except to the bottom of a bottle.
I honestly believe if you were to poll veterans 10 years after discharge about the thing they missed the most about military service, 9-1/2 out of ten would answer the same with camaraderie, or brotherhood, or the family type atmosphere, or whatever descriptive term they use as a synonym. Camaraderie is born out of struggle and sacrifice. Camaraderie comes from facing difficulties together. Camaraderie comes from accomplishing missions as one unit, not as individuals. I think every war generation since WWI, maybe ever, at some point has realized this fact. Your old school veteran service organizations realized this. The VFW’s, American Legions, AmVets, etc, were all, at one point in time, focused more on the camaraderie piece of the veteran need which is why they started the bars they currently run, and yes, it is true, that many have lost their way, but it is unmistakeable that they understood at one point in time, veterans needed a place to turn when they needed help, when they just needed to let out their frustrations, and they needed a place to be vulnerable without judgement.
This is what most new veteran organizations miss. So many are focused solely one what kind of free crap they can provide in an attempt to exploit the issue for financial gain. Some go as far as to say their free products or services will help build that camaraderie. It is important to look at how they say they accomplish this. If it is not born through shared sacrifice, through struggle, through working together to accomplish a mission, then camaraderie will not be achieved, lest it be on a small and insignificant scale.
This is why Task Force 20 stands out. Our chapters work for, and with, each other to accomplish the mission. The money raised is used by the chapters to ensure that each and every veteran involved has the means to participate in the activities that help them cope; help them heal. Our chapters are all inclusive and no questions are asked past, “can you provide documentation showing you are a veteran?” We do not care how, where, or why you served. We care only that you served and want to belong to a mission attacking the issues, not exploiting them. We care only that you care. If you care, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find a chapter near you, or if one has not yet been established near you, contact us to find out what is required to start one yourself.
We are here for you, do you care?