Behind “Civilians Engaging Vets”

I grew up surrounded by veterans on all sides. Both of my Grandfathers are Korea vets, my second cousins are, for the most part, veterans, and my parents were and continue to be friends with many a veteran and their families. There was rarely ever a time when I didn’t know at least one vet outside my family, and that still rings true today.

Despite all of that, I have noticed something alarming. My generation cares less and less about these brave men and women who fight for our freedom, as indicated by many a cultural influence that teaches us that these people are not heroes, but monsters. From Beyonce to Collin Kaepernick, we are being inundated with examples of people who will never understand the sacrifices being made on their behalf every day by people they will never meet. Because those are the people who put themselves in the media, these are the examples my generation is following, and it is shameful to me. As a 21 year old who is proud of my country, I, according to some statistics, am in the minority, and proud to be there.

The way I grew up has a large bearing on my positions regarding the military, absolutely. I grew up in a small New Jersey town that was 45 minutes away from West Point. We would go there for the 4th of July fireworks over the river every time we had the opportunity, and it is something that I will never forget. My grandparents on my dad’s side lived right over the hill from there in Cornwall on Hudson, New York for most of my childhood. To get to them, we had to drive by the academy every time, and I would always stare down at it from the high road above campus, captured by the beauty of it. Years later, one of my sister’s closest high school friends graduated from there and is now an Army Ranger. Not only did I grow up right across state lines from U.S.M.A., I grew up playing in and going to soccer tournaments on military bases. Once you’re exposed to that, regardless of whether you will ever be a part of it, it leaves a mark on you. It reminds you that every day is a day worth being thankful for because someone on the other side of the world is fighting the good fight on behalf of the American people. They go down range so we don’t have to and we’d be fools to forget it. Which leads me to the point of this writing venture.

Civilians and Veterans: there is a gap that needs to be bridged between these two communities. Civilians need to understand our veterans and our veterans need to remember what it was like to be a civilian. There is an intrinsic desire for brotherhood inside of all of us, and our military service, or lack there of, does not change that. Human nature is consistent, but experiences are not. Even within the military, an engineer or a doctor has a different deployment experience than an infantry man or a special operations team member. Their jobs are different. Just like in civilian life, they have to reconcile their differences with each other before they can even begin to work together towards a common goal. In the desert on the other side of the world, that is easy. It’s the concept of you watch my back, I’ll watch yours. When they come back to America, that close knit brotherhood vanishes in the mundane life of a civilian. If it (re-acclimation) is a problem that so many of them encounter, why wouldn’t you want do something about it? Give them the brotherhood they’re needing. Be there for them. Not only them, but their families. Lord knows they all need it.

If you claim to care about the military, act on it. Not just in words or with a “Support Our Troops” ribbon, but with action. Real action.

As a college student, I don’t have a lot of money or a non-profit organization. I have words, and words have power. I hope that if any veterans who find themselves struggling come across this page, they will know that I understand and want to help them. I also understand, that as much as I want to help them, that they can help me too, without even knowing it. I also hope that they know that there are resources out there available to them through organizations like Team Red White and Blue, and the VA.

Civilians, reach out to your neighbors. If you know that someone who lives in your community or neighborhood has just returned from deployment or is struggling with the transition, reach out. You doing even that one small thing, makes a meaningful impact. It matters, and is very important. Who knows, maybe you’ll make some life long friends like my parents have.

Lastly, if you or someone you know would be interested in becoming a contributor to this publication, you can reach out to me via my e-mail or a direct message here on Medium. I’d love to have you, as my perspective is relatively limited.

God Bless You, God Bless our Veterans, and God Bless America,

Kendall Merritt

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