The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.

THE VETERAN-CIVILIAN DISCONNECT |

April 23, 2012

Name: Ian Wolfe
Returned from: Iraq
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN

Why is there this disconnect between veterans and the rest of the country? I once thought I was alone in this feeling, that maybe it was just me who felt disconnected from society, that it was nothing related to my being a veteran. But as I talked with more vets, and read articles by vets, I found that I was not alone.

Some have related it to anesthesia of the populace in regards to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; the distance and seeming unaffectednesss of the American people. Generally speaking, the American public endured no physical or emotional affects unless they were close to someone involved. It isn’t like WWII; there was no sense of communal involvement. It isn’t like Vietnam; it hasn’t quite inspired the emotions evoked by that conflict. It is something different, something unique, distant and fiction-like, able to be put out of mind. The Abrams doctrine, which held that when you send your military to war you take your whole country to war, is gone. The masses are anaesthetized from war now. We alone bear the burden, along with our famlies.

Others have discussed the idea of a “warrior class," the emergence of a new population which is becoming increasingly isolated on military bases due to the unique position they are put in, which the rest of the population knows little about -- just enough, usually, to use the idea as a tool for politics. It's often when some scandal is found that the populace becomes concerned with what we are doing, so we are only recognized in shame, leaving our own storytelling to try and prove we are not the sum of our worst.

I have no answers, except the feeling that I am not alone. At which I am both rejoiceful and fearful. I am not sure what it means for us, and for the country. How does a measly two-year deployment to Iraq change me so much? Or maybe it didn’t change me at all. Maybe I just see things differently now.

But maybe the split between the path of the country and the path of the veteran is worth looking into. Maybe it is for the better. For the veteran knows the world better then the fantasy the populace glimpses through edited news programming; a snippet forgotten quickly with the commercial break and the latest celebrity gossip.

I joke often that I might be dead inside. It gets some laughs, and I laugh too, for I know it is not the case, not entirely. But I do feel different. I feel indifferent to things I feel society thinks I should care more about. I have little patience for things I feel are stupid or bureaucratic. The holiday seasons often drag along like a chore.

I find myself wishing to go back. But the closest I can get is as a nurse on a burn unit. I often want to stay, the trauma being the only thing that inspires a sense of importance or emotion, of something real. I don’t know what this is or what this means, but I know there are many people who feel the same way. Call it disaffection, irritation, depression -- whatever it is, it is inspiring a generation of veterans, for better or worse. With the suicide rate of veterans increasing I wonder if it is leaning towards the worse. But it could be fostered into something great for this country. Maybe this country needs people who feel disconnected, disaffected, and different, to lead the way into our future.

Comments

Welcome back to the land of the BIG PX. (I think it is called Wal-Mart now.)
You aren't feeling the "Love" for your sacrifice? Maybe because you and yours are going the extra mile and keeping the fighting somewhere else, those here couldn't care less. "If it doesn't affect me, why should I care"?
I believe this is the new anthem of the American populace. It may well always have been.
You don't need their words and empty gestures. Those who have been there or have family who have, are the only ones who really care anyway.
Sad. So very sad that we have come so far from our roots. When everyone was willing to sacrifice.
Star Wars espouses what happens when you develop a "Warrior Class".

By the by, "Thank you for your serve and sacrifice". I am one who does know what you have done and appreciate it. Multiple generation military family. I wish it were not so.

I am a Vietnam (67-68) vet from an era that still had a draft--which drew from a much larger population that does today's military. I do not see the "all volunteer army" as a particularly good thing for the country as a whole (tho I admit it may simplify a lot of military issues). The draft brought an uninvited mixture of attitudes and backgrounds that, while making some things difficult, made other issues at least more interesting. And that mix has informed the 45+ years in the civilian world in ways that I find disappointingly absent from today's culture. Be careful what you ask for--that can work both for the military (all volunteer) and for the large civilian world (which misses the mix and the shared experiences, however problematic).

I am not a veteran, but I am the daughter of a two-time veteran, and consider myself very pro-military, very patriotic.

Not all civilians are as cavalier as what you may have come across. The distinct disadvantage civilians face is that most people simply can't know/understand what it is like to serve unless they have done it. It doesn't make them any better or worse than someone who has served, it just simply....is.

I volunteer for an excellent service organization that was founded by and utilizes mostly veterans.
Personally, I sometimes feel very uncomfortable speaking to veterans, because I am so worried that I will offend them, come off as trying to talk about something I know nothing about (firsthand) or appear rudely intrustive. In other words, the communication is a two way street.

Are there many vapid, selfish, idiotic citizens in this country? Yes. Are there those who don't fully appreciate the extraordinary dumb luck of being a US Citizen? Absolutely. This will always be the case and frankly probably get worse, as we move further away from the 20th century.

My point (I actually have one) is just this-if you can, help us help you. Understand sometimes we are at a loss and can't possibly imagine what you have gone through. Understand we WANT to understand and just because we didn't serve like you doesn't make us any less concerned about our military and our country. Tell us what you need and we will do our best. As always, thank you for your service.

As a Vietnam vet (twice) I don't quite understand the emotional problems so many of our returning men and women have. And neither do the services. Combat in Vietnam, Korea and WWII was at least as horrifying as Iraq and Afgan. And yet those men and women returned and resumed their normal lives without too much difficulty. Maybe it is the disconnect you talk about that is causing this. No one cares! We do care and we care deeply but i t isn't coming across. Sad, we need to care and openly show our love and respect for our warriers. Maybe establishing a warrier class of volunteers has deepened the divide and established a separate class ofcitizen. I wish I had the answer but I do know that we whrether returned soldier or civilian care and care deeply.

Frank,

I'm not sure that the WWII vets returned and "resumed their normal lives without too much difficulty." Too many WWII vets I know and know of have finally begun talking about the emotional cost of their service, and the emotional cost of feeling they couldn't talk about this loss.

I grew up during Vietnam, and I do think one big difference now is that, because of the lack of the draft, our current wars are largely invisible. When I was in high school, Newark Airport looked like an Army base. It was nearly impossible to ignore the war.

I appreciate this blog, and all the people who contribute.

Judith

Thank you for this post. Now I know why my Dad became a Nurse and work on the BAMC Burn Unit for so long. He was in Korea and Viet Nam.Thank you.
Be Well
Felix

With the creation of the warrior class, civilians reap a very real benefit: they don't have to train for and go to war. This is what makes the warrior so noble, that he stands in for someone else and is willing to sacrifice so much for that someone else.

But another thing that happens is that the warrior class becomes isolated. In that isolation, sometimes bad things happen, just like they do in any group or culture. In the military, maybe you have people who take irreverent pictures of dead bodies or hire prostitutes in their down time on a trip to a foreign country. Then the civilian class boils over with self-righteousness. Maybe if instead of isolating us, if the warrior class and civilians weren't so starkly separated, we wouldn't have scandals, we would have incidents of people doing bad things and then we could take care of them without all this gnashing of teeth.

But you know what, I'm tired of all this crap, just like the original commenter. Give me a task, a mission, with performance measures that let me know when I'm successful and I'm ready to go. Put me out in the world where you can do whatever you want (and everyone does whatever they want), and I'll just walk away.

El artículo merece la pena leer, me gusta mucho. Voy a mantener los nuevos artículos

Thanks for your posting.
You are correct about American civilians - "Generally speaking, the American public endured no physical or emotional affects unless they were close to someone involved." I am a member of that public. We have been so distanced from the human side of these wars that we don't even know where to begin the conversation. In speaking with other civilians about the need to discuss the war with vets two concerns come up: Are we breaking a rule on National Security? Are we going to have the vet flip out on us by bringing up their memories? These may sound like silly concerns, but there you have it. In order for communication to begin, a conversation like this has to take place in order to bridge the gulf of ignorance between the civilian and the vet.

I am a writing teacher at the college level, and am making a special effort to bring the returning vet to the forefront in the classroom. Through their writing, I am hoping to create a space where the vet can explain/describe to the non-vet what their life experience has been to date. This, I feel, is the least I can do for their service to our country.

I came of age during the Vietnam War. I have never been in war, never had a family member in a war, never had a desire to be in war, and I am very lucky to live in this country. Thank you very much for your service.

The divide is not just veteran-civilian. It also is war veteran/other veteran. I think it goes to having actually done the job. That is a moment of moral change. But morality is something our culture doesn't handle well.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c5f3053ef016765917b76970b

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference THE VETERAN-CIVILIAN DISCONNECT:

« Previous Article | Main | Next Article »




Search Doonesbury Sandbox Blog

LINKS


About

My Photo

FEATURED BOOK