Project “Old Vet” is Gordon Cucullu, co-founder. His comments are based on
real-life conversations we’ve had with Valhalla
veteran participants and will appear frequently on our page. If you have
questions or comments about decompression, transition, dealing with troubling issues, or
things related, please send them to us.
|Now: Skills practice at Valhalla - 2014|
“I feel like I’m all by myself, isolated with nobody to talk to. I never talk to my family or civilian friends about my experiences,” a veteran told me. “They don’t understand and never will, so I just avoid the subject.”
We hear this repeatedly from contemporary vets. So often that it has become a mantra. Why is this such a universal phenomenon?
It isn’t just with today’s veterans. This been a common thread at least throughout living memory. My grandfather, a veteran of both the Mexican Expedition to hunt down Pancho Villa and World War I, never spoke of his experiences. I only learned about his history in the most cursory manner by cleaning out his footlocker of military orders, decorations, papers, and memorabilia after his death.
When I was a kid every male adult I knew who was my father’s age had served in the Second World War. None ever discussed their experiences with family save for a few humorous anecdotes. The only times I ever heard about the “real war” was while hanging around them when they were with relatives and friends who had similar experiences. Even then I was cautioned not to repeat anything I heard to my mother or to my friends.
What makes your situation today different – and this trend has been growing in our society since the Korean War – is that fewer and fewer of your friends back home have shared experiences. Compared to WWII with 16 million-plus Americans in uniform,
Korea – with far fewer – was
treated by the country as a sideshow. No one particularly cared about their
experiences and few of their contemporaries shared it.
While there was widespread public acclaim for the military after the Gulf War it was short-lived, as was the conflict, and many ascribed the public’s over-reaction as societal guilt over the crappy treatment given to
vets. Regardless, the war started and ended quickly with relatively few
casualties, a characteristic that appealed enormously to short-attention-span
Now, almost 13 years into a post-9/11 attack series of war, the American public has been neither asked nor required to sacrifice an iota of discomfort. Yet you volunteered to make a sacrifice and that makes you very different in the eyes of your fellow citizens. And your being different makes some people uncomfortable.
With less than 1% of the population having served, many of you will inevitably feel a sense of isolation from your civilian friends, neighbors, and even family members. At times some of you may become overwhelmed by this sense of isolation while at the same time missing the comradeship that came with living and working alongside battle buddies who shared a common purpose far away from home.
This is absolutely normal and understandable – I certainly felt this way myself after leaving the military after two decades. Yet few civilians understand since they have lived under very different circumstances.
For any civilians who are reading this article in a quest to comprehend what our vets are experiencing, try to imagine taking a person out of combat during which he has lived with the most intense emotions (including an indescribable bonding experience with his fellow unit members), place him back in civilian life where he is often viewed with suspicion and morbid curiosity, isolate him from his comrades, then perhaps fill him full of a witch’s brew of prescribed psychotropic drugs.
Pile on a load of additional factors: high unemployment with little chance of finding a profession that affords either the intense emotional experience of combat or the brotherhood that results. A society preoccupied with trivia and entertainment, blissfully ignorant of world affairs and without an inkling of what military service entails or the experiences that it generates. Friends and family who have moved on with their lives while he is deployed and have little interest and less understanding of what happened while he was gone.
And we wonder why the suicide rate is so high? Let’s talk more about this in our next conversation.
P.S. If you see yourself having some of these issues maybe a stay at Valhalla Project can help. Contact us by email or phone and we’ll talk.
The Valhalla Project needs your help and supportJust getting a project like Valhalla up and running has required a significant investment in time, money, and labor. With roughly $500,000 already invested over the last two years into the Valhalla Project for property acquisition, feeding and housing Soldier participants, infrastructure and facility improvements, animal purchases and feed, tools and building supplies, forest and pasture management expenses, and much much more, resources are running thin. We need YOUR help to keep Valhalla functioning efficiently - while at the same time expanding vitally important programs to assist post-9/11 combat Soldiers and war zone civilian workers to transition back into the civilian world.
The Valhalla Project is a 501(c)3 nonprofit charity recognized by the IRS.
Nobody, including cadre or board members, draws a paycheck here, nor will they ever: we simply give everything we have to make Valhalla possible. 100% of your donation via Paypal will go directly to program expenses, period. If you'd prefer to instead directly donate four new tractor tire, a truckload of straw bales, a pallet of dimension lumber, or even a few dozen 10' sheets of forest green tin roofing, that would be absolutely wonderful - yet perhaps polking the "Donate" button above to contribute $10, $20,
$50 or even more might be a little easier and more practical!