Veterans Should Help Themselves…

…and each other. What do I mean by this?

I mean that I grow weary of hearing about how veterans need help. I’m tired of hearing things like “Veteran unemployment is so high, why doesn’t somebody do something?” Here’s why.

Veterans have demonstrated a lot about themselves just by being in the military.

In order to join the military, you have to score (roughly, depending on the service) at least 30 on the ASVAB, which is a percentile based test. This doesn’t mean that you’re smarter than a third of the country if you make it in the military, but your aptitude for general work is higher than a significant portion of the potential workforce. You also have to meet decent physical fitness standards, and most people maintain them during their time in the military. Of course, military service is difficult, and a lot of broken people come out on the other side. But being part of a team that does hard things means being less of a quitter when difficulties are encountered.

Veterans also have the ability to sleep in uncomfortable places, which is a valuable skill in the modern workforce.

Some of the best help for a vet comes from other vets. 

The only people looking out for you when you’re deployed are other people wearing uniforms like yours. Under stress, the bonds that form when human life is entrusted to other like-minded individuals are immensely strong. After exiting the military, there’s no reason for veterans to stop helping one another, in one way or another. I don’t mean handouts, but assisting each other in finding employment, making connections that might lead to further opportunities, or helping recover from mental or physical injuries by doing fun things.

Solid personal relationships are also crucial. Family and friends that may or may not have been in the military and are supportive of vets on a personal level may quite literally mean the difference between life and death or success and failure. I certainly do not mean to say that vets should only become friends with or depend on other vets, but this should not be ignored, either.

Veterans are probably going to college.

In a down economy, it makes a lot of sense to use GI Bill benefits to both attain a college degree and bide your time until (hopefully) the economy recovers. Plus, the prospect of getting paid to go to a place where attractive young women wearing not a whole lot of clothing gather sounds pretty good to young men who’ve spent plenty of time away from such things. I would also assume that single female vets might also appreciate going to a place where young men don’t ignore them. College is a great place for veterans to go, and this probably explains some of why the unemployment rate for veterans is high.

 Veterans, as a whole, don’t need handouts.

Part of strength is admitting weakness and a need for help at times, but many vets have been through a lot. They’re tougher and stronger individuals for it. Not all veterans, mind you – some truly do need help, and there are times when veterans are especially vulnerable. Situations that might bring a “normal” person near financial or emotional ruin could be enough to push a vet dealing with other stresses over that edge, for example. Others are dirtbags and want free stuff that they don’t deserve. But when it comes to “veterans” in the way that people lump all veterans together…well, I know that I don’t want special recognition or treatment, and I know the same goes for my friends that have been or are in the military, too.

I know that it will be easy for this article to be misinterpreted. I know that a lot of people want to help veterans in some way. I can appreciate that. But veterans are the sort of people that get things done for themselves, and they shouldn’t wait around for someone else to help them find a job when times get tough.

14 thoughts on “Veterans Should Help Themselves…”

  1. You are so right Andrew. Good article. One way I think vets can be helping each other is networking for jobs. Networking skills are not taught in the military (at least not while I was in) but are vital to succeeding in the private sector. I think that is one meaningful way we can help a brother out.

  2. How hard is it to write “Homeless vet, please give money for food” on a piece of cardboard? They don’t have to teach you that at boot camp, writing is usually taught at elementary school.

    I personally think it’s a bit of an overreaction by the American public because of the aforementioned paragraph. But honestly, I honestly have no idea how this is in the US. As a proud Dutchman I have never seen a veteran soldier begging for food. It’s usually people covered in silver paint or seashells doing that. And they’re not convincing me that’s an illness…

  3. Andrew, as a combat veteran, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on PTSD. It seems to be the hot topic for many Veterans getting out of the military these days, but when I got out of the service 15 years ago, it was unheard of, except for maybe a few guys coming off recruiting duty.

    I sometimes wonder if it’s because, since Vietnam, there is a taboo associated with questioning the character of Veterans, as if simply enlisting in the military makes you Pat Tillman, and now the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction.

    Thanks for your blog. I appreciate the time and effort you put into it.

    V/R

    MM2(SS)

  4. Andrew-

    I have enjoyed your site- particularly when it comes to reporting on firearms. I am not a vet, I did not serve. However, I respect and honor all who go into the armed forces. My father was an Airborne Ranger. Personally I did attempt to follow in his footsteps but was unable due to health. I am now in the professional field of project management. In my experience with interviewing recent combat vets for jobs I think vets are given a diservice from the culture of the military.

    Many come in and list off the different experiences they had while serving. However, they are not able to translate their experience into how it differentiates them from candidates who have direct experience within a given technology. Many vets need coaching in simply answering questions and relating the experiences of combat in overseas service to a work environement without sounding as if combat alone gives them an edge.

    I have been proud to have vets serve on our teams. If there are any vets who need assistance with resumes or coaching please feel free to reach out to me. I would be happy to assist in providing context and tailoring the resumes to given fields of interest.

  5. This comment is intended to help veterans that are thinking about going to college.

    I am currently using my last semester of benefits and want to provide some insight based on my experiences with the GI Bill. I would recommend that veterans wanting to attend college save up enough money for at least six months of living expenses. It is not uncommon for me to wait 2-3 months from the date I filed for my benefits, until I start to receive them. Things that can delay your benefits include but are not limited to: congress making changes to the GI Bill, government shutdown(remember when Obama wold not promise old people that they would receive their social security; The same applies to the veterans and the GI Bill), increased number of vets going to college, your university messing it up for you, no apparent reason at all, any combination of the aforementioned.

    I would also recommend you save up enough money to pay for at least one semester of tuition and fees. I recently heard of a veteran getting kicked out of his school, despite having a 3.949 GPA, and only having one semester remaining until he graduated. This student was kicked out of the university for not paying his tuition; Not all university’s do this, but many will. The morale of this story is to be frugal; Just because you are out of the military does not mean that they can’t screw you. Do not worry if you have to pay tuition out of your own pocket; the VA will reimburse you(eventually).

    Do not plan on going to an Ivy league school, your benefits will not be sufficient.

    “There are two things they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School: How to cope with defeat and how to use a shotgun.”-Homer Simpson

  6. Dead on, and thanks for posting about this. I get pretty tired of being talked down to like I’m some poor, clueless victim of the system. I volunteered, and it was a privilege and an honor to serve.

    Though it is not always the case, I find that some people (especially the knee jerk anti-mil types), feel shamed by a personal sense of impotency and lack of self worth, and envy the sense of pride, accomplishment, and especially the public recognition that many veterans receive. The idea that all veterans are stupid and were unable to find a job or meaningful life before the military is pervasive where I go to school. It is pretty easy to tell who doesn’t like you right off the bat, because they will either tell you (uncommon, very few people have to stones), or patronize you (common). I about had an aneurism laughing when a dude in one of my classes talked about the need to “empower” veterans, because we are all incapable of taking care of ourselves without “military welfare”. Everyone is entitled to their idiot opinion, so I just laughed it off. Regardless, it’s a widely held view where I go to school. Nobody I served with craves “empowerment”. Most of us don’t seek or require a spot at the victim’s table to beg for handouts. As the war winds down, and more veterans reenter the workforce, we’ll just go on to be successful somewhere else.

  7. Pardon, but not all vet are MEN, some like myself are women and we do a hell of a job out in the sandbox. I loved serving my country and now that I can finish college I can do that and go back and help my family in the the Force. Please don’t forget its brothers and SISTERS out there fighting.

  8. The greatest factor to my success in life after getting out of the Marines was my parents letting me move back home to attend school. Free room and board, reasonable rules, and time to allow me to save money to finish up a university.

    I knew guys who did have that support network who went from Camp Pendleton to LAX handling luggage.
    I was blessed. Sad for them.

  9. Veterans need to realize that civilians who have never served mostly view them as unworthy of employment. I learned this the hard way after I left active duty to become a financial advisor. People who say they respect veterans enough to employ them really just pay us lip service: http://alfidicapitalblog.blogspot.com/2012/04/people-lie-about-wanting-financial.html

    The best thing we can do as veterans is work for ourselves. Staying in a large corporation filled with non-veterans means we will hit career dead-ends when colleagues tell us we don’t belong.

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