I collaborated with Starbucks to share about bridging the gap between military and civilians. Since 2013, Starbucks has hired more than 10,000 military spouses and veterans and is committed to hiring at least 15,000 more.
After joining the United States Army at the ripe old age of 19, my first interaction with civilians was during my 4-year stint as a recruiter. Everyone was hospitable, thanking me for my service, offering to purchase my meals. And that held true throughout my tenure as a recruiter. When I visited high schools and colleges, the questions no war veteran likes to be asked was directed my way.
“Have you ever shot/killed anybody?”
“Were you close to anyone that died over there? Did you see them be killed?”
Those questions stir up emotions that cannot be explained. But I also understand the age demographic asking those questions. I was a recruiter and it was my job to find qualified applicants to enlist in the Army. Although many who may have asked these questions were not interested in serving and were probably asking to share the gossip with their friends and family, or put to rest the rumors they knew to be true, I know of one kid who had a calling to serve in the military and these were questions important to him before making his decision.
There has always been a divide between civilians and military. I don’t know why nor do I know when it began. Maybe it began when our service men and women were heralded as heroes upon their return from WWI or WWII. Maybe the divide began prior to those wars and instead began with the programs young children heard on the radio or read in 5-cent picture books. Regardless when it began, the division is truer today than ever before.
If you asked a mechanic what he did all day at work, he would be able to go into great detail about changing oil, rotating tires, dropping a transmission and rebuilding a motor in an American made car versus a foreign-made car.
If you asked a service member who’s military job is also a mechanic, he couldn’t go into as great of detail. It’s not because the service member is ill-equipped or untrained in his profession, but because he’s also a custodian, lawn care technician, baby sitter, counselor, mentor, teacher, paper work pusher, war fighter and the list goes on. I never had one specific job during my 20-year career in the Army. I was the jack-of-all-trades, regardless what my Military Occupational Specialty (job) described.
A question I’m often asked is if I miss the Army. That’s a hard question to answer. I miss some of the locations I was assigned such as Europe and Korea. But do I miss the Army? Not really. I miss the people I served with. An analogy coaches often use to motivate their team, specifically football coaches, is comparing that important game to a war fought in the trenches. A football player will never understand what it means to entrust their life to the man or woman standing next to them in a war-torn country.
So, how do we bridge a divide between civilians and military? We can start by questions. It’s okay to ask. I would rather you ask than assume.
“Was it hard?” Yes and no. Time spent away from my family was difficult but I had a job to do. I knew my wife would take care of our family so I could focus on my mission, bringing my Soldiers home and coming home to open arms. Although I had to leave my family often, I had another family that wore the same uniform as the one I was wearing.
We were taught as young children to ask questions of our classmates. We would go home and tell our parents about our new friend. We wouldn’t be able to describe much of our friendship, other than if our new friend was a boy or a girl and maybe their name. But eventually that friendship blossomed into a close friendship. You cannot know someone without asking about his or her likes and dislikes, experiences and so forth. The same holds true for a new friend in adulthood. We ask fact-finding questions such as where they live, their employment and questions concerning their family, often while sitting in a coffee shop enjoying our favorite hot or frozen beverage.
(My family at the First Starbucks in Pikes Peak- Seattle Washington during the time I was stationed at Fort Lewis)
If you ask a veteran these same questions, he or she will begin to open up about their service. I guarantee they have will have stories to share throughout your conversation. Those very stories will either make you laugh or cry, and possibly both.
Take a watch of the video for more information-
So how do we bridge the gap between veterans and civilians? I’ll start the conversation. Hi. My name is Clay. What’s your name? Would you like to grab a cup of joe?
You can read my about our story, journey with PTSD, the Military, & Veteran life over on our other site Awe Filled Veterans Wife.