Ordinarily, I’m not a fan of groups. The experiences I’d had with them when I was younger were distasteful, to say the least, and distressing in the extreme.
When I first went to the East Coast to run a facility for physically disabled adults, admissions and evaluation decisions were supposed to be made by a team. However, the team was so ego-driven that decisions were often made by one individual (not always the same one) and then forced through, despite constituting violation of federal regulation, incurring enormous expense, or putting other people at risk. I was glad when the team was disbanded and I was allowed to do my job.
Then there was the community group that was little more than a busybody’s charter, gratifying the intrusive need for some to mind everybody else’s business. The influence and power the community association wielded was, in my view, frightening—at best, a hindrance, and on several occasions, an expression of the deep prejudices of the governing few; again, feeble egos seeking validation through the exploitation of ‘because we can’.
I won’t say that’s changed, but owing to a recent event, I am open to a new point of view.
On Monday last, I attended a business expo being sponsored by three Chambers of Commerce, and I met some really interesting people, including the General Manager of a company that rents temporary offices. She had been in the Navy in the Gulf War, and we clicked very quickly. So quickly, in fact, I don’t recall how or why some information about me came up. I found myself telling her about my experiences with former Marines (which I wrote about in my post entitled ‘Send the Marines’) who, like me, have been wrestling with PTSD for some time. They took me in and treated me like one of their own. I never have felt so much part of something, or so accepted, as I did with those Marines.
Until this week.
The General Manager told me to look her up on Facebook, ‘friend’ her, and she would introduce me to a small virtual group of which she is a member. All of the people in the group were former military. Now in civilian life, their military experience was still a vital component in their lives and their thinking. As part of my introduction to the group, she wrote: While he is not a vet with PTSD, he is a fellow human being with PTSD who in the middle of a very hard battle was taken in by Marines and treated like one of their brothers.
Within an hour of her making this introduction, I began receiving very warm messages of welcome from members of the group, and for the first time in several years, I was part of something. Despite my total military experience having been smoking cigars with former Marines, they have brought me in and accepted me. I was greeted with Semper Fi, and one fellow said, ‘Vado Exercitus!’ (Go Army!)
This may well be the best week of my personal 2014.
I’ve noticed a big difference between this group, Our Military !, and others of which I’ve been a member. In other groups, people seem to be looking for a reason not to accept others. This is a primal instinct—in the caveman days, if I did not recognize you as member of my clan, you were probably an enemy and therefore a threat.
I can only guess, but it seems to me that in Our Military !, it’s already understood that everyone is different; they want to find points of commonality. They’re accustomed to working closely with people from different parts of the country who may talk funny, eat strange food, and have unusual regional folklore—that doesn’t matter. They want to know how they can best bond with you because everyone may depend on that bond at some point. We are not friends or comrades through our differences, but through our similarities. They often refer to themselves as ‘family’, and it’s very evident in their communications and postings that they take this seriously.
I’ve learnt one more thing in the brief time I’ve been part of this family. There is an enormous difference between government and the military, and there is a huge difference between the military and its servicemen and women. Some of the members in the group are very outspoken and indignant about governmental policies and decisions, treatment by the military, and how veterans are treated by Support Services and the public, and not being a military man myself, I am awakened by the depth of their rage.
Although they don’t like what the government is doing, although they are unhappy with the aftermath of military service, I don’t believe there’s a single member who wouldn’t drop what s/he is doing to go back and defend the whole mess all over again.
Semper Fi, America.
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