I have noticed in recent months the increasing popularity of a ‘zero damns’ attitude in American society. While I get that it can be kind of funny to portray this attitude and persona, I don’t find it productive or beneficial to our community. I personally care a ton. Veteran suicide is at an all-time high: 22 veterans a day, and those are the just ones the VA is tracking.
The actual number is probably much higher. During these times, we need our community to rally together instead of not giving a crap about each other. Transitioning out of the military is difficult. There is more to it than getting a job, and those of us who have navigated those waters understand that.
Zero damns. No damns given. All out of give-a-damns. Imagine a world where this is true across the board: No one cares about each other, and we are all just doing our own thing. If this was true, we would not be able to cohabitate as human beings. As Homo sapiens, we are a tribal species and need to rally with and amongst each other. Why should we care about one another? Where is the line to give a damn?
Should we care about our friends that support us in bad times and even worse times? Should we care about the people who help us out when we are hitting low spots? It is a well-known fact that a negative mentality is a cancer. It spreads through a team or a community like a plague. A positive attitude and treating people with kindness and respect can be equally contagious.
We have made history and our veteran community is hurting. Never before has our country been in sustained combat for over a decade in multiple operational theaters with an all-volunteer force. In the past, there was a draft, and men were expected to do one 9-12 month tour overseas, with some guys in special units doing two. We now have men doing upwards of 7-10 combat deployments in their career, willingly so, because that was the job they signed up for.
This, however, comes with a very high tab that will come for collection. Veteran suicide is at an all-time high, and our government is continuing to overlook soldiers in need of proper treatment for several different reasons:
- It is cheaper to let us die off (thank you for your service).
- The money in big pharma companies is big business and would hurt the government’s pockets if they lost their support.
- I guess you could say the government gives zero damns about us.
The fallout from the Vietnam War was horrible. We did not know it then, but they had some serious adjustment issues, as well as medical concerns.
How many homeless vets from that era do we see on the side of the road who are homeless, jobless, and often, addicted to drugs or alcohol? We’ve seen what can happen with little to no support for a generation that was drafted before us, with many serving only one deployment within a combat environment. What the hell do you think is about to happen to a generation who has signed up to fight for 13 years straight and now is being cut loose on their own?
We as a nation are not prepared for the fallout and damage that is about to be unloaded on our country’s men and women who selflessly served their country because they believed in what it stands for.
Now that things are winding down and the armed services are cutting back, we can only expect the figures related to veteran suicide, unemployment, and homelessness to increase substantially. The next 30 years is going to be scary and difficult in our community, and we are not set up to deal with the fallout.
How can we help one another? Time to insulate and not isolate each other. The fact is, no one is going to give a damn about us but us. Instead of giving zero damns, it’s time to give a bunch of damns, and give them about one another. We have seen an increase in small non-profit organizations standing up on their own to take care of their communities. This is a great step. These small-yet-powerful organizations don’t sit behind seven layers of bureaucracy to assist their own. I see people making no money and working 18-hour days to support these organizations just because giving a damn about their people is more important than making money for personal gain.
I could probably talk about what happens during transition out of the service for hours, and I’ll likely write a separate article on it, but to be brief, it is almost like the seven stages of grief, or like being on a roller coaster. You are excited to be on your own and be your own person, but that excitement is short-lived. All of a sudden, you find yourself sad and depressed, and don’t understand why. You are out, you got a job, everything is okay, but why are things so messed up?
“Why can’t I be happy? Why do my spouse and kids suck? I just want to go back to the team and shoot bad people in the face again!” Every vet that I talk to goes through this same roller coaster of feelings. It is unreal how we all deal with the same problems and ups and downs. I can take anyone’s story and simply change his or her name and it will fit.
There is obviously something to that.
The Raider Project
Well, what does The Raider Project do? “It’s complicated.” So here is the deal. We don’t publicize what we do very much for several reasons: It’s sad, depressing, dark, not sexy, and frankly, not anyone’s damn business. We deal with our community’s nasty problems.
Take a guy who served 10 honorable years in Special Operations, for instance. At the end of his service, they say, “Hey Sarge, thank you for your service, have a nice day!” He does his best to get along, but quickly finds himself depressed and dealing with a host of issues that he was not prepared for. Ten-year Special Operations veteran, now homeless, no job, and addicted to meth or some other drug. How did that happen? It happens so quickly. It’s just a couple of bad-luck items and it can happen to anyone.
We help out our own. Do you think that he wants the lowest points of his life publicized for the world to see? Of course not. We are dealing with a nasty fallout of events, and it is important that our guys get the help they need without having their issues paraded around as some sort of trophy by an organization. Let’s let their successes in life and their service to the country do that.
When I started this project, I thought, “Help guys get a job and they will be good!” Nope. We are dealing with PTSD, TBI, legal issues, family issues, homelessness, drug addiction, and that just names a few. We will continue to fight the good fight because the fallout is only going to get worse, and our guys need a banner to unite under with an infrastructure/network to support each other.
How can you help? Step on. Give a damn. As Patrick Swayze said in “Roadhouse,” “Just be nice.” I will tell you that nothing is cheap. Counseling and lawyers are not cheap, travel to brain clinics is not cheap, rehabilitation of a life is not cheap. I could go on and on.
- Give a damn about the people around you and the ones that served this country.
- Donate to a non-profit trying to make a difference.
- Don’t just complain about it, get involved and be part of the solution.