We congregate in the bars, or small social enclaves, and often alone, other times disconnected in the wildlands of nature or an urban setting . . . But most often at home where many spend their time in superfluous social-media bouts, some are soaked in alcohol, others intoxicated by the drug and/or narcotic of their choice, while a few surrender to their prescription medication. All in an effort to bring reason in a world gone mad, it all changed – and for what – doesn’t matter you’re due back out there, with them . . . And they don’t get it; they don’t get us or care to know the meaning of – the truth – about life, death, purpose, mission, the greater good, love, hate, travel, experience, and war. They’ll never understand comradery or brotherhood – family, like us. Our greater lost tribe and its many internal subdivisions based on what you did and who you knew. The irreconcilable time loop, a fight aginst the future with one foot forced into earning a living in this new civilian world while the other sinks, into the stinking history of the glorious past.

Here we begin to identify the rhetorical placement of the United States post 9/11 combat veteran as a counter-public. The primary method of research used in this identification process is firsthand experience from varying points of view studied by the author. The analysis explores ideas, situations, understanding, crowd-logic, dialog, argument, and direct engagement of the United States post 9/11 combat veteran as a counter-public in conversation and interaction with the United States public.

This exploration examines who the United States post 9/11 combat veteran is, how they became a counter-public, and what forged them into counter-public. The report will further begin to explain the organization, goals, and actions as a counter-public for the United States post 9/11 veteran.

Counter-publicsAre constituted in conflictual relations to dominant publics.

PublicThe interdependent members of society who hold different opinions about a mutual problem and who seek to influence its resolution through discourse, 

From the Frontlines, and to the Front Porch

Countless wars have been fought over time, and the surviving soldiers from those wars have always made their way back to their lives when their service has come to a conclusion. Those soldiers become combat veterans, and combat veterans are socially codependent on the public’s perception of them. The public drives the place of the veteran in society. After World War Two (WWII), the public deemed those veterans the “Greatest Generation,” but after the Vietnam War, combat veterans were completely abandoned. In both of these postwar scenes of the combat veteran interacting with the public, the public had made a clear decision to accept or shun the returning combat veterans.

Today the situation is much more precarious, as the United States public feels so offended and scared from the terrorist attacks on 9/11; that post 9/11 is now an era. The United States public also feels perplexed about the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) with a front that has spanned the globe, to include the United States; on home and cyber fronts. The precariousness of this situation leaves no clear definition for the combat veterans of GWOT. The public of the United States cannot clearly say if the veterans of GWOT are patriots in defense in of their nation such as in WWII, or to be abandoned as the combat veterans returning from Vietnam.

This uncertainty has caused turbulence, with no clear response from the public; the post 9/11 combat veteran has been forced to take an interim role as a counter-public while the public jury is out. This is a counter-public similar to that experienced by the combat veterans of the Vietnam War, but not quite as harsh.  The ambiguity given to the post 9/11 combat veteran by the public has allowed it to become a political plaything, thanks to a continued veil of uncertainty. The post 9/11 combat veteran continues to be used as props and pawns to endorse policy; in a disturbing demonstration of democracy.

Albeit, the fear-mongering ploys are well founded in history and bears the question of; what to do with the returning soldiers? As seen from the combat veterans of World War One (WWI), in 1932.  The unpaid and unemployed combat veterans of WWI created social unrest on their own regard to meet their social demands and unpaid bonuses.

A Sweeping Disaster, the Exploitation of Veteran Rhetors

Now we are experiencing a much more rhetorically explosive situation. This situation is equally in the veil of the public’s indecisive state of acceptance or dismissal of the post 9/11 combat veteran.  This rhetorical explosive device is primed to detonate with politics. Politics not seen at such a play on all public(s) since the rise of Julius Caesar; his rhetorical guises to secure farmland for his legions. His promised task often became obscured in legislation as he secured friends with tax-breaks, and badgered his enemies and rivals. Ceaser’s chief rival and scapegoat for the delay was Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, also known as, Pompey. While in actuality, Ceaser in regards to the combat veterans was seeking additional power by purchasing their loyalty and attempting to ensure plebeian order in the Republic, on the backs of these combat veterans.

A less decisive form of such politics, yet still at the expense of combat veterans is still seen in the showboating of politician veterans such as John Kerry, who weaseled a position as Secretary of State, following his failed Presidential campaign. Others opt for misguided grandstanding as another favorite exploitative method, by politicians like Ted Cruz, who sought to reformulate the base of the Tea Party during the 2013 government shutdown. These tactics use combat veterans as a buffer between the politician and the public.

The often disastrous results of political maneuvers such as these expand on public viewpoints, but most often negatively; leaving further disenfranchisement with the war of which the combat veterans were sent to fight – de facto the individual combat veterans. Political actions tend to place combat veterans upon the puppet strings of politicians, and in a lewd and offensive act. One that rallies against the ability of the post 9/11 combat veteran to become part of the public.

These issues in politics and opinion are the caldera churning magma for a slowly erupting volcano against the post 9/11 combat veteran. A volcano that is billowing the smoke of doubt on issues spanning the horizon; from professional employment history, lack of professional civilian networks, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Traumatic Brain Injury stereotypes, and misconceptions of the art of war and the ways of the soldier. A soldier who left to fight or participate in GWOT returned to their life to fight a greater battle as a post 9/11 combat veteran; a battle to find their place in any public.

Ancient Symbols and the Modern Military Counter-Public

The Laws of Hammurabi – University of Chicago.

The military is the world’s greatest rhetorical agency. Within the military, symbolic action knows no bounds; there are musical symbols, signifying gestures; visual symbols for rank, position, stature, and movement; visual cues and images for action. Symbols for symbolic action are well rooted in ancient military history for as long as military records have been kept, such as the Stone Stela listing “The Laws of Hammurabi.” These Stone Stela were placed around Mesopotamia, circa 1792-1750 B.C., as rhetorical devices to demonstrate structure and understanding of the distant, yet iconic public throughout the kingdom that was enforced by the military.

The Laws of Hammurabi, much like modern military symbology identifies what is expected of the individual and the collective public. That of which the particular public for which the symbolic message is designed. These types of symbols are the roots of the greater organization. One of the best U.S. based modern examples is seen in the iconic photographs used in Army Values instilment campaign.

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The Army Values – U.S. Army.

The Army’s varied usage of visual aesthetics to accompany the use of layered symbology, and easy on the eyes dominant reading is designed to best display the intended message. In both cases of symbolic messaging, as appropriate to their time periods; these presence displays are designed to drive symbolic action in line with the core principles to the public audience. Clearly stated, and implied as directives.

Symbolism Suited for Hierarchy

These forms of symbolism are the textbook definition of constitutive rhetoric; character, community, and language as displayed and designated by their author rhetoricians. Clear goals for the public that are presented with the meaningful symbols to be interpreted by the receiver to instill symbolic action. The messaging is constructed to maintain the desired public’s culture and orderly image.

Any symbolic ideographic action handed to a public in this manner leads to a natural human instinct. That instinct is order, as a community and a public to work together and build a public identity based on the symbols given.These are examples supported by Kenneth Burke’s fourth clause which states that man is:

Goaded by the spirit of hierarchy or, moved by a sense of order, under which would fall the incentives of organization and status.

These are narratives most defiantly found in militaries as well as societies with publics, rhetoricians, and leaders in both the past and present.

By deploying this form of symbolism, the public, and in this case the military is acting as an agency, which has created a sub-public for its warriors. This sub-public, despite being soldiers; are human beings that equally recognize the symbols given. The military being created within a narrative of the public. This narrative initially operates just shy of a counter-public because it keeps the myths and social truths of the military and greater public intact.

The narrative is essentially sub-media, and would be very similar to that which the Mesopotamians would have had in their ranks. Sub-media such as what evolves within the satellite ranks in the military, which manifests quite similarly to that what occurs during expansion of a hierarchical religion. There are of course higher laws and understandings handed down as a way of life, but distance is the lawmakers’ demon. Out there in the wilds, heretics emerge and this is where counter-publics take root.

The Military, as Tribes

In the most basic understanding of a small military unit, or tribe it is governed by the guiding laws and social truths hierarchically formed above it. Yet within the tribes a narrative probability takes hold and, internal myths are formed along the same lines of the original social truths, but with minute changes. This narrative probability allows a tribe to function best as to the complexities of its own distant city-state; aligned but independent. A functional fact that can, at times, bastardize the publics’ intent and cause upheaval; although more often in a religious context such as Protestant Vs. Catholic,  Shia Vs. Sunni, and thus Combat Soldier Vs. Support Soldier, Paratroopers Vs. Ground Soldier, Grunts Vs. SOF, and Combat Veterans Vs. the Public. The loaded arguments of faulty premises with no true meaning outside of a point blind Orthodoxyxy.

Similar lines of ideological conflict are also drawn within the military, most often between branches, as seen in the annual Army vs. Navy football game which is now a national event. This rivalry turned media frenzy is an outstanding example of what could have been a tragic stage from a cross-branch power struggle, which was reframed into a near-comic, annual national event.

Such tribes within the military are global, and accept that the Army Vs. Navy fiasco as entirely too macro. For instance, an average operating tribe (platoon) in Afghanistan/Iraq has approximately thirty personnel assigned. Imagine yourself, and thirty other people who are similar to yourself in professional training. With these thirty people, you have trained for months in Europe, where you were already away from your home in the United States. You have parachuted out of aircraft, you have assembled and disassemble explosive devices, you have been awake for days again-and-again, and you have marched beyond acceptable physical exhaustion. When you were not training you, were in foreign cities, sharing a language and a culture that is foreign to you and your typical surroundings. You are now in a hostile environment, and you, the people to your left and right are designated to go forward on some whacky military acronym for a mission or operation.  Your mission and the others around could be: clear the road, a village, or a cavernous complex of any explosive devices hidden by enemy forces so that other units can safely move through the area without fear of being blown-up. Oh, and cap any bad guys while you’re there, since no one else has been there.

Picturing all of that, it should be easy to continue to envision how this small disconnected tribe, so far from home and from headquarters can develop their own sub-media. A small tribe with their own unique narrative from the greater public of the military, while keeping the baseline of the persuasive continuum alive and well. The process for this unique mutation incorporates high doses cultural hegemony, which occurs at a micro-level and as a result of changing resources and memory development from new experiences created outside of the general sphere of influence from the greater public(s). As team building within the tribe continues to grow and develop in the operating tribe, the empirical truth transforms into the now and not the then.

The stories of days past and the heroes of the past are overshadowed by all that is happening now.

A lesson the combat veteran fails to carry forward.

Typically the leaders or most respected members of a tribe are those that begin the sub-media transition. A leader must realize that to maintain the mystification of their social role(s) in the tribe while operating at such satellite distance; they must go beyond the typical restraints and assert their authority to perform their higher duties and act with vivacity to maintain order. This is accomplished by maintaining professionalism and warrior ethos throughout the contextual reconstruction process. A leader or respected personality can typically maintain enough of the core principles to keep up the given public image from the home-public rhetors. As long as one does not stray from the initial symbols dictated from those author rhetors, and is able to own the local rhetorical situation through discourse and image. If a leader can accomplish this, than any pressures caused by the tribes distance to the public or concern of not maintaining order and allegiance are alleviated.  This type of scenario plays out at all levels, and forges varying levels of bonds at astonishing levels. There are currently 1.3 million active duty military personnel, not including the National Guard or Reserves. That number, if neatly broken down into various tribes (divisions,) and in the tens of thousands and tribes (platoons to teams) to as small as four; which are operating worldwide, in 177 countries.

Data mapped from the Pentagon’s annual Base Structure Report, additional government, news, and academic sources. 5W Infographics.

Afar as tribes, these bonds which metamorphisms public authorial intent into an empirical truth is fitting the needs of the satellite tribe. A process that skews on two principles: size of the element and bonding levels, most commonly forged through stress, such as combat. In the military such as a religion, the authorial and authority rhetoricians distance from the audience is often great. This forces and affirms the strength of the purpose-rebuilt, public message to the tribe. Essentially the strongest and best-sold message wins – the missionary has their own interpretation of the text and provides the clearest and resonant voice to their parishioners abroad.

For their win, successful military and religious rhetors use visual rhetoric as the best course of action to achieve dissemination of the message from and to the tribe or public in question. And this is once again an ancient technique implemented by the Mesopotamian’s Stone Stela, which is replicated today in modern digital imagery. Presence in symbols, presence in doctrine, presence in ownership; such as wearing a name-tape that states your branch of service. Although the force of presence in an image is not always the sole winner, the creator of the symbolism must also establish guidelines and meaning which allow for exigency within appropriate constraints, for deliberate discourse, and the management of non-participation.

Otherwise, why would anyone care for what has no meaning?

Internal Division, the Counter-Public’s Micro-Counterpublic

There are a few internal disconnects which hold specific post 9/11 combat veterans back from over-engagement in total internal consolidation. The military, as one would suspect is much like a global, national conglomerate and is well organized into specific component commands designed for specific assignments and areas of responsibility. Within these components, are various commands and soldiers, which are further broken down to perform a multitude of tasks based on their individual specialties. Some are in the fight, while others are not. Briefly, put – some are firers, and some are non-firers.

The firers are responsible for the hazardous assignments, the combat; those whom seek out and destroy the enemy. The non-firers are those responsible for supporting the mission of the firers by performing maintenance, logistics, transportation, and a whole nest of other tasks that bring the warfighter to the front. As absurd as if sounds, there is a major disconnect between these two within the military. The concept of the right-hand washes the left escapes us, because the levels of comradery and experience vary. These are the first two subcultures, with a shared language but within military these tribes to clash. Most frequently after firers would have returned from a high-stress assignment. After these assignments, blame is placed and rivalries triggered against non-firers because of faulty equipment, or cowardice is called for their non-firing support specialty.

The assignment of blame and disregard of the role of the non-firer is often most ignorant, as we could not have completed our missions without their support.  It is very easy to get caught up in the pace and action of an event, but to fail to recognize the contributions of all in uniform; especially by those in the same uniform.

There is further nonsense in regards to the treatment of the non-firers and the failure of the firers to unite for the common cause. This is most insane, as to the average member of the public; they would not know an operator from a cook and Vice Versa. These class assignments are given to ourselves in the military, and kept by ourselves.

Further confusion from this internal conflict is that although the non-firers are not on the mission, they are given some of the same training, are expect to defend the base in the absence of the firers, and they are part of the same culture and dialogue. The firers and the non-firers are part of the same public, and eventually the same counter-public. It boils down to a shared responsibility of all those in hostile environment and best put together by a point raised by Lieutenant Colonel Grossman in his book On Combat, The Psychology and, Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace:

If you are feeling that maybe you should forget about carrying a gun or using a gun as a means for self-defense because the responsibility and liability is too great, let me validate your awareness that you do face a great responsibility and huge potential liability. However, let me remind you that there is nothing in this world more valuable that your life and the lives of your loved ones.

This point identifies the firers and non-firers on the same line for the nation. Firers and non-firers alike are the unified great line holding back the barbarians; so that the public may feel safe enough in their homes to sleep peacefully. It will only be with that realization and as a combined military pubic that combat veterans will more easily return home with a greater network of more of their own people, the fellow combat veteran.

Post Event, Welcome Back to the Fray for a New Life

One returns from the war, from all of that, which hardly begins to scratch the surface of what was once here and there. The most archetypal greetings of the U.S. post 9/11 combat veteran involves arrogance of any baggage carried home such as: ongoing personal issues, internal ethical struggles, relief and hyper-alertness of hazards and enemy actions, medical injuries, lack of a network, fractured interpersonal relationship, and a questionable future for the time lost.

The time away may have well have been another planet in comparison to what acceptable means to the U.S. public in any affair. Other than those whom went forward post 9/11 [in respect to modern times,] and have returned strangers in a strange land.

In time, the transitional fear subsides, and yet the most commonplace interaction with the freshly minted U.S. post 9/11 combat veteran becomes a strong engagement with arrogant epideictic discourse. The forms of the epideictic discourse received are in the hands of the argumentative ambushing public. The argument always draws forth the past, based on current pop-culture for the benefit of the public and against the combat veteran. The epideictic ambush tends to be based on the attackers personal rhetoric, which is most typically public.

The public attack is the most deceptive; as one can find themselves ambushed while believing a situation to be at ease. Those involved in this practice of argument are typically politically, media, or audience goal driven. Much like the politicians previously discussed, Ted Cruz and Julius Caesar. The post 9/11 combat veteran, if ambushed properly with a decent press kit, a hype record, and confident attacker can obtain ratings, and an audience. The problem is that this tactic is rarely employed with the good-will of the post 9/11 combat veteran in-mind. Asymmetrical tactics which support the needs-state of the individual public ambush rhetorical public are geared to support their own goals. This tactic disregards the post 9/11 combat veterans’ image, while the end-state allows the public to rise or fall on the back of the post 9/11 combat veteran.

A deceptive practice such as the ambush argument by a public rhetor can be easily delivered and at times can even be repeated on a targeted post 9/11 combat veteran under the guises of civic engagement, power, and ideology. Civic engagement is the most powerful tool of the post 9/11 combat veteran, it is the tool through which the post 9/11 combat veteran can save themselves from becoming a permanent counter-public. The paradigmatic internal drive of a post 9/11 combat veteran is to become civically engaged; as a person who already stepped forth in the worst of times in hope of making the nation if not the world safer; what little more it is to improve the community or lives of others. Even so, the ease of this simplistic desire to become a trap is obvious, as the post 9/11 combat veteran tends to be more socially inept in comparison to the contemporary public.

Veterans Paradise Lost, out of Eden and into the land of Nod

Socially inept, and at a U.S. post 9/11 combat veterans own admission, during a 2013 interview on the Bill Cunningham Show, I stated:

We are socially inept, we are naïve to the way people are, we are missing a network, and we don’t have that special network. What somebody my age, who would have already graduated college, had a profession, a career, and have an understanding of the community that is something most of us are lacking when we return. The combat veteran is an abnormal public, as we try to come back to reintegrate into the norms of everyday life. You have to understand that we come from a highly moral; stricter society compared to the day to day activities here.

It is clearly a challenge to readapt in itself, but with the uncertain future of acceptance into the public, the challenge easily becomes a struggle.

From the points of military culture to the disconnects addressed here. There are clear cultural difficulties in a rhetorical exchange with the public. The post 9/11 combat veteran is capable of civic engagement for the bettering of oneself and contributing to the public. Albeit, the issues are identified and reaching while constrained in a public forum, outnumbered and against agendas not fully understood. These issues need solutions and further debate to simply sow the seeds of connectivity and development of real and public networks between the combat veteran and the public.

The last thing combat veterans need is another veterans organization – combat veterans need to be in established public organizations.

For the Republic

The post 9/11 combat veteran must continue to strive to discontinue the counter-public activity. An oscillating public is not going to simply go away, but offers the opportunity to develop and maintain social, civic and, cultural engagement with the public. It is on the post 9/11 combat veteran to reconsolidate its people at the base, and own its unique counter-public. Unification of firers and non-firers would be a responsible step; a most important step as this awkward subculture split within the post 9/11 combat veteran and veteran counter-public is a representative anecdote that prevents all of us from being taken seriously.

This seemingly strange to the public, internal bickering, such as the firers vs. non-firers debate creates a further division of the post 9/11 combat veteran from the public and reclassifies the counter-public as a most abnormal and undesired to the public. It is nonsense that makes zero sense to the public, put it in the past with the everything else. We have all done much more in life than serve in the U.S. military.

The so what is the unification of the tribes; to bring the culture, experiences, lessons, and ideologies of being from combat veterans forward and into the grand exchange of the public as normal people. Not as combat veterans, but as the public – just another person who had some experience in life. Lots of other things occur, other than war. It is time to accept that we aren’t so damned special after all – thank you for service – happy? I personally hate that, it is so generic and typically not genuine – a passing sympathetic gesture. Yet, we’ve all done more than serve; serve as in past tense.

Now, let’s all just be the public – you can have your glorious past, but a future is more important. To learn from one another as publics and to improve ourselves as a society; skills, new points of view, and combined lessons learned are the pinnacle to the advancement of a culture and the improvement of a public.

Choose your own adventure. We can all learn and have fun and exciting things happen in this life, just as well as we did in our tribe in the wilds. To learn from one another as publics and to improve ourselves as a society; develop new skills, points of view, and combined lessons learned which are the pinnacle to the advancement of our culture and the improvement of the public. The public that the combat veteran went tribal for – go enjoy what you defended.

.*Author’s note- Good god, speak of something else you lowbrow savages. I’m tired of hearing the same old lines, start building your current and future life – the bartender does not know or care what an M-81 is: Shut-up and talk about education, employment, travel, family, and friends. You know, regular things. Do you hate how people don’t get it; trying explaining it in their language, it was your first language after all. This is getting as sad as that old guy who won’t take off his high school jacket – time to move on.

To End the Stereotype, and Begin the Post 9/11 Combat Veterans Era through Study

Generally speaking the counterpoint to a combat veteran is rolled up in the political and military system of the state. It is commonplace for those unaware of military structures to believe that the individual post 9/11 combat veteran was the one making all the calls throughout the campaign or in worse cases, is completely unstable. These stereotypes could not be further from the truth; the post 9/11 combat veteran as best put in The Atlantic, Retiring the Vietnam-vet Stereotype:

…don’t downplay the devastation and moral ambiguities of their experience as they seek to connect through writing, teaching, and work. Instead of being told ‘you couldn’t understand, you weren’t there,’ a time-honored way of keeping others at a distance, we’re more apt to hear from people, with a let us tell you.

The telling, it turns out, is important. This is the reality of the U.S. post 9/11 combat veteran, as a public or a counter-public. As the culture and the experiences of the U.S. post 9/11, combat veteran may immediately vary from that of the public, but it’s a two-way street; we can and should learn from one another. Yet the diversity of this generation of combat veterans is in many ways restrictive – often holding on to the past, and refusing to start fresh.

Getting right, and moving forward starts by reaching out to the public without enforcing and expecting combat veteran culture in the public, and just as well speaking the “T” truth, to actively and honestly civically engage, and to exchange ideas with one another and the public.