New Solutions Needed To Reintegrate A New Generation of Veterans

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New Solutions Needed To Reintegrate A New Generation of Veterans

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Monday, November 3, 2014 - 7:45am


Since I started working with VetsBridge earlier this year, I’m constantly seeking information about how to help veterans return to their lives. I came upon this gem earlier this week from St. Louis on the Air highlighting the need for new solutions needed to reintegrate a new generation of veterans. Reporter Emma Brown identifies some real barriers to reintegration. Here are a few tidbits from the piece, but if you have the time, you should listen to the podcast or read the entire story. I learned a great deal about how much more we should be doing to help people returning from active service.

“When you go to a networking interview and a hiring manager asks you what you want to do, ‘What do you need done?’ is not a good answer,” Jim Craig explains.  But “that’s the military mentality,” he says from experience. Craig is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army and is currently an associate teaching professor and chair of the Department of Military and Veterans Studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

The United States has had an all-volunteer army since 1973. Contrary to veterans of previous generations, today’s veterans do not experience a lack of appreciation upon returning to civilian life, according to Craig. However, now there is a more obvious division between those who choose military service and those who do not.

“Americans don’t have a great understanding of what it is their military does. They’re proud of what the military does but not many actually choose military service so there is a gap. There is a gap of understanding, not of appreciation,” Craig told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh.

Timothy Welter, a former professional staff member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee and a current member of the American Enterprise Institute, also joined Marsh on Tuesday. Welter went straight from high school to the Air Force Academy to active duty. “I experienced [the civilian world] through family and friends that didn’t go the route of military, but personally I didn’t have that experience,” he said.

Welter left active duty in 2005 and had to face gaps in how he understood civilian life. “It was difficult.  It was daunting.  It was frustrating to be someone who had succeeded on my career path until that point and all of the sudden to be facing these challenges, not understanding where the path was going to lead.”

Filling in the Understanding Gap

While the division exists between two worlds – military service and civilian life, veterans are the only ones forced to transition from one to the other.  Veterans are forced to fill in their understanding gaps.

As Welter experienced it, “all of a sudden you are responsible for your medical care or other things that you didn’t have to think about or worry about [while on active duty].” Many daily parts of life that civilians gradually learn how to navigate, veterans are expected to learn all at once.

Craig explained, “I would suggest [that Veterans are very employable], however it is tough for a hiring manager to look at a veteran and understand how that veteran fits in the box they need. It is really the best companies that hire on potential.”

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