Open Letter to Veterans
When one serves in the American military, one learns many things. Of course we learn how to become proficient at our jobs, whatever they may be. We learn how to dress, to march, and how to follow orders. We often learn the meaning of sacrifice in giving up a large part of our freedoms and control of our lives in service to our country driven by a sense of patriotism, honor, and duty. Many of us have learned about loss, either through the loss of friends and comrades, or through our own losses of life or quality of life because of catastrophic injury.
What we almost never learn about while we are in the military is how to live a good life once we are done with our service. The rate of homeless veterans has nearly tripled in the past decade. Twenty-two veterans commit suicide every day, and the vast majority of these veterans are under the age of 35. This is disconcerting because, as a generation, we were the most educated and talented military force that the United States has ever fielded in battle. We fought two wars to military victory with lightning speed and remarkably low casualties given the scale of these efforts. The burning question is why is this happening to us? Why is it so hard for us to reintegrate into the society we once fought for and guarded with our lives? My answer to this question may not be a popular one amongst many vets or political pundits, but it is an honest reply that comes from a place of love for those who have served and for the tough situations they face. We are in this situation because we have allowed it to happen to ourselves. Veterans have come to see themselves as a protected class, and because of this, we have left it to the federal government to oversee our wellbeing. Granted, this is largely because we trusted the government we protected to make good on its promises of viable health care and assistance with helping us back into civilian life, but becoming dependent on these programs was our conscious decision. Rather than seeking viable ways of making income on our own, many of us spend months or years of effort seeking to increase our disability ratings so that we get more money from the government. Rather than being proactive about our health and fitness, taking care of our bodies, or working to improve the mobility of our injured limbs, many of us have come to see our injuries and illnesses as assets that will keep the federal government in our debt. We have put ourselves in the long lines at VA Hospitals around the country, and we have willingly waited like household pets seeking scraps from the dinner table.
I am not saying that we are not owed healthcare or reintegration assistance. I am also not saying that the VA system does not need to be overhauled or that the wrongs in the system do not need to be fixed. I am saying that, if we wait for the federal government to act on our behalf, many more of our brothers and sisters will be living out of cardboard boxes or making the horrible choice of suicide. Even more will fall by the wayside in being neglected in matters of medical and mental health.
The time has come to take matters in our own hands. Not all of us have fallen prey to the system, and many of us are thriving as business owners, professionals, first responders, and workers in many arenas. We are not a disadvantaged class. We are a group of elites who have the power to influence through our accomplishments. My solution to the current state of veterans’ issues is that we begin acting as an elite class, and that we begin networking as an elite class. We need to take our training and our tenacity and make the effort to become a group that the federal government will actually listen to by making ourselves a viable economic and social lobby. To begin these efforts, I have partnered my business, Warrior Soul Apparel, with Team Amvets and the Ronin Veterans Network to create a campaign called #backinthefight. This campaign has two main missions, to create a vast network of veterans that will help each other professionally and personally, and to teach veterans to live their best lives on their own terms. This will include a series of networking and educational events open to veterans and their supporters around the country. The first of these events will be a workout/networking event at Metroflex Gym, Long Beach on August 9, 2014. Veterans can come learn about health and fitness while meeting other veterans and different career sources. While this is a small start, my mission is to make these events a national phenomenon. I invite all of you to begin the conversation. Get on Twitter or Instagram, and respond to this letter using #backinthefight in your post. Lets show the nation we put our lives on the line for just how strong we really are.