Decades ago, you couldn’t pass someone on the street that didn’t have some sort of connection to the military. During WWII, the draft made American’s very aware of the sacrifices and impact that servicemembers and their families go through. However, today only 1% of the American population is in the military and it is now a volunteer-based force. Many people today are removed from the military and therefore, do not understand the sacrifices of military members and their families.
So how do we bridge this gap? How do we get both groups to understand one another?
It’s easy to throw around words like empathy and education, but what does that look like?
For many civilians, the closest they come to understanding the military is what they see on screen, whether that is through the daily news or what Hollywood depicts in their blockbuster movies. This only shows one part of a story, and there are multiple different stories, perspectives, and experiences that servicemembers go through.
So how do we get people more involved in learning about these stories and listening to the multitude of experiences from both sides? It is an ongoing challenge to get people who have no connection to the armed forces to now have an innate interest to help those who have served. However, there are a handful of individuals out there that understand the divide and want to get more involved but don’t exactly know how.
We hope to help these individuals to better understand the veteran/military community so that they can become advocates themselves and help us and many others bridge the gap between military and civilian communities.
Here are some resources for civilians to better understand the military community:
Volunteer with a Veteran Organization (or any military nonprofit)
The best way to understand any group is to be around them and learn from them in person! Through volunteering, you not only get to understand the many needs that veterans have but you also get to hear their stories about being in the military. This will allow you to get a better understanding of what active duty service members and their families go through daily.
Volunteering may seem like a time-consuming process that many believe will take large amounts of time that they don’t have. However, there are many organizations that are only asking for 1 hour a month, or even 1 hour a quarter. Many organizations are looking for individuals who are willing to give a small amount of their time to share their experiences and knowledge of the civilian world. This gives veteran organizations an opportunity to learn more about the civilian world so that they can help their veterans transition better.
If you don’t know where to start you can always reach out to us, at True North, or one of our veteran nonprofit partners! We love to talk about veteran (and active duty) advocacy.
Attend a Symposium, Seminar or Talkback
There are so many of these that the topics are endless! Want to learn more about the struggles of employment for military spouses? Or maybe your interested in the mental health of our service members?
Symposiums, Seminars, and Talkbacks are great if you’re trying to understand a specific “hot topic” that is going around in the military or veteran community. These are the types of events you go to if you want a better understanding of a need or a struggle in the community.
Listen to a Military Podcast
There is an abundant number of podcasts available to everyone and anyone, so why not check out a military podcast to get a different perspective on the daily lives of military service members?
Podcasts are a great tool to get a variety of military topics as many podcasts talk on different points each week. You also have the flexibility to choose which speaker is right for what you want to learn, and, in many instances, they are the most fun to listen to because most of the time they are stories.
Read Military Articles
Blogs, news, and military websites will host a lot of information regarding both active duty and veteran information. All of this is available to the public, you don’t need to be in the military to look at how deployment affects mental health, what DOD regulation changes have happened this year, or to see which new military equipment will be coming to a specific branch.
One of the biggest and well-known military news websites that people frequent is militarytimes.com. They have up-to-date stories and resources that servicemembers can use. Looking through the resource section allows you to better understand what type of struggles many servicemembers must face along with their families.
Documentaries give you a holistic view of what servicemembers go, and have gone, through during their service. When you type in top military documentaries, you get a long list to choose from, ranging from Pat Tillman to WWII veterans.
If you’re looking for something that is more relevant and was created by a veteran themselves you should check out one of our veteran nonprofit partners, The Heroes Journey, film Last Out. The film is based on the life of the author and it tells the story of Army Green Beret, Danny Patton, and his time in service in Afghanistan as well as at home. This film is released on Veterans Day this year to the public and can be found on YouTube and on their website.
These are just a few suggestions for those who are interested in getting more connected with the military and to better understand where they are coming from. We believe that the best way to bridge this gap between civilians and military communities is by giving easy and readily available resources to those that are interested so that they can be advocates in their own communities.
Last Out: https://www.lastoutplay.com/
Military Times: https://www.militarytimes.com/