Flowing from the Robin Hood Foundation Veterans Summit in New York City aboard the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, these words from Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta and Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver:
Sgt. Giunta: “In the Army, the only time you hear the word, ‘I’ is for someone to say I screwed up to take responsibility for their actions.”
Mayor Copenhaver: “In a society that all too often seems focused on pointing fingers and placing blame as opposed to joining hands with a focus on proactively solving major issues, Sal’s words hit home with me, and it was an honor to be there to hear him speak them.”
The question is: How do our veterans assimilate into a society that is so fragmented and disorganized as compared to a structured military environment? How do our vets merge into a squabbling community that never seems to function as a team? Where is the feeling of accomplishment in most civilian jobs as compared to the unity and teamwork that they suddenly step away from?
After facing a life of responsibility and life-and-death situations where everyone is on the same page, it is a bewildering experience to find that their civilian counterparts seem stuck on the “I” and “me” and never “us” or “we” teamwork train, and instead languish on trivial things like American Idol and, “What are we going to wear tonight” with “responsibility” being a foreign word.
Businesses should be aware that we have a pool of young men and women who are far and above their civilian counterparts in self-discipline, maturity, and not being satisfied with mediocrity. These young men and women are eager to take on responsibilities far beyond their civilian peers.
Supervisors and managers should realize that a treasure trove of talented young men and women is available with abilities far and above their civilian counterparts who have never experienced military life and training. Most veterans have highly trained skills that can blend into almost any occupation.
These men and women are potential leaders who can have a profound difference in the overall success and profitability of businesses. Pride, leadership, responsibility, achievement, teamwork, and never accepting failure or being satisfied with mediocrity has been instilled in their mind and body.
A possible solution to the question of assimilation could be that our veterans be given credit for values that are not likely instilled in their civilian peers and be considered for higher entry-level positions of responsibility than their civilian counterparts. Sadly, it seems our veterans are viewed as head cases by employers instead of recognizing their potential and almost fearing the maturity and level of competence of these young patriots.
It is this manner of thinking by employers that needs to be addressed.
I suspect many of our veterans become frustrated with occupations that are far below their level of experience and leadership. Leaving the service of our country to enter the civilian job market should not be a step down.
James D. Wiggins
(The writer is a retired U.S. Navy lieutenant.)