Sandcastles

a tale of three citizens

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.” Abraham Lincoln

https://www.goodreads.com

Allen

As you sip a latte at Starbucks, feeling outraged by a President who apparently does not share your social conscience, you wonder how the country has become so brazenly racist and homophobic. While you have not seen any negative impact to your paycheck nor fewer clients to your business, the economy is horribly worse because others are earning significantly more. You did not vote in the Presidential election, though you like what you hear about the new Congress: a Muslim woman and a Green social media-savvy gadfly. When not supporting gender-equality pastry shops, you purchase organic, locally-grown produce at Trader Joe’s. You buy Emerging Markets coffee beans online from a group that supports Guatemalan children. And you truly believe your Tesla, Prius, or Audi lessens your carbon footprint.

Yrena

As an immigrant who saved up the required fees, filed for the visas and immigration forms, and emigrated to her new country according to the laws and practices of each nation, you are diligently working to learn the language, customs and history of your new home. You know your ethnic community in the area you have settled have members – family and extended family perhaps- who live in violation of the law. Some overstayed their student visas, and other came across hiding in a van or in leaky boats that beached one moonless night. You are working two jobs to pay for your daughter to attend community college. She will become the first college-educated member of your family. Your son is learning to be a mechanic after school. When the television, newspapers and the Internet declare that you support wholeheartedly the new ‘migrants’ and see them being pandered to by politicians and journalists, you are conflicted, upset, or angry. And your family are not “hyphen” Americans. You are American.

Cole

As an Iraq War veteran, you do not understand people who hate you sharing your opinions, and do not financially support veteran suicide-prevention projects but pay to hear activists demean America at college campuses. You are irritated by people who do not remember what happened on 9/11 or tell you how the current Administration is working with the Russians. Like your father before you, you are teaching your son or daughter firearm safety and how to hunt for deer, elk, or boar. You may not be religious, yet you assert your rights as parents to approve what they are taught as curriculum. You know when you are being played by b.s. artists in government, the media and education – that was one of the skills learned from military service and especially from time in a war zone. You don’t trust politicians or bureaucrats. Not from any party.

Politics and personal loyalties based on ideology fluctuate over time. Human nature is flawed and subject to the same weaknesses. Politicians acquire power from citizens, and get more corrupt as the citizens get more aloof. Without unity, a house divided cannot stand. And observing all the past civilizations collapsed in the dust of history, the lack of unity of a people accelerate the incoming tide.

digital manipulation

I think everyone who has a cell phone, computer, or an Apple Watch is aware that he or she is being tracked, analyzed, and being “sold” routinely. An Internet search of shoes on a particular website leads to ads following you every time you go online regardless of the website. Anyone notice that a search for a place to eat lunch leads to advertising or suggestions online? Or your phone asks you to review a place where you recently dined, drove nearby, or even talked about – and your watch recorded it?

“marketing” – http://www.kisspng.com

What if all that data collected on millions of consumers was being routinely analyzed, sorted into patterns, and used with other data to “sell” you – specifically directing you to a target. A blogger I follow shared a TED talk posted on YouTube, where the marketer described how the same technology and techniques are used by businesses, political candidates, lobbyists, foreign governments and even terrorists to target people.

What if the “balkanization” of America, into groups of polarized opponents are being manipulated to remain antagonistic? They are likely using the same process described in the YouTube video.

It is beyond irritating. Your thoughts are not necessarily your own. Fox News, CNN, the Chinese, the Russians, and Google may all use our digital life to their profit. It’s nothing we can do now to escape our digital data, but I am doing my best to confuse the algorithms.

These days I click on hardcore Rap, FoxNews, and shop at JC Penneys. Also, I contribute to Change.org, frequent businesses that serve steak and others for vegetarian lifestyles. I click on diesel trucks and subscribe to solar initiatives. If that is not enough to confuse the data aggregate, I “like” animal charities, firearm education, and Republicans.

domestic tranquility

The basic needs of any person are food, shelter, and clothing.  In modern society, people have expectations that needs include healthcare, education and sanitation.  But people also have emotional needs: safety, security, comfort, and significance.   In the Twenty First Century,  many people are willing to sacrifice personal freedom for the sake of “needs” provided by Government.  Of course,  people who demand a king  and assume “their side” will benefit,  have historically been oppressed.

When the American nation’s founders established the basic framework in the Constitution,  they knew their history: those subjugated by a king had little control in how they lived (general welfare); little experience of equity or fairness between the governing and the governed (justice); and few limits on role of Government in people’s lives ( safeguard of domestic tranquility and common defense).  Because they understood that people given a taste of power and access to others’ money, always want more,  they were deliberate in creating a balancing act.

In the third decade of the third century since the Constitution was established, the nation is losing the respect for the differences that made it unique in world history.   Unity as an American, with a common language, culture, and history is all but extinct.  Respect for civil authority, freedom to worship as one pleases, and hold differing opinions, is rarely exhibited today.   Contempt for opponents, and ever-increasing Government control is common.  Worse still, officials who have publicly-stated intent to abrogate the fundamental balance provided by an Executive, Legislative and Judicial separation of powers, and personal liberties guaranteed in our Constitution –  have been appointed (not elected),  elected and re-elected.  As Benjamin Franklin once said, the USA is a constitutional republic, which he understood, to keep in check,  its citizens would have to be informed and involved in its affairs whether local or international.   In contrast to other forms of government,  the citizens can (when exercised) direct our representatives to compromise and cooperate to get things done.   

One can only mentor, teach and ultimately, hope,  people who now believe that anyone who arrives – by whatever means –  in the territory should be a citizen, that “socialism”  despite many aspects that indicate fallibility, is superior to capitalism, and in distribution of other’s wealth, will pause to reflect.  No social construct is perfect.   And those who achieve power, wealth and influence, in the post-Constitution world, may not tolerate any disruption to “domestic tranquility”.

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Preamble, United States Constitution ( reprinted in https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/preamble

warrior chromosome

One of the hottest political debates regarding military service in the United States during the last thirty years is the role for women. In my previous post, Ask the Chief: veteran is gender-neutral, I explore several issues that need to be raised more often in the national conscience: how does America support the veteran; does society, particularly other women, comprehend their co-workers and peers, (as reservists or on Active Duty) left their families, civilian jobs or school behind, and went to war particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq? In popular culture, the news, movies, cable and television, veteran conjures up both the warrior, and the sometimes addicted, sometimes homeless, conflicted man. Women too, are combat veterans, and have challenges with Government benefits, health and welfare issues no different than many other veterans.

A fascinating book that I began reading, is It’s My Country Too: Women’s Military Stories from the American Revolution to Afghanistan. Editors Jerri Bell and Tray Crow, have compiled a fascinating history, a page-turner, and relevant to today’s armed forces. Women whose recollections, memoirs, and diaries of service during the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries are few. Some heroines who did pass their recollections during depositions or speeches, often were edited or marginalized via male authors and editors. Modern research in archives and historical documents subsequently discerns fact from fiction. This book retells some fascinating accounts and implies many other women served as spies, employed in military units, came under fire, and were injured or killed in battles. At the time, and up through the early Twentieth Century, women would masquerade as men, with poor or nonexistent medical screenings for enlistment, and were only detected and discharged – or reassigned – when injured.

Those who had received military pensions, honors, and military burials from past conflicts paved the way for our female warriors and veterans today. And during the last ten years, attitudes and policies on the sexual orientation of service members and recruits has also changed. But the dialogue that inflames so many military members, veterans, policy wonks and Generation Y activists, distracts from the real stories and real problems: women have been serving in the defense of the nation since the Revolutionary War. And both their contributions and sacrifice has more often than not, been minimized, glamorized, or forgotten in history. And just as has been the case for decades, the mental and physical care of injured veterans, promised by the US Government over the centuries has been slower to respond to the female veteran.

In the next chapters yet to be read, the authors, veterans of the Marines, and Army, tell the stories of women in combat from the First World War through the War in Afghanistan.

Ask the Chief

“veteran” is gender-neutral

Some of my closest shipmates, friends, and mentors are female Sailors, officer and enlisted. Many, like me, are no longer on Drilling Reserve nor on Active Duty. Some have retired after long and distinguished military careers. Some have continued to support fellow veterans with active engagement with organizations such as Honor Flight. Some I served with are successful attorneys, realtors, and teachers. Some are corporate executives, software engineers, and human resource managers. Relatives who formerly served in the Marine Corps and others beginning careers serving in submarines.

Many of my peers in the years since the Gulf War served in war zones. Thirty-seven thousand female military served in the Gulf War, where many served in roles that exposed them to Scud attack and IEDs. Five female soldiers were killed in enemy action and two were taken prisoner. Since then, nearly a thousand female military members have been injured (843) or killed by hostile action from the USS COLE bombing in Yemen, to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. [At the time of this writing, a female Chief Cryptologist, a linguist, was killed along with two other military members and one DOD civilian in a terrorist bombing in a Syrian town.] Women actually have been in combat, have come under fire, been injured and have been killed serving in the US military since the Revolutionary War. History documents that women disguised themselves as men in order to serve since the Revolution, in the Civil War, and until physical exams were instituted in the early 1900s. Nurses were recruited before the First World War.

Beginning in 1979, women graduated from the military academies. In 1994, female midshipmen augmented the male crew of a Spruance-class destroyer, the USS PETERSON, several summers while I was aboard. Since 9/11 I have known females serving year tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, providing intelligence, communications, logistics, and medical support. However, beginning in 1993, women began serving as combat pilots and flying sorties over Iraq. In 2013, Defense Secretary Panetta lifted the ban on women serving in combat roles. The impact of female veterans serving in increasing numbers and in more front-line occupations will increase the need for physical and mental health services, more VA female providers as well as gender-specific services. One statistic indicated that the number of female service members has quadrupled in the forty years since 1973. By the end of the first decade of the new Millennium, female veterans grew to 10 percent of the veteran population.

But the bureaucracy is slow to react. As recently as 2016, veterans seeking care at VA facilities reported being mistaken for caregivers, spouses, or questioned their veteran status. Additionally, in contrast with employer-provided health plans, the VFW survey reports respondents found the VA required co-pays for preventative-care prescriptions including contraceptives.

veterans helping veterans

In a recent program, “Returning the Favor”, Mike Rowe whom many may recognize from “Dirty Jobs” fame, featured a male Iraq War veteran who runs a gym in Austin Texas, and through Make a Vet Sweat helps fellow veterans overcome Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder through exercise. It was in the course of the show, one of the female veterans served discussed her career-ending injury resulting in her own PTSD. Since the Gulf War time, I have known that female servicemembers have been in combat, risking death and injury, from hostile fire, IEDs, and terrorist attacks just as their male servicemembers have. The availability of creative therapies for working through mental health issues helps each sufferer, whether it is animals, exercise, or outreach. And may help many veterans avoid prescription drug addictions.

veteran suicide has no gender

According to statistics compiled by the Veterans Administration, of veterans who attempt suicide, the numbers of female veterans were increasing from 14 per 100,000 in 2001 to 17 per 100,000 population by 2014. This may be due the increasing number of female service members since 2001. Studies report that suicide rate decreased between 2001 and 2014 for female veterans receiving mental health services. While in the overall population, male suicide is three times greater than female, men more often use firearms while females tend to poison or overdose. In a VA fact sheet published in August 2017, female veterans who reported military sexual trauma or harassment were more likely to commit suicide than other female veterans. And overall, female veterans are more likely to commit suicide than civilian women.

marriage and divorce

Compared to civilian women, female veterans were more likely to be married while in the service, and at younger ages than their counterparts. Thirty percent of female military members were likely to be married between ages of 17 and 24, while eight percent of civilian women were. And the same veteran age group was more likely to be divorced compared to civilian women. In 2015, a study found that female veterans of all ages were more likely to be divorced than civilians, but civilians were more likely to have been divorced more than once.

healthcare and homelessness

The VFW has considerable resources and political clout engaged in support of female veterans. They commissioned a survey, from December 2015 to January 2016, with 2000 validated Active Duty, Reservist, retiree and vet respondents, on issues and challenges for women veterans. The survey found that the Veterans Administration needs to hire female healthcare providers to treat female veterans unique concerns. Lacking the personnel, the majority of the female veterans reported they were not given an option to request the gender of their VA healthcare provider.

The survey also sought information on female veteran homelessness. Four percent (72) of the respondents reported being homeless, and of these, 46 percent reported living in another person’s home (‘couch surfing’). Seventy percent of the homeless veterans had children; a third of them reported having children impacted their ability to receive care at a VA facility.

education and employment

Since the end of the Second World War, female veterans, who made up less than 9 percent of all veterans, like their civilian counterparts, who had worked in the defense industries during the war, were less likely than male veterans to use the GI Bill, or did not pursue college education due to social pressure (women in the home instead of the workplace). Studies in 2015 on the educational level and employment of female veterans indicates that they obtain a Bachelors or higher degree later in life than civilian women, are more likely to work in management, professional and technical occupations (49 versus 41 percent), and more work for local, state or federal agencies than their civilian counterparts. Twenty-nine percent of veterans work in sales or office occupations compared to thirty percent of non-veteran women. [statistics from: report, National Center for Veteran Analysis and Statistics, February, 2017, see va.gov/vetdata]

veteran groups

To inform veterans of their benefits, aid them with specific needs affecting them, provide networking for employment and business opportunities, and lobby on their behalf with lawmakers, service-providers, and the public, there are several organizations. One of the largest organizations specifically focused on women veterans is the Women’s Veteran Alliance. This national organization holds regional employment workshops, networking ‘mix and mingles’, conferences, and opportunities for businesses looking to hire veterans. See their link for female veteran “allies” (referrals and local organizations) More information is available on their Facebook page.

Since 1970, the National Veterans Foundation, its founder “Shad” Meshad, a Vietnam veteran, has been meeting the needs of veterans with mental health counseling, with three hundred offices across the country. Staffed by veterans of all periods – Vietnam, Cold War, Iraq and Afghanistan, they provide counseling and referral. All of these are located away from VA hospitals. (The reputation of VA hospitals in the last couple decades particularly among Vietnam veterans has suffered negative exposure, “new management” and political promises to fix internal problems). NVF’s counseling programs particularly with Post Traumatic Stress, according to their information webpage, were called upon after the attack on the World Trade Center in New York after September 11, 2001.

States each have their own Department of Veteran Affairs. In California, CALVET has a resource page for female veterans, from housing assistance, advocacy to employment and health. CALVET also provides resources for groups and agencies to provide support to the veteran.

The Veterans Administration has a directory of female-veteran service organizations here

FB make a vet sweat

Hollywood needs military vets

Transitioning from Active Duty? Like television and the movies, but wish the military-theme was more real-life? Have a skill and want to get into the high-tech industry?

When a friend, one-time co-worker, and fellow Navy Reservist told me of his experience acting, with minor parts in television and film, I was interested. He said Hollywood needs military veterans to consult and to help lend realism to the shows and movies. One of my favorite actors, R Lee Ermy did do that pretty well.

But what about off-camera? How do you find technical work with the studios, animators, and creative genius that create spectacular visual effects? I imagine that one way is through the active and popular employment search engines and services online. And there are apparently at least one organization that support and recruit veterans for many functions in Hollywood and the industry.

If anyone knows others, is member of, or would like to be featured, contact me. It would be fascinating to learn more about careers and opportunities for transitioning military and experienced veterans.