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The 3 Things That Make Service Members Great Storytellers
We’ve all heard it. It’s a constant across pretty much all branches of the service. And it usually centers on one person, someone whose delivery is just right, who can nail the timing, and who always has a good topic. And it invariably starts out this way: “No shit, there I was…”
That simple phrase contains within it the seeds of books, movies, plays, poetry, and music. In all probability, it is what Homer had as the first sentence of “The Odyssey” before his editor made him change it. It is how Siegfried Sassoon started out his war poems before he realized he was British and had to be more classy. Tolstoy would have started “War and Peace” that way, but he couldn’t figure out the right translation into Russian. At Valley Forge, it is probably why Baron von Steuben asked for someone to swear for him in English. It is the essence of beginning a good military story.
Because, at the heart of it, all military members are story tellers. This comes from several three factors that being in the military pretty much guarantees you’ll acquire: a mission, a story, and time. We all have a mission — whether it is the reason we joined, why we stay in, who we’re serving for — it doesn’t matter. Every service member carries with them a mission; otherwise, they wouldn’t be serving.
Jack Hamlin, a D-Day veteran from the Coast Guard, tells a story about his experience in WWII.U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Sean Spratt
The second is the story. Good stories come from many sources — training exercises, deployments, drunk nights in the barracks, our own backgrounds, that one friend we all have who does some incredibly stupid things and is somehow still alive, our pets, our families — but they all one thing in common: They are easily relatable to others and are usually incredibly funny. Some people just excel at military storytelling. Southerners, especially, seem to have a natural talent to be able to draw in a crowd and keep them engaged. Every unit has at least one storyteller, the one person who can be found with a small crowd huddled around them, deeply engaged in listening. If they are a really good storyteller, you’ll find the company commander or first sergeant surreptitiously standing off to the side to listen.
Which brings me to the last element: time. We’ve all heard the old maxim, “Hurry up and wait.” There’s a lot of truth to this, as in eight years of Army experience, the constant has been waiting in lines, or waiting for meetings, or waiting before an exercise, or waiting before a convoy...well, you get the idea. Although the military is by nature a very active organization, we find ourselves in all sorts of situations with time to kill. Which is where the storytellers emerge. It might be as mundane as waiting in line for medical examinations, or it could be while sitting in an MRAP waiting for route clearance to show up. My own most vivid memories of Army storytelling come from one of my gunners, who could while away the long hours on Afghan roads with story after story.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Smith, 35th Medical Support Squadron NCO in charge of aeromedical evacuation section, tells his story at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Oct. 2, 2015.U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jordyn Fetter
Beyond the immediate and visceral need to pass time, storytelling meets a vital human need: to relate our cultural and personal experiences to a group, bring them into the story in an intimate setting, and reveal a shared identity. Stories can take relative strangers and turn them into friends, in just a few minutes. In the military, we share a common identity and purpose, one that is extremely profound: to protect and defend the Constitution and serve the people of the United States. As service members, we feel the need to share our experiences — both good and bad — to be able to add a human dimension to our larger purpose.
Stories serve as a way to bridge the gap between services, branches, and the civilian-military divide. Even after veterans transition, many still see the need to tell their stories, through memoirs, books, blogs, and poetry. It is a way of finding closure and healing unseen wounds brought about by war. Given that war, in its essence, is a series of unnatural actions carried out by humans, stories serve as a way for veterans to make sense of what they have experienced and translate that experience to those who have not lived it. It makes sense, then, that one of the oldest known forms of cultural experience going back to prehistoric times — cave drawings were a form of storytelling, much like latrine art, but that’s another story — would still be vitally important in our modern age.
So when you are out in the field, passing a group of junior enlisted huddled together wrapped in their woobies and cradling canteen cups full of awful coffee, and see a sergeant laconically throw in a dip and drawl, “So no shit, there I was…,” maybe slow your stride and listen: You might just catch a great story.
Former Marine Commandant tells Trump that pardoning troops accused of war crimes 'relinquishes the moral high ground'
Former Marine Commandant Gen. Charles Krulak has issued a statement urging President Donald Trump and members of Congress to oppose pardons for those accused or convicted of war crimes since, he argued, it would "relinquish the United States' moral high ground."
"If President Trump follows through on reports that he will mark Memorial Day by pardoning individuals accused or convicted of war crimes, he will betray these ideals and undermine decades of precedent in American military justice that has contributed to making our country's fighting forces the envy of the world," said Krulak, who served in the Marine Corps for more than three decades before retiring in 1999 as the 31st Commandant.
Editor's Note: The following story highlights a veteran at Associated Materials. Committed to including talented members of the military community in its workplace, Associated Materials Incorporated is a client of Hirepurpose, a Task & Purpose sister company. Learn more here.
Associated Materials, a residential and commercial siding and window manufacturer based in Ohio, employs people from a variety of backgrounds. The company gives them an opportunity to work hard and grow within the organization. For Tim Betsinger, Elizabeth Dennis, and Tanika Carroll, all military veterans with wide-ranging experience, Associated Materials has provided a work environment similar to the military and a company culture that feels more like family than work.
President Donald Trump will nominate Barbara Barrett to serve as the next Air Force secretary, the president announced on Tuesday.
"I am pleased to announce my nomination of Barbara Barrett of Arizona, and former Chairman of the Aerospace Corporation, to be the next Secretary of the Air Force," Trump tweeted. "She will be an outstanding Secretary! #FlyFightWin"
The Trump administration is trying to assure Congress that it does not want to start a war with Iran, but some lawmakers who fought in Iraq are not so sure.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford both briefed Congress on Tuesday about Iran. Shanahan told reporters earlier on Tuesday that the U.S. military buildup in the region has stopped Iran and its proxies from attacking U.S. forces, but the crisis is not yet over.
"We've put on hold the potential for attacks on Americans," Shanahan said. "That doesn't mean that the threats that we've previously identified have gone away. Our prudent response, I think, has given the Iranians time to recalculate. I think our response was a measure of our will and our resolve that we will protect our people and our interests in the region."
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump warned on Monday Iran would be met with "great force" if it attacked U.S. interests in the Middle East, and government sources said Washington strongly suspects Shi'ite militias with ties to Tehran were behind a rocket attack in Baghdad's Green Zone.
"I think Iran would be making a very big mistake if they did anything," Trump told reporters as he left the White House on Monday evening for an event in Pennsylvania. "If they do something, it will be met with great force but we have no indication that they will."