Veterans: It's on you to bridge the civil-military divide

Vultures' Row
A Soldier holds an American flag prior to the start of an oath of citizenship ceremony in the General George Patton Museum's Abrams Auditorium at Fort Knox, Kentucky, Sept. 19, 2018. (U.S. Army/ Eric Pilgrim)

Looking at many veterans' attitudes, especially online, you see a lot of complaining about the many failings of civilians. Most of those complaints come under the aegis of "slimy" or "nasty."

The best version of this is, "I worked so much harder than everyone else they fired me for making everyone else look bad."

Let's clarify. No one has ever been fired for doing too good of a job. You were fired for being an insufferable asshole to your coworkers, not because of your groundbreaking excellence in the world of pest control.

Sometimes it's civilians causing the "civil-military divide." But let's be honest, often, or even usually, it's veterans belittling civilians. You never hear a civilian saying,"I can't stand all these freaking nasty veterans around here!"


Many vets find it tough to go from someplace where you say "Jump!" and the answer is "How high?" to a place where you say "Jump!" and they say "That's not really part of my job description." Or when in fact you're not sure they can even jump at all, because they're so so out of shape it looks like the only walking they've done is with their fingers through the pages of the menu at the Cheesecake Factory.

First, many veterans have no place to criticize, seeing as they are on average fatter than civilians. Second, in the real world the number of jobs where run time and pull-ups are part of your performance evaluation is vanishingly small.

Most people at work don't even know you're a veteran, nor do they care. The only thing most civilians care about are whether you do what you're supposed to do and whether you're an asshole.

Unfortunately, some vets spend their lives in "YouTube rant in a truck" mode, and that comes with a lot of connotations of assholery. Of course, not all, or even most, vets are in that mode, but someone is buying all those dumbass "Dysfunctional Veteran" t-shirts.

In truth, those standards civilians apply to vets should be the same ones we apply to civilians. 1) Do you do what you're supposed to? 2) Are you an asshole? In case you are confused, in normal society the answer to "Is this person an asshole?" is supposed to be "no."

Judging people who've been civilians their whole lives by military standards is like judging a Lamborghini by how many bags of groceries fit in the trunk. Being able to talk extremely loud or walk long distances while carrying heavy objects, while handy in the military, are not things highly valued on or off the job among regular people.

I fell victim to this mentality for a little while, mentally categorizing people into "military" and "civilian." There were some good civilians, but they were folks I thought could have done all right in the military if they'd tried. This was while I was working in a police agency, where you'd think nastiness wouldn't be so endemic. I'm not sure I could have dealt with a normal workplace at that point, and I'm not even moto by Marine standards, which is to say I'm still pretty obnoxiously moto by normal standards.

Eventually, I realized that you can either isolate yourself because no one meets your standards or your can learn the right standards for the right time. There are actually people who wouldn't last 10 seconds on the yellow footprints who are amazing at their jobs and more importantly, are great people who are making a difference in the world.

There's indeed some truth to the existence of a "civil-military divide," in that most Americans don't feel the costs of our nation's many wars as they did in some past conflicts. But it's a lot easier to have an honest conversation about that part of the divide and try to repair it when we don't create another one just to pump up our egos. People listen best when they are addressed eye-to-eye, not when they're looked down upon.

Eliminating "nasty" and "slimy" from our vocabularies as vets would be a good start.

Carl Forsling is a senior columnist for Task & Purpose. He is a Marine MV-22B pilot and former CH-46E pilot who retired from the military after 20 years of service. He is the father of two children and a graduate of Boston University and The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter @CarlForsling

Pearl Harbor survivor Lauren Bruner attends the dual interment of fellow USS Arizona survivors John D. Anderson, boatswain's mate 2nd class, and Clarendon R. Hetrick, seaman 1st class, at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, as part of the 75th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy/Petty Officer 2nd Class Somers Steelman)

Just before 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning 78 years ago, Lauren Bruner was preparing for church services and a date that would follow with a girl he'd met outside his Navy base.

The 21-year-old sailor was stationed as a fire controlman aboard the U.S. battleship USS Arizona, overseeing the vessel's .50-caliber guns.

Then alarms rang out. A Japanese plane had bombed the ship in a surprise attack.

It took only nine minutes for the Arizona to sink after the first bomb hit. Bruner was struck by gunfire while trying to flee the inferno that consumed the ship, the second-to-last man to escape the explosion that killed 1,177, including his best friend; 335 survived.

More than 70% of Bruner's body was burned. He was hospitalized for weeks.

Now, nearly eight decades after that fateful day, Bruner's ashes will be delivered to the sea that cradled his fallen comrades, stored in an urn inside the battleship's wreckage.

Read More Show Less
Joshua Kaleb Watson (Facebook via Business Insider)

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

Joshua Kaleb Watson has been identified as one of the victims of a shooting at the Naval Air Station Pensacola, CBS News reported.

The 23-year-old Alabama native and Naval Academy graduate was named to the Academy's prestigious Commandant's and Dean's lists, and also competed on the rifle team, Alabama's WTVY reported.

Read More Show Less
Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani (Courtesy photo)

PENSACOLA, Fla. (Reuters) - The Saudi airman accused of killing three people at a U.S. Navy base in Florida appeared to have posted criticism of U.S. wars and quoted slain al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on social media hours before the shooting spree, according to a group that monitors online extremism.

Federal investigators have not disclosed any motive behind the attack, which unfolded at dawn on Friday when the Saudi national is said to have began firing a handgun inside a classroom at the Naval Air Station Pensacola.

Read More Show Less
Saudi air force Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed al-Shamrani (NBC News)

The Saudi military officer who shot and killed 3 people at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Friday reportedly hosted a "dinner party" the week before the attack "to watch videos of mass shootings," the Associated Press reports, citing an unnamed U.S. official.

Read More Show Less
Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) hold folded flags before military funeral honors. (U.S. Army/Elizabeth Fraser)

The Minnesota National Guard has released the names of the three soldiers killed in Thursday's helicopter crash.

Read More Show Less