“Yeah, I was in the Marines. Spent a long tour in Iraq. Was in Ramadi, when it was real bad, not that it was ever real good. Saw some awful stuff. A group of special operations Marines is returning to base. I’m in the fourth of five armored Humvees. They’re like an oven, even though it’s a cool night. Only about 100 degrees.”
“Leaving the village, we round a corner on the dirt road. Next thing I know, there’s a blinding light and the loudest sound I ever heard, as the Humvee flies in the air. My heart jumped out of my chest. We hit a roadside bomb. An IED that, somehow, four vehicles passed without hitting. The fifth Humvee about 15 feet behind us detonates the IED. It’s hit real hard, the front end is mostly gone.”
“A bunch of dazed Marines stumbled out of the vehicles through smoke and dust, unsure if they’re hit. Doc, our corpsman, is tying tourniquets to Gunny’s (Gunnery Sergeant) mangled legs. He was in the passenger seat of the fifth vehicle. The medical chopper comes and takes Gunny back to the base hospital. We are ordered to stay until backup comes. I dug in on the side of the road, hiding in some reeds.”
“At daybreak, I’m relieved that I’m still alive. But it starts up again before long. First, come the mortar rounds and 50 cal. gunfire, and then the AK-47s get cranked up. We return fire if we can see who is shooting from houses inside the village. It’s just constant noise and fear while in the field, that I may not see tomorrow.
“These moments in Iraq and my time in the Marines will be remembered as a life I once lived, but not again. That part of me is done.”
A contractor who was working in my basement told this story to me in October. He saw a U.S. Marine uniform (Dress Blues) hanging in a clear garment bag. “You serve?” he asked. “No, my father did.” “How about you? “I know it’s hard for many veterans to talk about because they don’t want to relive the experience. They know unless you’ve been there, you just won’t understand what combat is like. And especially how very difficult it often is to come home. With that, he began to talk.
After telling his story, my new contractor/Marine friend continued to educate me. “Did you know that The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates the total number of veteran suicides in America to be 18 suicides every day? Going from home life to a war zone is something we train for, and we are more ready and able to handle stuff. But coming home is really difficult for many veterans to just turn off the survival mentality and return to normal. It’s like you’re in two places at once. You know you are back safely at home, but your mind thinks you’re still in a war zone. We didn’t get much training about this, and hopefully that will change, but for way too many already, it’s just too much for them to handle.”
“There are programs to assist, but these programs require the veteran or their loved ones to reach out for help. Many soldiers will never reach out for help. I survived combat, I can survive this.”
After our conversation, he said he would be more than willing to provide advice, knowledge and many veterans’ experiences to assist in developing opportunities to provide assistance to all of our post 9/11 veterans. HR Future, LLC has committed it’s resources, time and experts in coaching, recruitment, interviewing, resume writing, assessment and networking to offer a better future to those who have already given so much to our nation and each and every one of us by defending our freedom.
All I can ask is for everyone, whether you are a veteran, you know a veteran, or you just care about our nation's soldiers, to take the time to try to have a better understanding of exactly what the exposure to a combat zone does to a person. Find ways to learn what these brave men and women have actually been through and not just what Hollywood dramatizes it to be. Knowledge and heartfelt understanding are the first steps to finding a solution to this problem plaguing our nation.
How many combat veterans are suffering and just waiting for someone to ask them if they are hurting? As a nation, let's start asking. And saying, “thank you for your service.”
So here was this kid, a recent graduate from a fancy college, representing a huge employer, telling me, “Thanks for your interest in employment with us, but we don’t have any roles that fit your experience at this time.”
“Wait… what?” I quickly shot back. “Wait a minute. I thought I just clearly related to you how my skills and experience would be a great match for these positions… and you still think my skills aren’t a match? Is there something I’m missing here?”
I remember that it was the application of my experience, talents, skills, and motivation in my former role as a military leader designing strategy, leading men into battle, designing alternate plans as conditions changed and while people were trying to kill my squad and me were proof of my professional and management abilities. Now, despite my best efforts, here in my own country, I can’t get a human being to so much as talk to me about the possibility of a decent job.
The college kid continued, “We have based this decision on strict skills and professional experience requirements for each of our positions, which are derived from our project blueprints.” And there it was, the other frustration of my job search raising its ugly head: the “direct experience” nonsense. I have found that even in this economy, employers are so hung up on “direct experience” that they’re unwilling to take a risk on someone with a different, outside perspective, even if their skills are perfectly transferable.
I put my resume with college degree and six years of successful management experience in the most challenging environment this kid could ever imagine, back in my briefcase. I politely thanked him and walked out the door. Again.
My contractor gratefully received a job and on the job training without direct experience from a local small business, and wanted me to relay his appreciation.
William Kreider is the founder and CEO of HR Future Group, a firm that offers a full service suite of human capital management services for all sizes & types of businesses. From Transformational HR, Talent Management, Outsourcing, Compensation, Executive and Organizational Coaching, Talent Acquisition and other HCM consulting services to Cloud-based Payroll, HRIS, Time & Attendance, and Benefit Administration, HR Future can assist your business. Mr. Kreider has significant executive experience in all areas within the HR profession in a variety of industries. For more information, please email him at email@example.com or call 610.584.2467.