Under the radar, artists, activists, philanthropists and entrepreneurs have recently begun to join forces with military veterans to advance an audacious and unprecedented plan. The heretofore secret code name for the endeavor is Operation Big. The initiators of this emerging network - some of whom wish to remain anonymous for now - seek to inspire a massive cultural revival, and they're aggressively recruiting foot soldiers for a multidimensional U.S. Tour of Duty aimed at lifting the home front in crucial ways.
Recognizing a deep talent pool in the veteran population, Operation Big is fueled by a belief in mutual beneficence, accent on "mutual." Although it's true many of them are ailing physically and emotionally, the prevailing mindset among veterans is still what it was when they entered the military. These are people who, by and large, are predisposed to service and teamwork, attributes which provide the basis for what might otherwise seem like an unlikely partnership with artists, et al.
As it turns out, musicians who sleep until noon are finding they have much in common with eternal jarheads who get up at the crack of dawn (0500 hours, they tell me it is). For example, the planning and strategizing for a military mission is not terribly unlike routing a concert tour. As any road warrior will tell you, the accommodations at a motel are sometimes no better than in an actual war zone. Of course that's the sort of comparison that tends to annoy people who've been in an actual war zone, and represents an ongoing source of friction between veterans and nonveterans. But so far, everyone who's involved in Operation Big is mostly unbothered by such differences in perspective. Their focus is instead on a large and shared goal, much like dedicated firefighters extinguishing a blaze with complete disregard for one another's religious and political beliefs.
The objective is so ambitious that to call the mission Operation Big is somewhat of an understatement. That appellation was originally used in reference to an effort by World War II Allied forces to capture German nuclear secrets. 69 years later, the updated version is broader in scope, but similarly imbued with rather irrefutable significance. Indeed, the 2014 version of Operation Big oozes momentousness every step of the way.
A case in point is 29-year-old Anna Judd of Santa Ana, California. Anna will spend the Spring of 2014 running across America in support of veterans. She is scheduled to begin her journey in Los Angeles on March 22, and finish in New York on June 26. Her plan is to run about 40 miles daily, and to take Fridays off. That's more than a marathon and a half every day she runs. Actually, Anna won't be merely running across the country. She'll be carrying 22 rocks with her as she does it. 40 miles per day, except Fridays. The 22 rocks symbolize the 22 veterans who reportedly commit suicide each day. It's difficult to imagine a more poignant and worthwhile gesture.
22 is sort of the widely-accepted official estimate, but a CNN report last November revealed the total is based on figures provided by only 40% of the U.S. population. Therefore, it's likely the actual amount of veterans who kill themselves each day, is significantly higher. But let's not ask Anna to carry more rocks while she runs 40 miles every day except Friday. Oh, sweet Friday. How remote thou sometimes art.
A coalition of veterans and other fine Americans is coalescing around Anna's remarkable trek. What they all share in common is the readiness to serve not only struggling veterans, but society at large. Operation Big recognizes the diversity of the veteran population, and embraces "givers" and "receivers" equally. It's not always easy to tell which is which, but like cops who realize law-abiding folks look exactly the same as lawbreakers, OpBiggies know that veterans who could use a boost are often indistinguishable from those who stand ready to assist others. In fact, the same veteran could be both a benefactor and beneficiary.
Wherever she stays overnight during her three-month run, Anna will meet with local veterans and help connect the dots between overlapping agendas. In that regard, she is the lynchpin of the whole shebang in its initial phase. The extent to which otherwise independent allies collaborate strategically, is the extent to which Operation Big succeeds and maybe even lives up to its name.
It can now be disclosed that this reporter is embedded with an army of highly motivated citizens who are intent on provoking a much-needed bloodless transformation with military precision. The most important thing I can tell you about Operation Big here at the outset, is that the home front is rising. Details to follow.
This post was also published by The Norman Report.