Veteran's Day is a time for all Americans to take a day off and thank our servicemembers and veterans for their sacrifices in stepping up to protect our country's freedom. The week after Veterans Day is when our active duty go back to their installations, and the rest of Americans go back to business in their regular lives.
It used to be during the draft that serving our country was part of the American narrative. Now only 1% of our country serves in uniform, and about 10% are military connected (through family or marriage). That leaves 90% of us unfamiliar with military culture, and the cost for this disconnect is grave. Veterans are experiencing unacceptable rates of unemployment, homelessness, suicide, and a host of other mental health and reintegration issues. When they transition out of the service, civilian America is their safety net. We're their employers, healthcare providers, volunteers, and neighbors, and most of us don't know how to best assist.
We can donate to the countless veteran non-profits (over 40,000 are registered with the IRS), say "Thank you for your service" in passing, or buy a vet a beer at the bar... but people often tell me, "I want to do more" or "What can I do to help?" Not everyone is in the position to hire a vet, or treat them in their medical practice. However, one thing all individuals can do is arm themselves with the knowledge of military culture and lifestyle, so that they can relate to and engage a service member or veteran in conversation.
Take the 1-5-15 challenge!
ONE mission for all Americans to be competent in military and veteran culture.
FIVE questions to ask veterans.
FIFTEEN things veterans want you to know about them.
A free online course, created by veterans and the clinical team at PsychArmor Institute, teaches the public how to better understand and honor a Marine, Sailor, Soldier, Airman, Coast Guardsmen, without offending or overlooking their service. The one-hour self-paced course goes through five questions to ask veterans. It's designed to teach civilians how to engage with veterans in any setting, even at a local Starbucks.
- Did you serve?
- What branch?
- What was your job?
- What was your best day?
- What was your worst day?
By asking the above five questions, you can open up a dialogue letting them know you're interested in the conversation and earning the credibility to keep talking. These questions are an important first step to ask when getting to know a veteran, which will allow for the development of that all-important credibility, that can only be gained from a person who knows which questions to ask.
Your ability to carry on the conversation from these five questions comes from understanding the top 15 things veterans want you to know about them. In developing this course PsychArmor asked hundreds of military veterans through personal communication, email, and social media one simple question, "What is the one thing you would want your doctor, nurse, therapist, employer, civilian friend, stranger, etc. to know about you as a veteran?" They compiled their responses and found patterns, in fact it ended up that there were 15 things across all of our responses that veterans really seemed to want us to know. Such as:
- We're not all soldiers
- We don't all have PTSD
- We have jobs in the military, we're not all infantry
- We would die for each other and our country
"First and foremost, and above all else, there was a common theme amongst our answers. Our veterans want non military Americans to ask the question, 'Did you serve in the military?' it matters because the military is a culture, and just like any other ethnic, religious, or background from which people come from. Military people come from a certain set of experiences, values and traditions, and they want that to be part of what they bring to a new relationship, therefore they want non military Americans to at least ask them about it. Just like any other culture it's hard to understand if you haven't lived it, but most people want to be asked about it." Said Heidi Squier Kraft, MD the author and narrator of the 1-5-15 online course. Kraft, a clinical psychologist and Navy combat veteran, shares many of the veteran quotes she collected in putting this course together. One of her favorites was from a Retired Navy Chief, "We are not like you, the veteran and his family are tough... but they have the biggest hearts and have gone through huge sacrifices and a broad spectrum of emotions too many times. We are hardened. We take pride in this."
It's PsychArmor's hope that every American will take the 1-5-15 challenge! Together we can serve those that served when they come home into our communities.
In addition to the 1-5-15 course, PsychArmor hosts dozens of free courses all taught by subject matter experts and animated to make it an engaging and interactive learning experience. All of PsychArmor's online courses are free of charge and many offer free continuing education credits for mental health providers including psychologists, Social Workers, and Marriage Family Therapists.
The PsychArmor Institute also hosts the Helping YOU Help Veterans support center. It's staffed by Master's and Doctorate level mental health providers and is a resource for anyone who needs assistance on effective ways to help a veteran. Call 844-PsychArmor (779-2427) or email at email@example.com. For more information visit www.psycharmor.org
Do you accept the challenge? #OneFive15