I’ve been going back and forth on how to set up various posts for about two weeks now…wanting to cover so much material that I have to tell myself to “slow down” because I have so many ideas.
One topic that is important to me for a variety of reasons is communication.
I communicate with a lot of people on a daily basis…my husband, my kids, my students, co-workers, friends, family members, and I communicate through a variety of mediums—social media, text message, phone, email…you get the idea…I talk a lot.
What some of our Veterans struggle with, and we as a society can struggle with is communication. Veteran voices need to be heard because their narrative or story is so very important. Did you know that some Veterans sit in silence because they may not know how to communicate how they feel about their war experiences? Some Veterans have returned home, but they’ve never left the war…they can’t talk about it, or they don’t want to talk about it.
There may be families who are desperate to communicate with their Veteran but they don’t know how…
I came across a TED Talk by Wes Moore. I had the pleasure to meet Wes at SIU when he was in town for a speaking engagement. I bought two of his best-selling books and nervously went up to introduce myself and have him sign my books (nerdy perhaps, but it was pretty sweet). Wes is a Veteran. At the time, I was working on my thesis, and so he asked me, “what do you do, Cathrine?” to which I replied, “I am an English major working on my master’s thesis on trauma and war narratives.” And he gave me the biggest hug. He said, “thank you for fighting for the others.”
The TED Talk is one that shows us how to communicate with Veterans. Often, Veterans hear a statement of, “thank you for your service,” but we don’t really know what we mean when we say it, and we don’t know if the Veteran really wants to hear that. I admit I say it, and the moment I do, I sometimes regret it. What if the Veteran does not want to remember his or her service? What if that Veteran does not feel proud or happy about his or her service?
Moore talks about what that phrase “thank you for your service” means to him, and why at times, we struggle with the right thing to say to Veterans. Maybe we don’t want to say something out of line, ask an inappropriate question, or trigger memories or emotions, so that “thank you” just seems right, or natural.
Moore also says that he never joined to fight—but the world around him was changing, and before he knew it, he was in the middle of some conflicts overseas. He even goes as far to talk about his “bare shoulder” which showed he had no combat experience when he arrived in Afghanistan.
I think if we know how to communicate with our Veterans, we understand that we are acknowledging their service…that chapter of their life might be over, but it may be something they long to talk about because they want someone who will genuinely listen. We may not know why some of our Veterans signed up…but have you ever thought about asking? “Why did you enlist?” or “Why did you serve?”
Take some time to watch the TED Talk with Wes Moore here https://www.ted.com/talks/wes_moore_how_to_talk_to_veterans_about_the_war?language=en
Meanwhile, if you are wondering what a TED talk is, or if you are curious if TED is a person…
TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment, and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.
I encourage you to keep your lines of communication open…acknowledge the stories of our Veterans—understand their commitment to our country, their love of our country, and why serving means so much.
With that being said, I hope you all have a great weekend—take some time to have a nice sit down with the ones you love…open your hearts and ears to the stories of our Veterans.
Hands down, one of the most genuine and greatest speakers I’ve had the pleasure to meet, Wes Moore, with Sam and me at SIU.