Journal of a Stormer: Day One
Posted by John McGlothlin on March 26
It’s not in a veteran’s nature to talk about himself. In the Army, at least the parts of it where I spent the last nine years, you don’t tell people about who you are - you show them through the quality of your work. Unfortunately, when you only have half an hour (or half a minute) with a busy legislator, there isn’t time to let a lesson sink in slowly – you need to get right to the point. And that means being direct about your story and the stories of those you served with.
This Sunday was training day for the 28 veterans who form this year’s Storm the Hill, the annual advocacy campaign for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. We represent the over 2.4 million men and women who served in these two wars, and our campaign is focused on lowering veteran unemployment. The issue is familiar to us, but the forum is new and a bit strange – walking around Capitol Hill, where we will meet with legislators and draw their attention to crucial veterans’ issues.
Everyone respects the service of veterans, but not everyone understands what they have to offer when they return from war - particularly employers. So the 28 of us practiced telling our stories to one another. It sounds simple enough; most people will talk about themselves to anyone. But we kept reverting to old habits, using numbers and logic to support our cause instead of talking about our own personal experiences.
It isn’t that the military is unemotional - far from it. It’s that our decisions affect the safety of our troops, so we make them for rational reasons. You don’t decide how much water or ammunition to carry because of a “feeling.” But we aren’t on patrol anymore - we are trying to make problems like veteran unemployment feel real to the people with the power to affect change. We didn’t travel here to spout numbers. We came here to give them a human face.
As the day went on, we did what good service members do: we adapted quickly. We learned how to make a personal appeal that complemented the facts and didn’t feel like complaining. As a vet, it’s easy to forget how little is known by the country at large about our lives or the problems we face. Taking the time to tell legislators about our lives is an important task.
By the time General (Ret.) David Petraeus dropped by our kickoff membership event at the Westin Hotel and told us not to ask for pity, but for support, we understood exactly what he meant. Now that we’ve learned that lesson, we can start taking our message to the legislators themselves. Things kick off today at 1pm at the Hart Senate Building, where IAVA will announce the results of their groundbreaking membership survey. Storm the Hill is here.
John McGlothlin is from Laurel, MD and he served nine years in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper and Arabic linguist. He deployed twice, first to Iraq with the 101st Airborne and later to Afghanistan with the 173d Airborne. John is participating in 2012 Storm the Hill as part of Team GOLF.
Missed all the action at Storm the Hill 2012? Meet all the Stormers and follow our updates from the week here.
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