First of all, I didn’t know we were in a philosophy class. Secondly, doesn’t this mean that culture is inherently unstable??
—  fourth period student on the concept of culture, during a class discussion today (it was heavily discussed in the literature review of a study on veterans and their struggles with reintegrating into society after serving)

A veteran’s discussion of “Thank you for your service.”

Major Mark Bieger cradles Farah, a little girl wounded in a malicious car bomb attack on patrolling US forces in Iraq, while local children were gathered around the vehicles. Bieger rushed Farah to the US hospital, but she died in his arms. (Image by Michael Yon, 14 MAY 2005. Source.)

(Blogpost by David P. Ervin, posted 2 FEB 2015 on MEA. Source.)

I was recently talking with a friend about the dialogue surrounding ‘thank you for your service’ in the military and veteran community. When I mentioned that it might not be the best thing to say based on what I’d read and heard, she was perplexed. She wondered how a seemingly harmless phrase like that could take on such negative connotations. After thinking about it for while, I wondered myself. What is wrong with it? Given the pervasiveness of this phrase’s criticism, it’s important to examine what we’re really talking about when we talk about ‘thank you for your service.’

The spectrum of denigration of this saying within the military and veteran community is wide. Some have said it doesn’t go far enough, that society should do more than utter a phrase and offer a free meal on Veterans’ Day to welcome back its warriors. Some say it’s simply sycophantic and has more to do with making people feeling good about themselves than legitimately honoring a veteran’s service. And there’s a chorus of voices that claim such a platitude is a symptom of widespread disengagement, sort of a proxy for any meaningful conversation about war. Still others say there’s simply no need to be thanked for something we volunteered to do.

While there is a degree of validity to much of this criticism, perhaps the interpretations are indicative of something deeper, something that speaks more about the perspective and experiences of post- 9/11 veterans than of the meaning (or the lack of meaning) of the phrase itself.

It’s true that a tiny fragment of American society participated in Iraq and Afghanistan. While we were at war our peers were obtaining higher education or pursuing and building careers, something on which we got a late start because we chose to serve. Life went on normally for an overwhelming majority of US citizens. “America wasn’t at war,” so the saying goes, “America was at the mall.” Sebastian Junger and James Fallows have correctly pointed out that the wars following 9/11 were something that fell on the shoulders of the participants rather than the society in whose name they were fought. Junger discussed a situation in which the public simply doesn’t know what its military does, much less share the moral burden, and Fallows mentioned that the gap between cultures goes further, effectively stymieing realistic, constructive debate about military spending and foreign policy.“Thank you for your service” can, in that light, be seen as something of a hollow gesture coming from across a wide chasm between the experiences of those who fought and those that didn’t.

The character of those experiences themselves can shape the interpretation. Recently, the concept of ‘moral injury’ has garnered some attention. In summary, moral injury is the effects of taking part in an act that goes against basic human tenets of right or wrong, like killing. The ubiquity of civilians on modern, non-linear battlefields coupled with the guerilla tactics we encountered created situations in which innocent civilians were killed even while following the rules of war. Then there’s the feeling that we didn’t do enough or that we didn’t deserve to survive when so many didn’t. In these contexts the acceptance of gratitude seems inappropriate.

War unleashes a complex set of conflicting emotions. As young men and women we were awed by incredible displays of firepower even while knowing the obscenity of its purpose. Sometimes we loved it. Sometimes we hated it. Sometimes we hated that the fact that we loved it. And in the back of our minds, we knew it was something we chose to do. We’re proud of that even if we’re appalled at the sights we saw. That the overall experience can leave a veteran grappling with significant questions is not hard to fathom.

Can the average civilian contemplate the depth of this internal conflict? Probably not. But it seems they are attempting to at least ackowledge it by saying ‘thank you for your service.’ If the recent box office success of American Sniper is any indication, they’re willing to learn more about our experiences. Perhaps we shouldn’t spurn that. Perhaps we should meet them halfway across that gap.

On homecoming.

Coming home on leave (16 days at home about 2 times a year) was always fantastic, it really made me appreciate the world I lived in. After shit hit the fan in 2007, on a 15 month deployment where 8 dudes from my 30 man platoon got killed, and I got out, coming home for good, it wasn’t so nice. I moved back in with my mom (I was stationed in Germany), and had no idea what to do. Like 30 grand in the bank since I couldn’t really spend money deployed for 15 months, and absolutely no direction or desire. My mom called me out on being drunk for literally the first two days I was home, I mean not sleeping at all, I just stayed up all night, smoked cigarettes, and drank beer and 40s while looking at pictures of my friends who were still in, and those who died. She heard me sobbing at like 3 in the morning and came and sat with me, but I didn’t want her to, I didn’t want any relationships with anybody. I immediately missed everyone I served with. So I started sleeping and eating, and not being drunk EVERY day, but I didn’t know what to do. 23 or 24 years old, no one was around to tell me what to do anymore, and it sucked. I was depressed all the time, I couldn’t connect with my childhood and high school friends because we were so drastically different. I spent most nights driving two cities away, about 40 minutes, and getting shit faced until last call. Not trying to pick up girls, not having fun, just sitting at a bar drinking nonstop and playing pool with myself, then I would drive back home and go to sleep. I woke up after noon almost every day. Eventually I got pinched for a “Super Extreme DUI” (an Arizona thing) which netted me 45 days in jail and a total cost of about 9,000 dollars. I don’t remember if I was suicidal, but I had absolutely no emotion for anything going on in the world around me. I took drives to Oklahoma, where my buddy I told you about was from, and found solace in hanging out with his girlfriend, friends, and family (I didn’t move in on his girlfriend or anything, we were just friends). Being back home in Arizona was worse after going to Oklahoma. I tracked down two guys I served with who lived in North Carolina, and I threw everything I owned in my car, and drove across the country to live closer to them. I lived on my friend’s couch in West Virginia for about a week, but got burnt out by seeing him deal with his state job and his newly bought house, so I left him there. Made it to North Carolina, and my friends helped get me on track with college, I picked up a girlfriend, and lived in my buddy’s living room for about a year while I tried to figure everything out. Now, years later, I’m 5 classes from a BA in Communication Studies, and I still don’t really know what to do. I still drink a lot and have severe anger issues. I was a happy guy before Baghdad. So it sucks, man. I’m reflective enough to know that a lot of dudes like me lost any potential they may have had, depending on their time in the service. It’s not just that “war is ugly,” it’s so much more dynamic than that. No one I served with, no one I liked anyway, believed in the mission or the war, we just wanted to stay alive and go back home. A couple of us had been to Iraq two years earlier, and in 12 months we didn’t have to kill anybody. So we were like “Good. They left us alone, we’ll leave them alone.” But when we got to Baghdad the motherfuckers wouldn’t leave us alone. We weren’t kicking down doors or harassing people. We were just driving around for our patrols, checking out the city and talking to people, then going back to the base to jerk off, listen to music, sleep, and wait for the deployment to end. Then the bastards started killing us. First guy got shot in the back by a sniper, getting back into the hum vee to end the patrol. We cried, we learned to be more careful, and we learned that it wasn’t going to be the same. Then the fucking IEDs started coming. Dudes would dig big ass holes and stick hundreds of pounds of explosives in them, and we would drive over them and experience mass casualties. A guy laying in the road with no legs, his still booted and clothed legs lying on the curb a few feet away from him, and dudes full of shrapnel holes laying in the street, calmly saying “get me the fuck out of here,” through dirty, bloody grimaces. No Saving Private Ryan bullshit where dudes are hysterical, screaming for their mothers. Just wincing back tears, trying to look tough, even though a leg, or an arm was mangled like a plate of spaghetti, and they were completely defenseless. 18 year old guys, 19 year olds. Fucking teenagers, bleeding and dying in the streets. Anyway, we started to get mad. We started to hate the people for not warning us about bombs in the road, for not giving us info on the assholes who were hurting us. The Iraqis wouldn’t help us, and they wouldn’t help themselves. They just wanted to be left alone. But when your friends die in pieces, you get angry, you want blood, vengeance. It’s not about politics, nations, patriotism, revelry, or anything other than cold revenge. And we were armed to dish out that vengeance. Unfortunately, we were fighting ghosts. We hardly ever got to kill our killers, so we had to pent up our anger and wait for an opportunity to release it. My platoon eventually quit, after one of our Bradleys (it’s like a tank, only a bunch of guys sit in the back of it) got flipped upside down, ripped in half, and killed all 5 of our soldiers inside of it. The driver burned alive, some dudes said they heard him screaming as they tried to get through the flames to save him. After that, my platoon quit. We told our leadership, straight up, “If you send us back into that city, we are going to kill everyone we see. We will go if you let us do that, but we are not going if you will not let us.” We all got punished, split apart, sent to other units. All our brotherhood and camaraderie was ripped from us. Then we got back to Germany. Then, guys like me, got out of the Army and went home for good, alone. Went home and took all that anger, all that resent, and all that fucking loss. It’s still there. It waits for a driver to cut us off, or some college kid to bitch about the war, then it comes out. Some of us drink to control it, to soothe it, to keep it at bay, but at a certain point alcohol just fucking amplifies it. Then, we do things like break our hand on a street sign, beat the shit out of some punk kid for saying something ignorant, or shooting a hole in our apartment wall because we were too drunk and nihilistic to give a fuck if the gun was loaded or not, sometimes it gets us into fights where we wake up in the street outside the bar after being choked out. Some guys kill themselves. Some keep themselves occupied with wives and kids, or 60 hour work weeks. Some of us just slip through life, hoping to be left alone. On Normandy Beach, when the Germans mowed down soldier’s buddies, the soldiers could take all their anger and frustration up the beach and throw it in the enemy’s face; they had a release. Our war doesn’t typically give us that, and it fucking sucks. It is crippling. so we survive. If you’re still with me here, there’s the short answer: Coming home sucks, and we just try to get by and act like everyone else.

— Words and image by Chad Allan Darrah


How much (damage) are you dealing with?


Uniformed Services University applauds the educational efforts and programs our Department of Defense community is providing to assist troops and their families inthe reintegration process post deployment.

To enhance these efforts, our military trauma experts have prepared this concise and friendly, two-part fact sheet that is based upon recent interviews with affected families.

You may forward this Provider Fact Sheet and the attached Fact Sheet for Couples electronically, or download them for distribution to military health and community leaders, and the military families they serve.

Local contact information can be added to the Couples Fact Sheet in the space provided by hand or using the full version of Adobe Acrobat. We encourage you to reach out to the many spouses of young soldiers who returned to families of origin and other sources of support not connected to military communities.

Find additional information: Courage to Care Fact Sheets 

  • Reintegration
  • Yellow Swans
  • Deterioration

Reintegration by Yellow Swans, on their album Deterioration. Just picked this CD up last night. Yellow Swans are a pretty good noise/drone/experimental band from Portland, Oregon.

My eyes were drawn toward the interesting album cover, and I was pleased to find that it was by a band I had heard of—they were featured in the documentary People Who Do Noise.

Bringing the battlefield home.

Amvets Warrior Transition Workshop is a service run by the AMVETS Freedom and Honor team, a non-profit organization.

Mission The Freedom and Honor team is here to help you move through your combat stress via training modules. It’s not about sitting around and talking about your feelings, it’s about understanding who you are now and developing a mission.
Company Overview AMVETS Warrior Transition Program conducted by the Freedom & Honor team is a training and education provider for personnel of the U.S. military (veterans, active duty, Reserve and Guard), with a focus on those struggling with combat stress and readjustment issues resulting from one or more deployments to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), and other foreign military operations. These programs were designed by training experts and combat veterans. The flagship program is a 3-day hands-on reintegration training program using paradigm shift methodologies proven effective in dealing with trauma. To date through workshops and support to Yellow Ribbon events, more than 60,000 hours of training have been provided to more than 7,000 returning veterans. Description AMVETS Freedom and Honor Warrior Transition programs are weekend workshops and specially designed training programs that will change up the game. Sick of feeling like you are stumbling around? Struggling with feeling and emotions? Repeating your story and getting no where? What you need are the skills, tools and perspective to gain ground. Our Warrior Transition Workshop is unlike any other. 97% of the American public has never done what you’ve done so why not take a chance with those who have been there.

Holes left behind – Segment IV – Disconnected.

US Army Captain Renee Marie tosses bits of shredded uniform, days before her retirement from the US Army, at Shotwell Paper Mill, home of the Combat Paper Project. - Andrew W. Nunn


If you’ve spent five minutes in the civilian world you’ll have realized that many things are different; from the way people act to the way things are done, everything becomes foreign the moment you went through basic training and they didn’t.  When you get out of the military everything is exciting and new, and you feel free; until that point in time when you have to begin interacting with the world again, the one you left behind years ago.  This sudden drop back into civilian life, can at times, feel like a whole other culture, and in some ways it really is.  

The hard copy definition of culture is a shared set of values, morals, and knowledge that gets passed on from generation to generation.  The moment you join the military you automatically split off into another culture, and the longer you spend within that culture, the more disconnected you become from the civilian path.  I don’t know many veterans who still have real personal connections with old civilian friends, let alone family members.  That’s because while most civilians are graduating high school and moving on to college we had already moved away from home, flew thousands of miles away, lived in foreign lands; were shot at, blown up, and caught dysentery.  It’s a pretty big difference between that kind of stress and the stress you get when you slept through your alarm and are now late for a test.  

We came home to seeing how the new generation has fared since we had left, and to be quite honest a lot of the time it disgusts me how much our society has become an entitled society.  Now, before you go ape shit on me about how you have some disease that makes you unable to work, I’d like to say that I’m not talking about you.  I’m talking about the generation of apathy, narcissism, and a sub par work ethic; the one that thinks it’s fully acceptable to use the acronym LOL in an essay.  I think what gets to me most of the time is the large number of uninformed who choose to be uninformed due to news being “too dark.”  For those of us in college this is what we have to reconnect with.

How do you reconnect? Tolerance and understanding.  No joke.  If you don’t make an attempt to understand that they will not understand the same life philosophies, that you have come to embrace, for possibly many years to come, you will get eaten alive.  I mean think about it, are you really upset at the new generation and how they’ve forgotten us or have you forgotten that they never knew about us?  When I first got out I was so mad at the world because I felt absolutely left behind; when I left for Europe, and eventually Iraq, maybe 25% of the population had cellphones and they flipped open or looked like a brick; whereas, when I came home the whole world had changed, I felt like Brooks from Shawshank Redemption.  The culture in the United States is ever changing, and we cannot blame the greater population for going with it; we can only do our best to catch up and try to adjust.

Words by Nathan D. Moldenhauer
Photograph by Andrew W. Nunn

@ capcom: please consider the following

  1. Apollo Justice 2
  2. Apollo Justice 2
  3. Apollo Justice 2
  4. Another game featuring Apollo Justice, the protagonist from Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney for the Nintendo DS
  5. Apollo Justice is a defense attorney working for the Wright Anything Agency. He is notable for his involvement in a test trial for the Jurist System, an effort to reintegrate the jury into court proceedings, along with co-counsel Trucy Wright, Prosecutor Klavier Gavin, and mentor Phoenix Wright.
  6. Apollo Justice 2

Want to find out more about the Octavia Butler Archives? Support this project and signal boost!

Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network (OEBLegacy) showcases, supports, and promotes individual, community, social and environmental justice work that continues to be inspired by her life and science fiction. It is a diverse and inclusive grassroots organization that is made up of people from people across the country from various backgrounds. We have a network of artists, activists, doulas, academics, filmmakers, students, authors, scholars, science fiction fans and other people that are engaged in creating the world that we want to live in. 

OEBLegacy’s founder, Ayana Jamieson, usually shares, supports, and promotes news and activities from around the community. This time, she is asking for help to get some inspiring science fiction into the hands of 30 individuals in a community-funded and volunteer-based program called the Reintegration Academy founded by Dr. Renford Reese. She would like to be able to give at least one Octavia Butler text to each person and offer the encouragement of the community of donors that made it possible. She will be participating in an event on Wednesday, May 28, 2014 and she doesn’t want to show up empty handed. 

The Reintegration Academy is part of the Prison Education Project
which provides opportunities for incarcerated individuals. Its “ultimate goal is to create a prison-to-school pipeline and provide inmate-students with the cognitive tools necessary to function as productive citizens” and reduce recidivism by using resources in the backyard of each of the state’s prisons to make change.

Octavia Butler wrote about Change as the only lasting truth, shaping Change, and “positive obsession.” She inspired many of us to do the work that we do, whether it is fiction writing, social justice organizing, activism, parenting, teaching, or just living by the words that she wrote. Please help to share her life-sustaining work with people who understand what Change is and how vitally necessary it is to continue on the journey they started in this ten-week program. You can watch the video from past participants to see what a powerful impact the Reintegration Academy has had. 

Since OEBLegacy’s founding in 2011 and launch in 2013, supporters and followers have grown organically through relationships and word of mouth. OEBLegacy has nearly 500 followers on Facebook, and more on Twitter and Tumblr. If each person just donated $1.00, it would add up quickly.

Ayana also has some very exciting Octavia related news that may encourage you to donate now or in the near future. She has been doing ongoing and extensive research in the Octavia Butler Collection and Archives of manuscripts and private papers for nearly two months. Soon, Ayana will begin to share some of her amazing findings with the OEBLegacy community. So far, all of the labor that keeps OEBLegacy running has been out of love and for free. This campaign to fund book donations is the first step in growing OEBLegacy into the kind of organization that is sustainable and even more engaged in community. 

As an added bonus, Ayana will add each donor’s email address to a mailing list of folks who will receive the updates to their inboxes without having to log in to social media or search Google.


Your time in Iraq makes you a threat to society.

Speaking from prison, Iraqi war veteran Andrew “Sarge” Chambers tells the story of how he got there. As the judge told him when he sentenced Chambers to 10 years at Marion Correctional: “Your time in Iraq makes you a threat to society.” Chambers reminds us of the sacrifices that linger with soldiers — and simply asks us to listen.

Andrew “Sarge” Chambers proudly hails from Pickerington, Ohio. He served in the U.S. Army and has maintained the habit he acquired there of cursing just a bit too much. Throughout his service, Sarge was also able to maintain and hone his sense of honor and kindness, but the experience did slightly alter his sense of humor. While categorically not a morning person, when he is able to finally pry his eyes open, he always thinks to himself that he would rather be fishing. Most of his days are filled with coaching softball, Garth Brooks songs and thoughts of the family he hopes to be able to start soon. He is taking the stage to tell his story, parts of which can be seen in the documentary Operation Resurrection: The Warrior Returns. After TEDxMarionCorrectional he will work on his next unique thing.

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

About TEDx: TEDx is an international community that organizes TED-style events anywhere and everywhere — celebrating locally-driven ideas and elevating them to a global stage. TEDx events are produced independently of TED conferences, each event curates speakers on their own, but based on TED’s format and rules.

I found myself musing, again, about how it is not so much how high you get up on that mountain, or how connected you feel deep in that canyon - it is about how you come down, and how you come home. For once, I have a home to return to. A body to inhabit and people to love. More words to write, and as always, so many open questions.
—  Jacks McNamara, “So Many Ways to be Beautiful”

A shade in the shadows.

A coalition special operations forces member stands overwatch in the village of Dahane Sangu, Khas Uruzgan district. SOF provided security for a reintegration shura in which 20 former Taliban fighters registered their weapons with Afghan officials and renounced their affiliation to the insurgency, which are reintegration requirements under Afghanistan’s Peace and Reintegration Program.

(Photo by Chief Petty Officer Bill Mesta, 15 July 2012 via DVIDS.)