What’s your opinion? Will Mattis reverse Obama’s policy to allow women in combat?
Women in combat is not a new idea and there’s been much discussion on the topic in the past few years. But what might General Mattis have to say about it when he becomes SECDEF?
In a post by Kassia Halcli on December 9: He [Mattis] also drew an analogy between allowing women in combat and making Stanford University’s football team 50 percent female, a notion he dismissed as laughable. “We take football more seriously than national defense,” he said.
I awoke to Eminem blasting hours before dawn at Quantico Marine Base. A fog of breath and sweat permeated the cold January air as I joined 104 other nervous lieutenants hauling gear to the classroom where we would receive our first instructions. With body armor, Kevlar, a rifle and a huge pack on my 5’3’’ frame, I must have looked like a child next to the buff guys assembling for Day 1 of the Marine Corps’ Infantry Officer Course.
I was one of four women in the group, bringing the number to 14 female officers who had attempted the course since it was opened to women in the fall of 2012. All the women so far had failed — all but one of them on the first day.
I wasn’t thinking about that, though. I was excited to have a shot at the Marines’ premier training course.
I’m typical of a Marine in that I’ve always sought out challenges. I flew my first solo flight when I was 15 and got my private pilot’s license three years ago at 21. I’ve climbed 10 of the 14,000-foot peaks in my home state of Colorado. As an ice hockey goalie for more than a decade, I put myself in the path of pucks flying at 80 mph.
I expected that this, though, would be the toughest experience I’d ever had.
Author and Marine Jude Eden served in the Marine Corps from 2004-2008, deploying to Fallujah Iraq in 2005-6.
Jude shares her thoughts about women in combat…
“Women have many wonderful strengths, and there is certainly a lot of work for women to do in the military. But all the problems that come with men and women working together are compounded in the war zone, destroying the cohesion necessary to fight bloody, hellish war. We are at war; and if we want to win, we have to separate the wheat from the chaff. And the top priority should be military readiness and WINNING wars, not political correctness and artificially imposed “equality” on the military.”
American Legion Editorial
By Jim Webb, September 2003
Against a backdrop of political mismanagement and social angst, history has failed to respect those who gave their all to the war in Vietnam.
Forty years ago, Asia was at a vital crossroads, moving into an uncertain future dominated by three different historical trends. The first involved the aftermath of the carnage and destruction of World War II, which left scars on every country in the region and dramatically changed Japan’s role in East Asian affairs. The second was the sudden, regionwide end of European colonialism, which created governmental vacuums in every second-tier country except Thailand and, to a lesser extent, the Philippines. The third was the emergence of communism as a powerful tool of expansionism by military force, its doctrine and strategies emanating principally from the birthplace of the Communist International: the Soviet Union.
Europe’s withdrawal from the region dramatically played into the hands of communist revolutionary movements, especially in the wake of the communist takeover of China in 1949. Unlike in Europe, these countries had never known Western-style democracy. In 1950, the partitioned country of Korea exploded into war when the communist North invaded South Korea, with the Chinese Army joining the effort six months later. Communist insurgencies erupted throughout Indochina. In Malaysia, the British led a 10-year anti-guerrilla campaign against China-backed revolutionaries. A similar insurgency in Indonesia brought about a communist coup attempt, also sponsored by the Chinese, which was put down in 1965.
The situation inside Vietnam was the most complicated. First, for a variety of reasons the French had not withdrawn from their long-term colony after World War II, making it easy for insurgents to rally the nationalistic Vietnamese to their side. Second, the charismatic, Soviet-trained communist leader Ho Chi Minh had quickly consolidated his anti-French power base just after the war by assassinating the leadership of competing political groups that were both anti-French and anti-communist. Third, once the Korean War armistice was signed in 1953, the Chinese had shifted large amounts of sophisticated weaponry to Ho Chi Minh’s army. The Viet Minh’s sudden acquisition of larger-caliber weapons and field artillery such as the 105-millimeter Howitzer abruptly changed the nature of the war and contributed heavily to the French humiliation at Dien Bien Phu.
Fourth, further war became inevitable when U.S.-led backers of the incipient South Vietnamese democracy called off a 1956 election agreed upon after Vietnam was divided in 1954. In geopolitical terms, this failure to go forward with elections was prudent, since it was clear a totalitarian state had emerged in the north. President Eisenhower’s frequently quoted admonition that Ho Chi Minh would get 75 percent of the vote was not predicated on the communist leader’s popularity but on the impossibility of getting a fair vote in communist-controlled North Vietnam. But in propaganda terms, it solidified Ho Chi Minh’s standing and in many eyes justified the renewed warfare he would begin in the south two years later.
In 1958, the communists unleashed a terrorist campaign in the south. Within two years, their northern-trained squads were assassinating an average of 11 government officials a day. President Kennedy referred to this campaign in 1961 when he decided to increase the number of American soldiers operating inside South Vietnam. “We have talked about and read stories of 7,000 to 15,000 guerrillas operating in Vietnam, killing 2,000 civil officers a year and 2,000 police officers a year – 4,000 total,” Kennedy said. “How we fight that kind of problem, which is going to be with us all through this decade, seems to me to be one of the great problems now before the United States.”
Among the local populace, the communist assassination squads were the “stick,” threatening to kill anyone who officially affiliated with the South Vietnamese government. Along with the assassination squads came the “carrot,” a highly trained political cadre that also infiltrated South Vietnam from the north. The cadre helped the people prepare defenses in their villages, took rice from farmers as taxes and recruited Viet Cong soldiers from the local young population. Spreading out into key areas – such as those provinces just below the demilitarized zone, those bordering Laos and Cambodia, and those with future access routes to key cities – the communists gained strong footholds.
The communists began spreading out from their enclaves, fighting on three levels simultaneously. First, they continued their terror campaign, assassinating local leaders, police officers, teachers and others who declared support for the South Vietnamese government. Second, they waged an effective small-unit guerrilla war that was designed to disrupt commerce, destroy morale and clasp local communities to their cause. And finally, beginning in late 1964, they introduced conventional forces from the north, capable of facing, if not defeating, main force infantry units – including the Americans – on the battlefield. Their gamble was that once the United States began fighting on a larger scale – as it did in March 1965 – its people would not support a long war of attrition. As Ho Chi Minh famously put it, “For every one of yours we kill, you will kill 10 of ours. But in the end it is you who will grow tired.”
Ho Chi Minh was right. The infamous “body counts” were continuously disparaged by the media and the antiwar movement. Hanoi removed the doubt in 1995, when on the 20th anniversary of the fall of Saigon officials admitted having lost 1.1 million combat soldiers dead, with another 300,000 “still missing.”
Communist losses of 1.4 million dead compared to America’s losses of 58,000 and South Vietnam’s 245,000 stand as stark evidence that eliminates many myths about the war. The communists, and particularly the North Vietnamese, were excellent and determined soldiers. But the “wily, elusive guerrillas” that the media loved to portray were not exclusively wily, elusive or even guerrillas when one considers that their combat deaths were four times those of their enemies, combined. And an American military that located itself halfway around the world to take on a determined enemy on the terrain of the enemy’s choosing was hardly the incompetent, demoralized and confused force that so many antiwar professors, journalists and filmmakers love to portray.
Why Did We Fight?
The United States recognized South Vietnam as a political entity separate from North Vietnam, just as it recognized West Germany as separate from communist-controlled East Germany and just as it continues to recognize South Korea from communist-controlled North Korea. As signatories of the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization, we pledged to defend South Vietnam from external aggression. South Vietnam was invaded by the north, just as certainly, although with more sophistication, as South Korea was invaded by North Korea. The extent to which the North Vietnamese, as well as antiwar Americans, went to deny this reality by pretending the war was fought only by Viet Cong soldiers from the south is, historically, one of the clearest examples of their disingenuous conduct. At one point during the war, 15 of North Vietnam’s 16 combat divisions were in the south.
How Did We Fight?
The Vietnam War varied year by year and region by region, our military’s posture unavoidably mirroring political events in the United States. Too often in today’s America we are left with the images burned into a weary nation’s consciousness at the very end of the war, when massive social problems had been visited on an army that was demoralized, sitting in defensive cantonments and simply waiting to be withdrawn. While reflecting America’s final months in Vietnam, they hardly tell the story of the years of effort and battlefield success that preceded them.
Little recognition has been given in this country of how brutal the war was for those who fought it on the ground and how well our military performed. Dropped onto the enemy’s terrain 12,000 miles away from home, America’s citizen-soldiers performed with a tenacity and quality that may never be truly understood. Those who believe the war was fought incompetently on a tactical level should consider the enormous casualties to which the communists now admit. And those who believe that it was a “dirty little war” where the bombs did all the work might contemplate that it was the most costly war the U.S. Marine Corps has ever fought. Five times as many Marines died in Vietnam as in World War I, three times as many as in Korea. And the Marines suffered more total casualties, killed and wounded, in Vietnam than in all of World War II.
Another allegation was that our soldiers were over-decorated during the Vietnam War. James Fallows says in his book “National Defense” that by 1971, we had given out almost 1.3 million medals for bravery in Vietnam, as opposed to some 1.7 million for all of World War II. Others have repeated the figure, including the British historian Richard Holmes in his book “Acts of War.” This comparison is incorrect for a number of reasons. First, these totals included air medals, rarely awarded for bravery. We awarded more than 1 million air medals to Army soldiers during Vietnam. Air medals were almost always given on a points basis for missions flown, and it was not unusual to see a helicopter pilot with 40 air medals because of the nature of his job.
If we compare the top three actual gallantry awards, the Army awarded:
289 Medals of Honor in World War II and 155 in Vietnam
4,434 Distinguished Service Crosses in World War II and 846 in Vietnam
73,651 Silver Stars in World War II against 21,630 in Vietnam
The Marine Corps, which lost 103,000 killed or wounded out of some 400,000 sent to Vietnam, awarded:
47 Medals of Honor (34 posthumously)
362 Navy Crosses (139 posthumously)
2,592 Silver Stars
Second, although the Army awarded another 1.3 million “meritorious” Bronze Stars and Army Commendation Medals in Vietnam, this was hardly unique. After World War II, Army Regulation 600-45 authorized every soldier who had received either a Combat Infantryman’s Badge or a Combat Medical Badge to also be awarded a meritorious Bronze Star. The Army has no data regarding how many soldiers received Bronze Stars through this blanket procedure.
We made errors, although nowhere on the scale alleged by those who have a stake in disparaging our effort. Fighting a well-trained enemy who seeks cover in highly contested populated areas where civilians often assist the other side is the most difficult form of warfare. The most important distinction is that the deliberate killing of innocent civilians was a crime in the U.S. military. We held ourselves accountable for My Lai. And yet we are still waiting for the communists to take responsibility for the thousands of civilians deliberately killed by their political cadre as a matter of policy. A good place for them to start holding their own forces accountable would be Hue, where during the 1968 Tet Offensive more than 2,000 locals were systematically executed during the brief communist takeover of the city.
What Went Wrong?
Beyond the battlefield, just about everything one might imagine.
The war was begun, and fought, without clear political goals. Its battlefield complexities were never fully understood by those who were judging, and commenting upon, American performance. As a rifle platoon and company commander in the infamous An Hoa Basin west of Da Nang, on any given day my Marines could be fighting three different wars: one against terrorism, one against guerrillas and one against conventional forces. The implications of these challenges, as well as our successes in dealing with them, never seemed to penetrate an American populace inundated by negative press stories filed by reporters, particularly television journalists, who had no clue about the real tempo of the war. And one of the most under-reported revelations after the war ended was that several top reporters were compromised while in Vietnam, by communist agents who had managed to gain employment as their assistants, thus shaping in a large way their reporting.
Most importantly, Vietnam became an undeclared war fought against the background of a highly organized dissent movement at home. Few Americans who grew up after the war know that a large part of this dissent movement was already in place before the Vietnam War began. Many who wished for revolutionary changes in America had pushed for them through the vehicles of groups such as the ban-the-bomb movement in the 1950s and the civil-rights movement of the early and mid-1960s. In this regard, it is interesting to note that the infamous antiwar group Students for a Democratic Society was created at the University of Michigan through the Port Huron Statement in 1962 – three full years before American ground troops landed at Da Nang. The SDS hoped to bring revolution to America through the issue of race. They and other extremist groups soon found more fertile soil on the issue of the war.
Former communist colonel Bui Tin, a highly placed propaganda officer during the war, recently published a memoir in which he specifically admitted a truth that was assumed by American fighting men for years. The Hanoi government assumed from the beginning that the United States would never prevail in Vietnam so long as the dissent movement, which they called “the Rear Front,” was successful at home. Many top leaders of this movement coordinated efforts directly with Vietnamese communist officials in Hanoi. Such coordination often included visiting the North Vietnamese capital – for instance, during the planning stages for the October 1967 march on the Pentagon – a few weeks before the siege of Khe Sanh kicked into high gear and a few months before the Tet Offensive.
The majority of the American people never truly bought the antiwar movement’s logic. While it is correct to say many wearied of an ineffective national strategy as the war dragged on, they never stopped supporting the actual goals for which the United States and South Vietnam fought. As late as September 1972, a Harris survey indicated overwhelming support for continued bombing of North Vietnam – 55 percent to 32 percent – and for mining North Vietnamese harbors – 64 percent to 22 percent. By a margin of 74 percent to 11 percent, those polled also agreed that “it is important that South Vietnam not fall into the control of the communists.”
Was It Worth It?
On a human level, the war brought tragedy to hundreds of thousands of American homes through death, disabling wounds and psychological scars. Many other Vietnam veterans were stigmatized by their own peers as a classic Greek tragedy played out before the nation’s eyes. Those who did not go, particularly among the nation’s elites, were often threatened by the acts of those who did and as a consequence inverted the usual syllogism of service. If I did not go to a war because I believed it was immoral, what does it say about someone who did? If someone who fought is perceived as having been honorable, what does that say about someone who was asked to and could have but did not?
Vietnam veterans, most of whom entered the military just after leaving high school, had their educational and professional lives interrupted during their most formative years. In many parts of the country and in many professional arenas, their having served their country was a negative when it came to admission into universities or being hired for jobs. The fact that the overwhelming majority of those who served were able to persist and make successful lives for themselves and their families is strong testament to the quality of Americans who actually did step forward and serve.
On a national level, and in the eyes of history, the answer is easier. One can gain an appreciation for what we attempted to achieve in Vietnam by examining the aftermath of the communist victory in 1975. A gruesome holocaust took place in Cambodia, the likes of which had not been seen since World War II. Two million Vietnamese fled their country – mostly by boat. Thousands lost their lives in the process. This was the first such diaspora in Vietnam’s long and frequently tragic history. Inside Vietnam, a million of the south’s best young leaders were sent to re-education camps; more than 50,000 perished while imprisoned, and others remained captives for as long as 18 years. An apartheid system was put into place that punished those who had been loyal to the United States, as well as their families, in matters of education, employment and housing. The Soviet Union made Vietnam a client state until its own demise, pumping billions of dollars into the country and keeping extensive naval and air bases at Cam Ranh Bay. In fact, communist Vietnam did not truly start opening up to the outside world until the Soviet Union ceased to exist.
Would I Do It Again?
Others are welcome to disagree, but on this I have no doubt. Like almost every Marine I have ever met, my strongest regret is that perhaps I could have done more. But no other experience in my life has been more important than the challenge of leading Marines during those extraordinarily difficult times. Nor am I alone in this feeling. The most accurate poll of the attitudes of those who served in Vietnam – Harris, 1980 – showed that 91 percent were glad they’d served their country, and 74 percent enjoyed their time in the service. Additionally, 89 percent agreed that “our troops were asked to fight in a war which our political leaders in Washington would not let them win.”
On that final question, history will surely be kinder to those who fought than to those who directed – or opposed – the war.
On 2/13/14 Sgt Hutchins’ arraignment for unpremeditated murder charges of an “Unknown Iraqi Male” in Hamnadiya, Iraq in April 2006 took place at Camp Pendleton.
This is the third time around. Although his case has already been overturned twice (the second time by the highest court in the military justice system, The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF), The Navy Department insists on trying Sgt Hutchins again. The fact that it is even possible to continue this constant barrage against Sgt Hutchins and his family boggles the mind. To attempt to explain how this is not double jeopardy to the average, reasonable American citizen, is far too complicated to address here. The simple fact of the matter is that the prosecution is, in fact under the military justice system, able to do it. And needless to say, they are pursuing this once again. In my personal opinion, this is so far beyond absurd, that I have no words to describe what they are doing. However, given my familiarity with the case, I know why they are doing it. And I will leave it at that.
So, all of this is taking place as this administration is not only freeing known terrorists who have killed Americans in combat, but they are also taking steps to allow these killers to emigrate to the United States! Yes, you read that correctly. If this is not complete insanity, I don’t know what is. The military judge’s instructions a few days ago were to have the trial begin in late August of this year. Between now and then, there are a couple of other legal hurdles that must be addressed to ensure that Sgt Hutchins receives impartial and fair representation by his assigned Marine Corps defense attorney, and that an impartial judge (who has not in some way already been influenced by this case that has dragged on now for seven years) will be presiding. An attempt has already been made to have the navy and army re-try this case. Both services have refused to touch it. There are others details that I could address at this point, but I think what has already been stated is sufficient for now. Know also that Sgt Hutchins has spent several years in the brig at Ft. Leavenworth, MCB Camp Pendleton and MCAS Miramar. Those closest to him on the staff at the Miramar brig nearly unanimously recommended parole and clemency for him every year that the issue was addressed, only to have the commanding officer of the brig in all but one case, forward his recommendation up the chain of command to the Secretary of the Navy recommending disapproval. We all know that this is not how the system works, there are obviously other factors at play here. Again, that is all I will say about it, but I am sure that you can see exactly what is happening, as can I. Sgt Hutchins is currently on active duty at Camp Pendleton (having been released this past July after CAAF’s decision… although there was a last minute attempt by the navy to keep him incarcerated indefinitely under their interpretation of the rules of pre-trial confinement). Were it not for the tremendous efforts of his appellate attorney, Major Babu Kaza and former Vietnam Marine, novelist and former Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration, the honorable Bing West, Sgt Hutchins would still be sitting behind bars today. You tell me how egregious this attempt by SecNav was!
Sgt Hutchins is a model Marine. To his credit, after the way that he has been treated by his own government, he still is one of the most squared away, gung ho Marines you will ever meet. His command thinks so highly of him that they have recently recommended him for the Navy Achievement Medal, as well as the Combat Action Ribbon (that he unbelievably never received).
This, again my opinion, is an absolute travesty. And for those unaware, Sgt Hutchins’ family and some others close to him have for some time now been on an Al Qaeda hit list. There is currently an individual who was living in Alaska (who converted to Islam, as well as his wife) who has been locked up by the FBI for approximately three years for making the above mentioned threats. He will most likely be released within the next few years.
THIS THIRD RE-TRIAL OF A MARINE WHO RISKED HIS LIFE IN IRAQ BY ORDER OF THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT, AND IS NOW BEING PUT ON TRIAL ONCE AGAIN BY THIS SAME GOVERNMENT IS TOTAL CRAP…. AND THAT IS PUTTING IT MILDLY!! And he is not the only one. There are other military personnel locked up in Ft. Leavenworth for up to 40 years (that the public is unaware of) for similar situations that Sgt Hutchins was involved in during combat. At the heart of these injustices are the idiotic voluminous Rules of Engagement that our troops must abide by that puts them at great personal risk (the movie plot line of “ Lone Survivor” is another example of this)… and our enemies know these rules and use them against us. The enemy has no rules, they simply capture and behead our troops. THIS WHOLE THING STINKS TO HIGH HEAVEN!!!
PUBLIC OPINION IS CAPABLE OF CHANGING A LOT OF THINGS. MANY ARE NOT AWARE OF MOST OF WHAT HAS BEEN STATED ABOVE. NOW YOU ARE. I WOULD URGE YOU TO PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD FAR AND WIDE! FORWARD THIS MESSAGE ON TO AS MANY AMERICAN CITIZENS, CONSERVATIVE TALK SHOW HOSTS, CONGRESSMEN, SENATORS, PATRIOTIC ORGANIZATIONS AND OTHERS AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN. THANKS.
Founder, Past President,
USMC/Vietnam Helicopter Association
A couple of years ago someone asked me if I still thought about Vietnam. I nearly laughed in their face. How do you stop thinking about it? Every day for the past forty years, I wake up with it- I go to bed with it. This was my response:
“Yeah, I think about it. I can’t stop thinking about it. I never will. But, . I’ve also learned to live with it. I’m comfortable with the memories. I’ve learned to stop trying to forget and learned to embrace it. It just doesn’t scare me anymore.”
A lot of my “brothers” haven’t been so lucky. For them the memories are too painful, their sense of loss too great. My sister told me of a friend she has whose husband was in the Nam. She asks this guy when he was there.
Here’s what he said, “Just last night.” It took my sister a while to figure out what he was talking about. Just Last Night. Yeah, I was in the Nam. When? Just last night, before I went to sleep, on my way to work this morning, and over my lunch hour. Yeah, I was there
My sister says I’m not the same brother who went to Vietnam. My wife says I won’t let people get close to me, not even her.They are probably both right. Ask a vet about making friends in Nam. It was risky. Why? Because we were in the business of death, and death was with us all the time. It wasn’t the death of, “If I die before I wake.” This was the real thing. The kind boys scream for their mothers. The kind that lingers in your mind and becomes more real each time you cheat it. You don’t want to make a lot of friends when the possibility of dying is that real, that close. When you do, friends become a liability.
A guy named Bob Flanigan was my friend. Bob Flanigan is dead. I put him in a body bag one sunny day, April 29, 1969. We’d been talking, only a few minutes before he was shot, about what we were going to do when we got back to the world. Now, this was a guy who had come in country the same time as me. A guy who was loveable and generous. He had blue eyes and sandy blond hair.
When he talked, it was with a soft drawl. I loved this guy like the brother I never had. But, I screwed up. I got too close to him. I broke one of the unwritten rules of war. DON”T GET CLOSE TO PEOPLE WHO ARE GOING TO DIE. You hear vets use the term “buddy” when they refer to a guy they spent the war with. “Me and this buddy of mine.”
Friend sounds too intimate, doesn’t it? “Friend” calls up images of being close. If he’s a friend, then you are going to be hurt if he dies, and war hurts enough without adding to the pain. Get close; get hurt. It’s as simple as that. In war you learn to keep people at that distance my wife talks about. You become good at it, that forty years after the war, you still do it without thinking. You won’t allow yourself to be vulnerable again.
My wife knows two people who can get into the soft spots inside me-my daughters. I know it bothers her that they can do this.It’s not that I don’t love my wife. I do. She’s put up with a lot from me.She’ll tell you that when she signed for better or worse, she had no idea there was going to be so much of the latter. But with my daughters it’s different. My girls are mine. They’ll always be my kids. Not marriage, not distance, not even death can change that.They are something on this earth that can never be taken away from me. I belong to them. Nothing can change that. I can have an ex-wife; but my girls can never have an ex-father. There’s the differance. I can still see the faces, though they all seem to have the same eyes. When I think of us, I always see a line of “dirty grunts”sitting on a paddy dike. We’re caught in the first gray silver between darkness and light. That first moment when we know we’ve survived another night, and the business of staying alive for one more day is about to begin. There was so much hope in that brief space of time. It’s what we used to pray for. “One more day, God. One more day.”
And I can hear our conversations as if they’d only just been spoken I still hear the way we sounded. The hard cynical jokes, our morbid senses of humor. We were scared to death of dying, and tried our best not to show it.
I recall the smells, too. Like the way cordite hangs on the air after a fire-fight. Or the pungent odor of rice paddy mud. So different from the black dirt of Iowa. The mud of Nam smells ancient, somehow. Like it’s always been there. And I’ll never forget the way blood smells, sticky and drying on my hands. I spent a long night that way once. The memory isn’t going anywhere.
I remember how the night jungle appears almost dreamlike as pilot of a Cessna buzzez overhead, dropping parachute flares until morning. That artificial sun would flicker and make shadows run through the jungle. It was worse than not being able to see what was out there sometimes. I remember once looking at the man next to me as a flare floated overhead. The shadows around his eyes were so deep that it looked like his eyes were gone. I reached over and touched him on the arm; without looking at me he touched my hand. “I know man. I know.” That’s what he said. It was a human moment. Two guys a long way from home and scared to death.
God, I loved those guys. I hurt every time one of them died. We all did. Despite our posturing. Despite our desire to stay disconnected, we couldn’t help ourselves. I know why Tim O’ Brien writes his stories. I know what gives Bruce Weigle the words to create poems so honest I cry at their horrible beauty. It’s love. Love for those guys we shared the experience with.
We did our jobs like good soldiers, and we tried our best not to become as hard as our surroundings.You want to know what is frightening. It’s a nineteen-year-old-boy who’s had a sip of that power over life and death that war gives you. It’s a boy who, despite all the things he’s been taught,knows that he likes it. It’s a nineteen-year-old who’s just lost a friend, and is angry and scared and, determined that, “some*@#*s gonna pay”.To this day, the thought of that boy can wake me from a sound sleep and leave me staring at the ceiling.
As I write this, I have a picture in front of me. It’s of two young men. On their laps are tablets. One is smoking a cigarette. Both stare without expression at the camera. They’re writing letters. Staying in touch with places they rather be. Places and people they hope to see again. The picture shares space in a frame with one of my wife.. She doesn’t mind. She knows she’s been included in special company. She knows I’ll always love those guys who shared that part of my life, a part she never can. And she understands how I feel about the ones I know are out there yet. The ones who still answer the question, “When were you in Vietnam?”
In combat, a sniper’s goal is to become a needle in a haystack. Marksmanship is only a piece of the puzzle. Whether I was in the Sierra Nevada Mountains or the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan, stealth was not just a tool — it was the objective. Before I became a Marine sniper, I spent months learning to tread softly and blend in to my environment, skills that have saved my life more than once.
When I transitioned out of the military, however, it didn’t take long to see that my objective needed to change. To be successful as a civilian, I had to go in the opposite direction of my training — I needed to make myself standout.
With less than eight percent of Americans having served in the armed forces, your military service already makes your resume unique. Now you have to make sure it gets in front of the right people. Standing out — not stealth — should be the new strategy of every veteran and transitioning service member searching for a career after the military. How can an employer hire you if they can’t find you?
Employers are looking for men and women who have proven skills like leadership, discipline, and problem-solving. Who better than the men and women who have served in uniform? I’ve spent over a year now working with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes and Toyota to get my fellow veterans hired through job fairs and online efforts. This means that over the course of that year, I’ve been in numerous rooms with countless people whose only job is to recruit veterans.
With this in mind, our team launched the Personal Branding Resume Engine, an online tool that helps veterans market all of the skills they gained in the military to civilian employers. But helping veterans brand themselves for employers was only the first part of our effort. The endgame is to connect these men and women with the recruiters that are searching for them. Well, I am proud to report that this week we’ve taken the next step forward by introducing a first-of-its-kind, free employer search feature as part of the Resume Engine. This new option allows veteran users to add their completed resumes to a searchable database. Companies looking to fill open positions can then search that resume bank for candidates that fit their job qualifications, at absolutely no cost.
As a veteran, I know that the talent of my fellow servicemembers is without question. But as a business owner, I have found that it can be not just challenging, but also expensive, to find good candidates. One of the primary reasons I started my own business — Dakota Meyer Enterprises — was to put veterans back to work. Through my advocacy and experience though, I’ve found that it’s not always an option for a small business owner to close up shop and attend a hiring fair or to put critical cash into purchasing access to job banks. By making the Resume Engine’s new search feature free-of-charge, we’re hoping to level the playing field and create opportunity for businesses of every size to have access to this incredible pool of talent.
When President Obama presented me with the Medal of Honor in 2011, I felt like my Commander-in-Chief was giving me a new charge. I firmly believe I have a responsibility to help as many of my fellow veterans and their families succeed after their years of sacrifice. I’ve said time and time again — if you want to help a veteran, hire one. But now I find myself saying something equally true, if not more so — if you want to help your business, hire a veteran. I encourage veterans and employers to check out the latest version of the Resume Engine and let’s keep working together to make a difference in the employment issues facing our military families and our great country.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
~Theodore Roosevelt, Man In The Arena Speech given April 23, 1910