Veterans: Don't Reintegrate, Rebuild America

Kara Jones

6/27/2014 4:45:00 PM - Kara Jones

On average, 22 veterans commit suicide each day. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), unemployment, substance abuse, and homelessness are some of the many challenges veterans face upon returning home.

The Library of Congress Veterans History Project hosted a panel today discussing the causes, effects, and treatments for PTSD among veterans. In order to dispel myths about post-traumatic stress and alleviate stigmas and misconceptions, experts and clinicians stress that PTSD should not be something we talk about in hushed tones. It is imperative that we pay special attention to the stories of mission, purpose, and service that our veterans can teach.

In light of National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Day, Townhall got a first look at one veteran’s assessment of the traditional paradigm of veteran reintegration.

Chad Grills, an Army Infantry Veteran who has served in Iraq and Egypt, says that the recent headlines of tragedy and corruption at the Department of Veterans Affairs are only the beginning symptoms of larger systemic problems. He believes that America needs our veterans to become the leaders, entrepreneurs, and politicians of the future.

Grills explains that the VA often gives outdated, irrelevant information on how to deal with post-traumatic stress. In his book project Veterans: Don’t Reintegrate, Rebuild America, he creates the roadmap veterans should receive when they return to the states.

Townhall asked Chad Grills to describe the strategies leaders can use to address the veteran suicide rate:

Addressing The Veteran Suicide Rate

The veteran suicide epidemic will only slow down when we remove barriers to talking about these issues. Real suicide prevention training in the military begins when leaders get up and share their own stories of battling depression. Many military leaders fear that they’ll lose their jobs should they display vulnerability. The sad part is, these fears are well founded. But, speaking openly and candidly about depression carries a huge opportunity. This display of vulnerability has the potential to ignite camaraderie amongst units. All leaders have to do is tell a simple story that showcases their own vulnerability. This display will allow future conversations about the subject to happen more naturally.

• When it's appropriate or comes up in conversation, tell a story about battling your own depression.

• Sit with the feelings of awkwardness that might arise, from both your subordinates, and yourself.

• Fight that cringe, push past it, and acknowledge verbally how ridiculous it is that something so important is so hard to talk about, and move on.

• The next display of vulnerability is easier, and a sense of camaraderie is inevitable after a unit is allowed to have honest conversations.

Real, public displays of speaking without shame about topics like depression are a must to build the trust that can save lives later.

How leaders can effectively address veteran unemployment:

Employment Strategies

It’s important that veterans ignore every traditional channel of getting hired. This includes avoiding sending unsolicited resumes and most career fairs. Instead, veterans should connect directly with the highest-level person at any company they may be interested in working for. Ideally, find the email addresses of three upper level folks (C level executives are fine) and reach out directly. Keep your email short, to the point, and ask a thoughtful question at the end. Don’t ask for a job, but include a signal that you’ve studied the company and are curious what tips that executive might offer for an aspiring person in their field. The goal is to start a meaningful dialogue. These are the decision makers who can eventually contact HR and expedite the interview process. When hiring managers are handed a resume by their bosses, they tend to study it more closely then those that come in unsolicited.

In order to publish his book, Chad Grills has set up a Kickstarter campaign that expires July 11. You can click here to donate.