• James McNeil

How diversity can be an amazing benefit to the veteran community facing suicide.

“Isn’t it amazing that we are all made in God’s image, and yet there is so much diversity among his people?” Desmond Tutu

In the episode Reunion, Captain Picard was asked by a Klingon ambassador to serve as a mediator between two Klingons who were vying for the right to lead the empire. Lt Worf is reunited with the ambassador with whom he shared a romantic past, and he is introduced to a young boy he believes to be his son.

One of the two Klingons vying for leadership is revealed to be a traitor by the ambassador, so he kills her, infuriating Worf who then challenges him and kills him. At the end of the episode, Picard and Worf are in Picard’s office. The rest of the Klingons have left the area, and the Enterprise is alone. Picard is clearly disappointed in Worf’s actions, and Worf defends himself by saying what he’d done was acceptable under “Klingon law and tradition,” a statement with which the Klingon High Council agreed.

Picard had another view on it, and this is one we as veterans need to focus on. He stated there were representatives from more than a dozen planets on the Enterprise. Each of these representatives brought with them customs and cultures that may seem odd to the other members of the crew, but they all had one thing in common. They’d pledged themselves to Starfleet. While the captain respected their customs and cultures, he still expected them to contribute as members of the crew for the good of the ship and the good of Starfleet.

It’s often been said that veterans have our own culture, and it can seem foreign to those outside our community. Within the veteran community, there are smaller communities with their own customs and cultures as well. By and large, we’ve been able to celebrate our differences while still advancing the cause of us as veterans, but not completely.

What do I mean? I’m glad you asked.

Go into just about any veteran specific group on social media, and you’ll notice subgroups. These are not official subgroups, but they’re just as real as if they were. Army infantry has its own subgroup, as does logistics, aviation, and definitely the Marines. There is always a rivalry that exists among the different branches, especially when it comes time for the Army/ Navy football game. This is not a bad thing when it comes to football and friendly rivalry, but often we take it too far. I’ve seen various veterans shamed because they were never sent to combat, and I’ve seen others shamed because they never saw “active combat” while they were deployed.

To make my point clear, if you signed up to defend our nation against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and if you graduated from basic training, you earned the right of soldier, airman, sailor, or marine. If you did that, when you left the military, you are a veteran. Period. We need to stop shaming each other for not dealing with obstacles “as bad as I had it.” In Finding Your Personal Mission, there are two chapters devoted to overcoming impostor syndrome, which this mentality feeds. Comparison is the thief of joy and motivation, and it’s time we as veterans stopped comparing ourselves this way.

Just as our veteran culture is different from civilian culture, we have our own different cultures within our community. We need to put those differences aside and remember that we are all veterans, and when one of us suffers, we all do. If we want to overcome the threat of suicide, we need to focus on our community and building it up, not tearing it down because “they’re not like us.”

If we want to overcome the epidemic of suicide, we need to work together. This means focusing on what we have in common while celebrating our differences.

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