Wednesday, February 8, 2023


Military and ex-military RVers camp differently than others

A Vet’s View

By Louis J. Finkle
Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Clinical Psychology
Veterans engaging in RVing tend to operate as “team members.” That is the conclusion of 15 years attending 200+ RV rallies, musters and meetings at campgrounds. Psycho-sociological factors play important parts in team dynamics. Those who served in military services were conditioned to work as a team. “We got each other’s back” is our refrain. It continues when we meet at campground events.

Many non-veterans are drawn into teams, few trained to lead teams. For most veterans, teamwork was ingrained. Rigorous training, stressful assignments, dangerous environments and rigid regimentation required teamwork to survive. These factors differentiate military veterans from others!

RV veteran club outings at campgrounds include activities common to most. Gatherings of RVers have loose schedules, social activities, spontaneity and conversations. Good Sam, Escapees, FMCA, etc., offer loose campground schedules except for more structured regional/national rallies. However, when military veteran groups meet, different dynamics are in play!

How do patterns differ from non-veteran groups?
Participant observation of military veterans is this researcher’s joy! For years I wrote of therapeutic values of camping, rallies and meetings. RVers benefit by leaving cares and woes behind. They welcome team dynamics, camaraderie, new friendships and have fun away from home bases. Each event results in meeting new veterans, sharing stories and touring together. Each veteran I meet becomes a part of my family as a new brother or sister.

• My family of past, long gone, A new one now exists.
• Gaining brothers and sisters, Hundreds on my lists.
• My family at camps thus grows, At rallies and musters it seems;
• I meet new members like you, As we work together in teams.

Before you say “Isn’t that what all RV clubs do when they camp?” let me add that the difference between veteran and non-veteran groups is how team-interactions occur. I visit dozens of veteran groups (VFW, AL, WW, SMART, DAV, AMVET, etc.) because they refresh my life. Some in lodges, others at meetings. I donate to some, volunteer at most and joined some. Breakfast at one, lunch at others. However, I go to many outdoor camping rallies and musters because that is where we bond as equals! My list of veterans met now approaches 1,000. My family grows as each becomes my new brother or sister.

At a regular campground get-together, interactions among members are aligned more with casual conversations, less with petty differences. However, during the past few years, political arguments cropped up at campground meeting rooms. I found non-veteran groups dividing into three cliques: conservatives, liberals, and “let me out of here!” To the contrary, agreements of veteran chapters to leave politics and religion at home resulted in more cohesive and friendly outings!

Some may say “too stifling,” others “what a relief!” Your reaction may be different. But, in its entirety, teamwork, leadership, formal agreements, organization and planning brings out the best in all of us. In any group, most sit in small groups of interest. Travel stories in one, technical repairs in another. War stories in one, gaming groups in others. Regardless of how, where or when we meet, you become my veteran “brother” or “sister” who enjoys RVing.

RVing is a fantastic lifestyle, so make the most of it. As a fellow veteran, how do you view RV group outings? Do you prefer getting away from it all or becoming more involved?

Louis J. Finkle, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Clinical Psychology, U.S. Navy veteran and a member of the national organization of RVing veterans S*M*A*R*T. 

ABOUT S.M.A.R.T. — The club brings military veterans, and their families together to share camaraderie, travel, camping, and support to our veterans. All active, retired, and honorably discharged veterans from U.S. and Canadian Armed Forces, interested in recreational travel, and sharing the camaraderie developed in the military are welcome. This includes: Reserve, National Guard, Air National Guard, Coast Guard, and also USPHS, and NOAA. Learn more or join.



0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe to comments
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Donald N Wright
5 months ago

Funny, I have found former Boy Scouts tent to gather together.

RV Staff
5 months ago

Hi, Donald. I can’t tell if “… former Boy Scouts tent to gather together” is a typo or a pun. 😆 Take care. -Diane

1 year ago

My hubby is former military — 28 years+ — and I have noticed that the longer he is out of the military environment, the less he seeks the structure referred to in the article. I also noticed that as younger, working adults, we loved our local camping club (non-military) monthly campouts. As we have retired and aged, we tend to lean more toward solitary camping, although we always seem to meet fellow campers with whom we share common ground — especially ex-military!

Louis Finkle
1 year ago
Reply to  pursuits712

I am so happy that you have found peace and joy in camping. One of the caravans we are planning for 2022 will be focused on state parks, beaches, fishing, crabbing, etc… We are designing it for those who like to enjoy nature, versus the routine “attractions.”

Karen Barrett
1 year ago

My RET/DAV/USA passed away 12/21/20. at 78. It has been several years since we traveled, but we joined SMART and stayed in some base campgrounds over the years – as well as various civilian ones. Some good memories.
Karen, widow of RET/DAV/USA Staff Sgt.James Barrett, in Polk City, FL (formerly N. C.)

Louis Finkle
1 year ago
Reply to  Karen Barrett

I am so sorry for your loss. We may have not met but I want you to know that I will consider him my brother. I hope your experiences with SMART helped you when you were more active. Your comment shows me that you still care.

Alaska Traveler
1 year ago

We are not joiners but as Vets we have visited a SMART camp meeting several times and enjoyed ourselves. We are nomad full timers and never in one place very long so joining clubs doesn’t work for us.

Louis Finkle
1 year ago

If you visited with SMART, you know we have chapters all over the U.S. In fact, our NOMAD chapter is an AT LARGE group that meets three times per year at the national musters. I am planning on getting as far as ASTORIA WA in 2022 and hope we can pop up to Alaska as well. Safe traveling and come see us at one of our 100+ outings per year.

11 months ago
Reply to  Louis Finkle

I am in the northwest, Oregon, and I did not see any chapters (?) near to join. Too bad.

1 year ago

SMART may be a great organization, but membership fees are way over the top. Very limited benefits to my mind’s eye. FMCA does a much better bang for your buck.
P.S. We belong to FMCA, Harvest Hosts, Boondockers Welcome, and 3 local regional clubs.

Louis Finkle
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom

Fantastic! I think I pay about $2,000 yearly to more than a dozen groups. FMCA is worth it just for the Air Lift insurance, Good Sams for the discounts at Pilot and FLYING J, the meals at VFW, the lounge at AL, the works of WW, DAV and AMVET.
However, the $65 per year I spend at SMART and the $10 for each of the several chapters I joined, has become my lifestyle! My partner and I attend as many musters as we can. Now we are jumping on caravans. LIFE IS GREAT! We are still alive in our old age and traveling!

Subscribe to our newsletter

Every Saturday and Sunday morning. Serving RVers for more than 20 years.