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.