Saturday, July 24, 2021
Saturday, July 24, 2021

A Vet’s View: Why young veterans do not integrate with older ones

By Louis J. Finkle
Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Clinical Psychology
The number one problem of nearly all military-oriented groups is trying to determine how to attract younger veterans to participate in activities with older ones. For years I have been trying to determine its effects on the RV lifestyle we enjoy. No matter the age of people I question, the answers to my questions come down to “social” differences between older and younger-minded veterans. There are more factors expanding the chasm than connecting the parties.

Separation of age groups is a phenomenon that most military veteran organizations are facing. Whether it be lodges, NGOs, campgrounds or RV groups, we have been wrestling with this problem for years. There are many issues that need to be addressed when recruiting younger veterans to join military-oriented organizations. As a retired Clinical Psychologist, when interacting with veterans and in reading studies, I am learning why so many differences exist between generations.

Here are a few differences that come to mind

Older veterans’ post-service life included decades of opportunities to develop one’s civilian persona. They had decades to experiment with social norms and adopt habits that feel comfortable to them. Those 50-plus years lack early exposure to social-media experiences that are currently multiplying at an exponential rate. Using skills taught to us in the last quarter century, the leap to “immediate access to unlimited data” throws many into panic mode. Even today, as I type this, a retired Colonel came into the senior center so that I could teach him “How to send a message using his email account.” He assumed it was set up for him to just “read” what his family was saying!

Younger veterans, however, deal with current transitioning issues of children, liberal beliefs, greater energy, different interests and fresh ideas. Most were born after it was necessary to program one’s own software. Even within the internet universe, younger folks are on different platforms and engage in abbreviated speech (LOL, BTW, SYL, NRN…). Younger veterans are found in places that are not frequented by older veterans. Better to fish than to play “Fish!” More exciting to pedal a bike than to push a lever on a scooter. Riding a horse beats pitching horseshoes. Discussing videos on TikTok beats discussing Bogart’s performance in “Casablanca.” After discussing these differences with older and younger veterans, I find both groups living in different milieus. Been there!

How do we integrate our vets?

After the military, I went on to study at universities. As president of the veterans’ fraternity, I wrote a “VETS VIEW” column in the newspaper for two years. Representing hundreds of young veterans, I visited local lodges of veterans for news items. I was brushed off as a “student,” not a fellow veteran. Was I “too young” at age 26? Did they not have similar problems of integrating young and older veterans? I believe not! Having been on both sides of the age chasm, I understand the differences now. What I still don’t know is “How do we integrate both age groups?” When my SMART brothers and sisters help me create a list of “Ways to Integrate Old and Young Veterans,” I will let you know. If you want to help, let me know at loufinkle2@gmail.com

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.

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RSB
1 month ago

One. There is a difference in Vietnam era vets who were drafted and generally dislike the military versus career military that maintains a very positive view of the military.

Two. There is also a divide between combat vets and those who did their military job elsewhere.

Three. I also had issues in one vet group where we talked about our life. These were all career vets from non combat MOSes and also drunks and/or wife beaters. I despise wife beaters, drunks and have no shared veteran experiences with non-combat MOS vets.

MRP
1 month ago
Reply to  RSB

You can add a Fourth. Those who’ve served for less than the required number of years to retire (normally 20) and those who are over 20 year vets. Disabled vets go into the over 20 category for this purpose. Seems lots, if not most, non-lifer vets (served a few then got out, no disability) want all the perks of retired vets. My opinion is, the retired vets EARNED what they get, discounts – access to on-post places, etc. The others have not payed their dues and should not expect what retirees get. JMO

Samuel Shryock
1 month ago

People congregate with people that have shared experiences. Due to the rapid and drastic changes in the military, it should be no surprise that there are large gaps between experiences. Heck, I have been out for about 10 years and I cannot even recognize the Army of today.

I think you are also experiencing the same issues that other fraternal and social organizations are seeing with declining membership. Newer generations are not seeing these organizations as attractive because the newer generations socialize differently and these organizations have not changed with those needs. For example, the newer generation dislikes featured speakers and lectures and prefers more face-to-face interaction and conversation. Family is more important, so they want activities to incorporate them.

Last edited 1 month ago by Samuel Shryock
Bob
1 month ago

I’m a Viet Nam vet and to this day believe we have never been treated correctly. I have stayed away from all Vet organizations and lived a very full and content (happy) life.

David Dougherty
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob

I would have to agree with you.  When I moved to South Florida in 1980, I went to the local VFW and was told by the doorman that Vietnam Vets were not welcome, because we had not been in a war.  Since I rarely drink alcohol, I probably would not have enjoyed the club, and I never joined another veterans drinking club.  I still would not.

Ray Shepherd
1 month ago

I think it depends on what area of the country you live. I got back from Vietnam May 1967. I went back home to Hamilton Twp. New Jersey. The first week I invited 4-5 of my fellow Marines who served with me in Vietnam for a weekend of partying. and one of the first things we did was go to my local VFW. They welcomed us with open arms, gave us all free membership and and all drinks free that night.

RSB
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob

Us post VN vets have you to thank for us getting a very positive welcome home in the following adventures after VN. You (as a group) taught the US that those serving do not make policy or choose where the military is sent, do not blame the vets, blame the politicians. Thank you for teaching the US the difference.

Jeff Craig
1 month ago
Reply to  RSB

Agreed! Coming back from Desert Shield/Storm and OIF/OEF I was welcomed back everywhere I went. The 60/70’s were a traumatic period in our history, while 9/11, like Pearl Harbor or the sinking of the Maine, were an attack on America (and the Maine as we now know is debatable). Still, despite the mistaken assumptions, unchecked brutality (Abu Ghraib), lack of focus (dropping the ‘Stan for Iraq) and only being prepared for ‘the last war’, Americans are overall proud of the service and sacrifice of all our Vets. I can only hope we keep leaders in office who understand the sacrifice of service members and their families, and not those who seek out fights to soothe their own egos or vendettas.

Ray Shepherd
1 month ago

Interesting, I don’t find this true with the Marine Corps. I am an old timer, Vietnam Combat Veteran and I have no problem with being with today’s Marines. I have been to many events put on by both the old timers and the younger generation of Marines. We all enjoy and relate to each other.

Bill semion
1 month ago

I guess, as a veteran, I would ask, why do i want to spend time in a Vets hall re-living not a very good time in my life, when I can be much more productive with my time not being there? 😉

PGR
1 month ago
Reply to  Bill semion

Best reply yet!

WEB
1 month ago
Reply to  Bill semion

And the Vets in the hall will be better off too. Win-Win!

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