In honor of Veterans Day, here’s one amazing way to make a difference

I’m embarrassed. I’ve been trying to explain, for about 15 minutes, why to a group of veterans. I’m embarrassed because I don’t belong here. Physically I’m at least 6 inches shorter than everyone in the room. I’m the only girl and, unlike everyone else, I’ve never been to war. I feel guilty because I don’t think my generation cares about them enough, which is the most embarrassing. They tell me they probably don’t, and that they don’t really mind — I tell them they should mind. Then they look at me as if to say: Who are you to tell me anything about how to feel about veteran-civilian relationships…and I get louder instead of quieter. YOU SHOULD MIND.

I’ve spent the last 10 days talking to veterans. I went back to college, to USC, to see the new USC VA, I spoke to Army vets, Marine vets, Navy vets, I spoke to members of the Air Force. I asked them all the same question, a question I’ve asked almost every veteran I’ve encountered in the past 10 years: What can I do for you? And like always, I was met with an answer similar to this: “Whatever you want to do, do it”. That is not the answer I wanted. I wanted something specific. I wanted something direct. How can I help? What can I do? What do you need? But you won’t find those answers from them. At least not directly. Because here’s the thing about veterans – what they want more than anything is for you to save your pity for someone else.

This is an easy thing to do: to confuse empathy with pity.

Yes the transition is hard. Yes their skills are different than those of civilians. Yes to all the common things you hear about veterans coming home. But also YES to their absolute desire and willingness to help themselves.

The Redstone Veteran Project is the most inspiring and unique non-profit I’ve seen in a while. It was founded by a team of former and current reconnaissance marines who recognized the difficulties of transitioning from military to civilian life through their own experiences, and then decided to help, not only themselves, but those in need abroad.

As veterans who have navigated the transition from military to civilian life, we understand the difficulties of this transition firsthand. While we have managed to find success, it was not without its hardships.

Redstone “provides a platform in the humanitarian sector where our military skills are not only applicable, but coveted”. “Redstone gives operators and combat arms veterans the ability to make an impact, to continue their service, and to transition out of the military into a community of veterans ready to tackle the world’s most salient and relevant problems, from the domestic to the international.”

After I read about Redstone, I spoke with co-founder Chris Clark, who drove the point home. The message, courage, and intelligence behind an organization like this is admirable, but it’s the people behind it that are most inspiring.

Take two minutes to watch what they have to say, you won’t be sorry.

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