Veterans Aren’t All Rambo

Question: Are veterans receiving enough training to re-enter the 21st century workplace?

Paul Rieckhoff:  I don't think they're getting enough.  They are well suited to transition into the modern civilian workplace.  They are incredibly web-savvy, they know how to use technology, they're early adopters, they can operate independently or in groups very well, so I would argue they make a really good asset to any kind of company.  But they do need help transitioning home.

As an example, if you are a certain type of aircraft mechanic and you're coming out of the Air Force, your military skills are not necessarily validated by the civilian certification process, so you kind of go through that process over again.  If you are a certain type of healthcare worker, sometimes if you're a medic in the military you're not automatically recognized for that training in the civilian sector.

So we need to do a better job of communicating military skills into the civilian workplace, and we need to help military veterans coming home communicate their experience and communicate their skills.  Sometimes a young squad leader doesn't understand what new employers are looking for in the civilian workplace.  He doesn't understand necessarily how to translate being a squad leader in an infantry unit into a sales job.  But the skills are very similar. But they need resume workshops, they need transitional training, they need mentorship, and they need a little bit of guidance coming through a pretty tough period.  But if you can help them through that sweet spot, I would argue that they're gonna be incredibly successful.

And we see it in our work every day.  We've got just over 30 employees; more than half of them are veterans, and they are working on Capitol Hill, they're building web sites, they're organizing local events, they're incredibly entrepreneurial, they have a great skill set. But like any other person entering the work force, they need a little bit of support and stability to get through that tough period.

Question: Are private businesses hesitant to hire veterans, thinking they may have been traumatized by their experiences?

Paul Rieckhoff: Yeah, I think that that's a fight we're fighting every day: explaining to the average civilian employer that this person is not a ticking time bomb.  Yes, a percentage of people coming home have mental health injuries.  Yes, a percentage of them have been physically wounded.  Yes, a percentage of them may redeploy. But they're an incredibly valuable asset.  And I think we have to break the stereotype.  We have to break the crazy, volatile, Rambo veteran stereotype that was really perpetuated after Vietnam.

And that's really a public education program that's gotta happen.  The President needs to help, veterans groups like ours need to help. But the private business community also needs to step up.  And there are people like Fred Smith, as an example, who we can trumpet as a leader for our community and someone who can set the bar.  But businesses also need to step up and put jobs out.

here was a very important and really historic cover story in Fortune magazine a couple of months ago where there was a young Marine captain, female, named Maura Sullivan who's now an executive at Pepsi, and it was something along the lines of “The New Face of Business.”  You know, in tough times, you want people who have been through tough times, and this is the type of tough person you need.

So I think that stereotype is changing.  We need a massive call to action on behalf of the President.  If he doesn't do that, I think the business community can step up, and the top Fortune 500 companies can say, “We are investing in these young people.”  And it's not just charity—it's actually a long-term investment.  Just like the World War II generation, they can go on to be our CEO's and our leaders of tomorrow.

But there is a knowledge gap that exists, and that's really at it's core because so few people know us.  We're almost like a reality TV show.  It's something that seems distant; it seems like somebody else's kids, but if you sit down with some of these young men and women, you're gonna find them to be incredibly dynamic, and incredibly impressive, and trainable.

These folks know how to be trained, they're open to being trained.  Beyond the fact that they're punctual, they're gonna have a good haircut and probably shine their shoes.  They are gonna have some of those fundamental business skills that may be lacking in other parts of the population.

Recorded August 2, 2010
Interviewed By Max Miller

We need to fight the stereotype that veterans are all ticking time bombs.

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Originally Poe envisioned a parrot, not a raven

Quoth the parrot — "Nevermore."

The Green Parrot by Vincent van Gogh, 1886
Culture & Religion

By his mid-30s, Edgar Allan Poe was not only weary by the hardships of poverty, but also regularly intoxicated — by more than just macabre visions. Despite this, the Gothic writer lucidly insisted that there was still a method to his madness when it came to devising poems.

In an essay titled "The Philosophy of Composition," published in 1846 in Graham's Magazine, Poe divulged how his creative process worked, particularly in regard to his most famous poem: "No one point in [The Raven's] composition is rerferrible either to accident or intuition… the work proceeded step by step, to its completion with the precision and rigid consequence of a mathematical problem."

That said, contrary to the popular idea that Edgar Allan Poe penned his poems in single bursts of inspiration, The Raven did not pour out from his quivering quill in one fell swoop. Rather it came about through a calculative process — one that included making some pretty notable changes, even to its avian subject.

As an example of how his mind worked, Poe describes in his essay that originally the bird that flew across the dreary scene immortalized in the poem was actually… a parrot.

Poe had pondered ways he could have his one word refrain, "nevermore," continuously repeated throughout the poem. With that aim, he instantly thought of a parrot because it was a creature capable of uttering words. However, as quickly as Poe had found his feathered literary device, he became concerned with the bird's form on top of its important function.

And as it turns out, the parrot, a pretty resplendent bird, did not perch so well in Poe's mind because it didn't fit the mood he was going for—melancholy, "the most legitimate of all the poetical tones." In solving this dilemma in terms of imagery, he made adjustments to its plumage, altogether transforming the parrot — bestowing it with a black raiment.

"Very naturally, a parrot, in the first instance, suggested itself, but was superseded forthwith by a Raven, as equally capable of speech, and infinitely more in keeping with the intended tone," Poe explained in his piece in Graham's. "I had now gone so far as the conception of a Raven — the bird of ill omen — monotonously repeating the one word, 'Nevermore,' at the conclusion of each stanza, in a poem of melancholy tone…"

It was with these aesthetic calculations that Poe ousted the colorful bird that first flew into his mind, and welcomed the darker one that fluttered in:

In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore…

The details of the poem — including the bird's appearance — needed to all blend together, like a recipe, to bring out the somber concept he was trying to convey: the descent into madness of a bereaved lover, a man lamenting the loss of a beautiful woman named Lenore. With that in mind, quoth the parrot — "nevermore" just doesn't have the same grave effect.

* * *

If you'd like to read more about Edgar Allan Poe, click here to review how his contemporaries tried to defame him in an attempt to thwart his success.

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