By Noah Siple, M43 Member
As I walked off the TEDx stage at JUMP after delivering my speech, there was really only one opinion that mattered to me: my fellow veterans. We can be an irreverent crowd. We find humor in the most inappropriate places and we never shy away from telling people what we think. I believe our service (and more often than not, our combat service) is what shapes us in this way. However, the other amazing characteristic we share is that we are a ferocious tribe and have taken values from our military service and made them part of our everyday life. I was fortunate to be victim of the latter. I could not be more proud and humbled to have the confidence of the team of veteran leaders in our community and Mission43 as I developed, rehearsed (rehearsed again), and delivered my TEDx talk on May 5th.
The Mission43 mantra of “Lead. Learn. Inspire.” has always resonated with me, and when the TEDx net was cast for 2018 speakers who were up for “Putting Ideas on the Map,” I felt strongly that it was time the light was cast on what has been happening in Idaho since the inception of Mission43. The world must have been ready, as (to date) no one has called me up to say we missed the mark. I titled my talk "How Today’s Veterans Build Community Differently.” This was the chance to portray post-9/11 veterans in their true and full measure as impactful, contributing members to their community. It was also a chance to discuss the mechanics of what makes a successful veteran organization.
Following are a few excerpts from the speech, and I really look forward to discussing these ideas and others with our Mission43 tribe at the next 43INC event.
From the “Greatest Generation” to the “Sadist Generation”
In 2001, HBO produced a series based on the Stephen Ambrose novel, “A Band of Brothers,” and since its release I have viewed it as - the defining iconic cinematic accomplishment that taught me what our truest heroes did in the face of tyranny; and why they are so special. It brought to life the actions of those who I have only seen as old men. HBO also produced a series in 2004 based on Rolling Stone journalist Evan Wright’s book on his experience as an embedded reporter during the 2003 initial invasion of Iraq. He titled his book: “Generation Kill.” Such a contrast, right?
It appears as our grandfathers went to war and “lost their innocence.’ The latch-key kid, video game generation, like me, who grew up glued to ever more violent and graphic virtual world media found our innocence in war, because for the first time the results of our fighting were in real blood, and real lives lost, and real friends gone forever.
Post-9/11 Veterans are a perfect measure of the health of communities because we represent a cross-section of America. It’s not like we were identified at birth or separated from society and taught to wage war. We grew up in rural towns and sprawling suburbs, and inner-cities. We come from every varying degree of affluence - and our desire to volunteer doesn’t end with military service. When we return home, we want to be part of our community. Almost instinctively we turned to veteran service organization of that community.
Defining Community by our Affinity
Just like me, the younger generation entered veteran gathering places across America, and reports began to surface through social media that as the emerging generation of veterans walked through the doors they found exclusive clicks of generationally-divided veterans, ranting in rooms with nicotine-stained walls and the soft hint of whiskey and bacon. Although these organizations have a proud heritage of effective policy-making, the more tangible aspect of social activism was poorly communicated and drowned out by the shabby meeting place. There were biases on both sides and lots of misunderstandings, yet given this space created by Mission43, the collaboration and dialog has done nothing but remove barriers in the veteran community. Emerging generations of Americans now define community by their affinities: the gay community or the tech community. Even college alumni groups now tout themselves like independent countries such as Bronco Nation at Boise State University. The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation was the genesis for a veteran affinity in Idaho. That affinity started with Mission43.
The Mechanics of Mission43
Mission 43 is a partnership designed to give currently serving military, former military and military spouses in Idaho, the 43rd State, the resources for a successful transition after leaving the service. While a relatively small minority of military veterans develop Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), mental health theory and research with military veterans has focused primarily on PTSD and its treatment. By contrast, many and by some accounts, most veterans experience high levels of stress during the transition to civilian life. However, transition stress has received scant attention. By bringing together world-class organizations, Idaho’s post-9/11 servicemen and women, and their spouses have the resources to excel academically, in their next career, and in the community. The community result has not been a location or card-carrying membership in an organization, but rather a tribe. Today’s veterans prefer to interact with brands engaged in social causes and prefer peer feedback and collaboration more than top-down guidance. They seek engagement with local communities in ways that involve meaningful physical service outdoors and provide opportunities for young veterans to interact directly with each other and the folks they’re serving.
In identifying and removing the obstacles that club meeting structures created, we found that what emerging generations want in physical meetings is for the environment to be fundamentally social, fundamentally conversational and fundamentally less formal. People gravitate to places containing others who awaken their curiosity, challenge them to think and learn, and encourage openness to new, inspiring ideas and alternatives. We have found that these ingredients are essential to creating an environment where people are willing to invest their time…and also want to bring their family. This is what makes Mission43 so valuable!
Today’s veterans build community differently by identifying with our affinity, attracted by brands that facilitate social activism. We volunteer and strive for peer led activities that better the conditions around us. If you ask today’s veterans what you can do for them, we’re likely to respond: let me show you what I can do for you.
Noah Siple is a Mission43 member actively involved in building a community that meets the needs of emerging generations of veterans in Idaho. He is a combat veteran and recipient of the Bronze Star and the Combat Action Badge. He is also currently the Chief Operations Officer of the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team, as a Major in the Idaho Army National Guard.