Tribal Mentality (Part 1), By Dominic Mancuso

“A single twig breaks, but the bundle of twigs is strong.” ~Tecumseh

vets-1The number one hardship I hear from my fellow Veterans (especially Combat Veterans), once they have had a few months to attempt reintegration into society, is their loss of camaraderie with those they will now spend their day to day their lives with… Unless they are working in a public servant field, there is no longer the threat of being put in life or death situations creating a deep-seeded bond to one another… In other words, in leaving the military they have lost their “tribe”…

It pleases me to say, and through a good amount of luck, I have been fortunate in my civilian life thus far: I have a roof over my head, I eat well (my post-military gut says maybe a bit too well), and have never been long without work… Most of my close Veteran family can say the same. Unfortunately, most psychologists and anthropologists would say that for most humans it is not enough to “survive” on for long, especially indefinitely. In order to achieve innate human fulfillment Abraham Maslow, an American Psychologist, built a theoretical pyramid with the base need being physiological and the top need being self actualization. With my Vet family and I having the food, shelter, and income relatively covered, we found that when we were by ourselves, surrounded by these civilians who are now in place of our comrades in arms, we were unable to achieve the top three tiers of Maslow’s pyramid of needs. We fall short of the 3rd tier, Love and Belonging, for a multitude of reasons but I honestly feel the biggest reason is our inability to connect with the average American civilian through the lack of shared experiences. Humans cannot achieve belonging and love if the people they are around are considered to not really be of their own (Military Veterans around Civilians).

One thing I find interesting about Warriors like us; and those who came before us; is our lack of empathy and often apathy toward the very citizens we swore to protect… We were once willing to give our lives for them; be maimed for life for them… But now many veterans look at most civilians with the upmost disgust (I am guilty of this often, though not to my pleasure). A lot of that I believe is because of how much we do not connect with them… How we do not consider them to really be apart of our “Tribe”… They were not there when me and my Platoon were tested to our physical and mental limits, they didn’t help treat the wounded, they didn’t help carry the dead bodies of my friends who not 10 seconds ago were alive and talking, they did not pull the trigger on another human being in a kill or be-killed melee… How could we connect with them… How can we connect with people who bitch and moan constantly about their civilian “problems” that we don’t even register on our radar!? It’s simple, if after as many attempts as the veteran is willing to make to connect with civilians fails, they should stop trying too and carry on without. To dwell on it can lead to self loathing a self destructive behavior. Instead, find a new Tribe to belong to.

Sebastian Junger, a renowned War Correspondent famed for his spot-on Afghanistan documentary “Restrepo”, recently released a book called “Tribe” where in it he lays out why troops returning from war, and jump right into post-military civilian lives, have such a hard time… And it all boils down to the loss of their tribe. They are no longer surround by people they have been in the fray with and come out on top with. They no longer have the responsibility of watching the back of the service-member next to them because you have been ripped from a world of sacrifice and duty and supplanted into one of leisure, indulgence, and selfishness. At first, the Veterans takes full advantage… It seems like a reward for the years of hard work, but as time slips by more and more the veteran starts to feel alone because as they start to achieve Maslow’s basic needs bottom tiers of the hierarchy of needs, they find themselves unable to move beyond tier 3, Love and belonging. To achieve tier 4, Self Esteem and tier 5, Self Actualization one must achieve tier 3. Unfortunately, it seems many Veterans never do.

This is something myself, and some of the local veterans I am fortunate to have around me have noticed… This lack of “tribe”, Or family, That one can just be comfortable to be themselves in, for better or worse. Filter off, political correctness be damned… All of us just bullshitting without fear of social repercussion that would probably happen if we talked or acted frankly in front of our co-workers, civilian friends, or relatives. We have gone so far as to very creatively call ourselves, “The Tribe” (yup, spent a long time coming up with that one…) and we are constantly adding Veterans to it… When society has failed us, we will pick up our own and carry on. I have now achieved tier 3 all because of my tribe, and many of the great Veteran family members I have now also started to move into tier 3… Together, we are working on achieving the top 2 tiers and we have a plan to do just that.

To be continued in Tribal Mentality (Part II)


About the author:

Dominic Mancuso is a US Army Infantry Combat Veteran with 7 1/2 years experience in the US Army National Guard. With combat tours to Iraq and Afghanistan as well as a peacekeeping tour in Egypt under his belt, he can speak with a level of authority in knowing the plight of the modern American Veteran. In his civilian life he spends as much time with his fellow veterans as possible while also studying military history in an effort to better understand the history of the warrior mentality before, during, and after their years of contemporary service.


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  • Scott Ham (CSM Retired)

    Dang Dom,
    You are quite the intelectual!
    Good Read! I’ll go to Part II & let you know what I really think.

    November 1, 2016 at 3:18 pm

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