Tribal Mentality (Part 3), By Dominic MancusoBillie Jackson
Tribal Mentality (Part 3 of 3)
In part 1 and 2 I inexhaustibly explained how service in the US Armed Forces builds a quasi belonging to a greater “thing”. It inducts us into the Warrior subculture of the United States and it is something we are all fiercely proud of. The issue comes when we leave the service, and are literally flung to the wind that is civilian society. Cast overboard like a useless broken or extensively used barrel to sink or float in the waves of the Americana experience.
The issue is the loss of brotherhood we all held dear, in order to build trust, to get through difficult situations. When we are ripped from a life of constant unknowns and hardships to a life of comparative luxury we have difficulties adjusting, which no one would dispute is understandable. But as time goes by, and our transition seems to be a never ending vortex of constant failure and un-adaptability, those around us who we held dear before our time in the service (Family and Friends) start to question, why? Why can’t they just let it go… Why can’t they just be normal… Why, why, why… So as the competent problem solvers we Veterans are, we look to appease those around us. The last thing we want to be is an anchor on someone else’s life. So we put on an act. We start to act the part that everyone wants us to be. We march to the beat of materialistic society to “fit in”. We internalize. We shut ourselves down so that we can try to be how everyone wants us to be; at great pain, cost, and suffering to ourselves.
The very things we should be expressing and releasing to those we love become the very things that would incriminate us and “give us away”. Those things show that we are actually not alright; “the gig would be up”. So we lock them down, deep inside… It becomes an internal battle; like a demon constantly whispering into our ear telling us to “let me loose… let me free… I will always be here unless you let me go.” But our pride denies us the opportunity because we do not want to subjugate those we love to the very things we swore to protect them from with our oath. The more you lock that daemon down, the stronger it gets.
Eventually, we slip up. It happens to all of us, we are only human. Our locks break and the daemon escapes. When it does, it can be anywhere from sobbing in the middle of a crowded mall to having a violent outburst onto your mother when she simply asked you to pass the gravy at Thanksgiving dinner… We feel instantly terrible about this… And the very thing we were trying to avoid comes out 100% worse than we could have foreseen. All of this is due to the lack of release that we all need.
In the Military, we were surrounded be things that helped us “release” this inner daemon; physical training (PT), shooting range, battle drills, hand-to-hand training — just to name a few. But when we leave the service, many of those options are no longer feasible due to location, lack of time, or most probable, a lack of funds. So slowly but surely that lack of release builds up to a boiling point. It releases on its own, against our will. But, there is a way you can ensure you never reach that point. Enter the new way of dealing with civilian life my fellow veterans and I have discovered: build yourself a new tribe.
I am fortunate to be living in an area that is populated by some amazing Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. Most of us didn’t know each other before the military but a few of us did serve together — although for the most part none of us knew each other during our time in the service. We all, however, were lacking and needing that bond we had while we were in… that “Tribal Mentality”.
Slowly, but surely, through chance encounters and over social media, we started to run into each other. Mostly by using “filters” such as: wearing veteran clothing, (t shirts, combat boots, and the ever popular in our generation of vets “tacti-cool guy hat”) noticing someone has a particular stance, a way of talking, or producing the very noticeable “knife-hand”, to find each other in crowds. It started as us just having someone to go out to the local nightlife and drink with but soon it grew into something much more vibrant.
Today, we call ourselves “The Tribe” and refer to our tribe as a family. We are there for the good times and the bad. We are here to pick each other up while sharing a few laughs. The amount of times we have invited a new vet out with us and the next day they message us saying “damn, I didn’t realize how much I needed that” proves we have something good going on here. All of us are doing better in our day-to-day lives because we now have a “release”. We can be ourselves around The Tribe… We won’t be judged by talking about a bad experience overseas or the ever present foul humored joke… We can act the way we did while we were in the the service, which gives us a recharge to dealing with those who never served as we navigate our way through our new civilian lives.
My best advice: to survive life, we must have Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We cannot do it alone. But when you are surrounded by people you cannot connect with, you cannot break out of that 3rd tier. Go out and find yourself fellow veterans. They are out there, in all communities. You don’t have to go to the American Legion or VFW (though that is a good place to start). You will find them in everyday life by the clothes they wear, how they talk, how they stand and walk… Find them, befriend them, and build yourself your own local tribe.
We can survive this new “battle”… but the only way to do it is together. We would never assault a target alone if we had others to back us up; so why would you “assault” civilian life alone….your fellow Veterans are here for you, and you are here for them.
One team. One battle. One tribe. One fight.
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 military service.