The Importance of Honoring an Oath
Over two decades of the Global War on Terror (GWOT)America promised our partner forces, we would not abandon them to our common enemy, we honor their bravery and valor, or we allow our most solemn vows to become empty words we said in vein (Andy Walker)
During the global war on terror there have been multiple plans, forwarded by multiple generals, under multiple presidents, under multiple Afghan Presidents and the plans have been faithfully executed by our military and their partners. I will not get into my thoughts, feelings or opinions regarding the GWOT. It is not my place as a private citizen to insert myself into military affairs that I have very little insight, or accurate vetted information about. Although I will not comment on the right or wrong or wars or the various plans and policies, I do however have a role in what happens after the war. As an American who loves his country I am tasked with putting my patriotism to the test.
During the last generation there has been fundamental changes to the world order. The cold war we thought was yesterday’s news is now front and center in public discourse. The Ukraine War was the first indication I needed to decide if my public discourse being sanitized for public consumption for business purposes was appropriate for a moment that all my social media should be directed at combating Russian misinformation and lending moral and emotional support to those who were being attacked who shared our democratic values. I began to demonstrate my patriotism in small ways by supporting our policy and positions in my public discourse.
As this war waged on I tried to understand the war and our policy and strategic goals by networking with professionals in these areas of policy development. I connected to higher echelons of military, NATO, EU and UN thought leaders. I connected to European Parliament, Ukrainian Parliament, and found the thought leaders in many branches and areas of government to educate myself on issues beyond just reading the newspaper or looking at the evening news. I started to expand my circle into areas of veterans advocacy that I had expertise where I could align my skills with unfulfilled needs.
I attacked my own inability to know and understand issues at a deeper level by connecting to CIA analyst, think tanks, war colleges, academics in war studies, I read their books and I befriended them and ask them questions. A funny thing happened as I put myself into the orbits of our Generals and our Admirals, Special Forces, MARSOC, SOCOM, DEVGRU, DELTA. I reached out to them and asked them to connect and in most cases got them to connect. Over time I reviewed their actions and their information and I selected several main areas of interest I could be of service: PTSD awareness and treatment, suicide awareness and prevention and addiction and recovery, as well as veteran homelessness.
So now I had a network, I had more knowledge, greater insight at varying levels of command and control, I dutifully read their books and commented, I promoted their events, their publications, their meetings. I volunteered my service and I got the same answer back in most cases from the military guys, “Hey man, thanks we appreciate your support”. I thought wait a minute, what do you mean you appreciate my moral support – I am 33 years sober, I have helped scores of people recover and live a better life. I was not here to offer “moral support “man” I was here to contribute! Here I am Lord, pick me I would shout and… crickets.
At first I was mad and kind of insulted, I thought, here this guy is on one hand saying “civilians just don’t give a damn about us in the military” but on the other hand, when he was getting repeated direct messages “I am a civilian, support and advocate for the military I am volunteering to support you, I am sober, I have been in corporate jobs at Fortune 500’s for the last 25 years, so… “how can I help”… again I would hear, Hey man thanks for your support! We really, really appreciate it too and dismissed! Don’t call me I’ll call you. Now I was really thinking this is dumb – these guys do not accept civilian help – they never take me up on these offers they just keep saying civilians really do not care about us (except for me – they really appreciated me).
There comes a time you must decide, do I really believe all the things I say I believe? Am I really as patriotic as I thought I was – this small setback was putting me into the position of skeptic and critic, because guys I knew could use my help, but never took me up on it”Andy Walker
At first my reaction was “the hell with it, I am not going to make a fool of myself, wandering behind a group of guys like a lost puppy who keep telling me they hate the civilians who never contribute, saying “but here I am guys? I was doing something I hate to do, stand down and not talk back not be bitter or childish, I decided to look at what these guys did well and what they were not so great at. Universally the most decisive leaders usually were men of action if they had an issue they would set off to solve their problem and then they would usually start a “Me Foundation” a foundation that was ran by themselves or maybe a small team mostly from military who did not always realize that personal exploits, heroism, reputation etc – don’t always translate into views on the internet.
I decided to find the valuable posts by guys really putting themselves out there and try to fix any errors they may have made that kept the audience small. No hashtags, no influencer names added, no organizations listed to expand the distribution. So I would literally create whole new posts or I would improve upon posts they had created by adding names of influencers in the space that they should meet. At first I tried to explain why I could help and why distribution expanded. Of course now all the milatary guys especially the elite soldiers all said collectively ” Oh, hell we had no idea you understood this and could help sopp much, God Bless You!” Just kidding they hardly noticed and rarely understood what I was doing. So invariably in many cases they would look at my background because now I had more military contacts then most of them did, I had a bigger distribution to my posts, I was connecting more of the dots for their posts and getting them higher levels of visibility but they had no idea really why I was doing it and what I was doing. So I told them, you need to hashtag, use relevant tags, not too many, add names of thought leaders in the space – follow and support like minded people from your own area of advocacy to help each other. Now I had their attention… Here I am Lord, pick me… of wait nope they really still do not get it.
Finally I thought the best way to convince these guys to use these methods is to write up a social media strategy “Amplify the Truth – Think Tank. So now when these guys would go to my site to remind themselves who I was they would hopefully read this posting and media influencer strategy and think I am going to do this stuff – so at least it could be there Idea now – they would advocate better and they would be more effective getting their messages out. As these guys started to see that how I posted or how I described the strategy in “Amplify” – they started to follow my advice – not sure they knew I was offering the help but it finally felt like I was being useful, using my skills to help, taking action and supporting my national interest and my warriors.
I finally felt like I had cracked the code. I could help them improve performance by better posting methods etc but they still tagged the wrong guys in posts in many cases so I realized I could help them more than I had by personally using my networking skills to introduce them to like minded thought leaders, I made multiple introductions, got some booked on podcast. I was recognized as a guy adding value and contributing and actually helping them with their advocacy. That was one of the first realizations I had, soldiers often don’t want to disclose emotionally painful issues outside of their own circles and I understood that if I sincerely wanted to advocate and do the most good – the best thing I could do is find the leaders in the subject areas I understood and could contribute, connect, network and promote their outreach.
As time progressed I developed great relationships in the military in many branches, often at general officer level. I often talked to war college academics, policy thought leaders, Admirals, and many other dedicated officers I dedicated myself to developing the resources I could serve my country best, as I already had a great career history and I had a great reputation as a hard working advocate for my clients, and a competent business leader. I developed much deeper understanding of how policy and strategy are created, how general officers approached leadership and how senior leaders developed milatary solutions to meet policy objectives, and it really enriched my life.
The double edged sword of having great men and women in your network is you think twice before being sarcastic or saying anything that lacks civility and seriousness or you may be considered a liability in their network. It taught me much more restraint. Our family was a navy family but I followed more than a few General officers that were a great inspiration to me. I would ask them questions comment on their posts, hashtag them, etc. I realized my outlook on life and on the country had greatly improved over time. My knowledge and understanding improved over time and my ability to understand some of the nuance put me in a position to understand and appreciate the military and our elected and appointed leadership more.
I did not lose anyone in my network, in fact I gained many new people and my new attitude of tolerance created the space to have hard conversations with people who I disagreed with respectfully. I found that many guys who I noticed had approached me in a kind of hostile “lets have an argument” kind of way would be disarmed by me taking them seriously and listening to their point of view. You rarely learn much talking to people in your immediate group of friends or colleagues especially when you already agree. Many folks who disagreed with me on a point they argued would thank me for giving them respect even when we disagreed. When they stepped out of line I would insist they give me the same respect. Much to my surprise the guys who were on opposite side of some issues saw the value in our conversations as civil rivals and would ask me to connect with them after the exchange.
“If you advocate for a cause more important than yourself, you need to understand it is not important what you personally think and feel about outside issues, politics, or personalities, the only thing that matters in effective advocacy is to be an effective communicator of the vital issues of relevance to reach the most people who can help you achieve your goals. Being besties with your supporters usually means you are a lazy advocate who is unwilling or unable to have a civil conversation with people who they may not agree with in some areas. An advocate cannot afford to pick and choose who supports him – he/she accepts the help of anyone sincere about the helping the cause”Andy Walker
If you spend your life straddling the fence and playing it safe in every posting or public statement you may be missing out on having the hard conversations that lead to debate and discussion – if you moderate that in this manner – you will find the rewards of advocating for what you support and offer full throated support of your country the people that refuse to talk are usually ideologues who cannot be reached. You will recognize these people as recalcitrant naysayers, the arguments are riddled with jingoistic catch phrases and when direct serios questions are posed they often reach with anger or insult. These are the people that hang around your neck like an albatross. Not only do they not agree they want to destroy your post by making people angry, insulting people, put downs, etc. These people are not going to be reasonable – they are not going to listen to reason – if you show them a fact they say “fake news” show them a statistic “organization is part of the “deep state” there is no way to win an argument here. So don’t argue, report their behavior if it warrants that but block that person. Because they are not going to become more reasonable later.
Though this odyssey of support I learned a lot about myself and a lot about being a better advocate and citizen. Nearly all my friends and colleagues are republicans and when I angrily addressed the irresponsible manner Fox had covered the insurrection and seditious conspiracy (not my term, tested and proven terms from the courts) again I was told I would lose many key contacts if I said I disagreed publically. I explained that I was not commenting on Fox News in general, I was commenting on the fact that our patriotism and love of country needed to supersede personal political affiliation – and if someone would condemn me for standing up for America against all enemies foreign and domestic I really did not need that person around anyway. I was willing to take that chance – I was advocating for my country and nothing is more important than our national interest and our way of life being preserved.
I will offer myself in service to the nation, selfless servant leadership is at the heart of advocacy and a quality that is rarely one you pay a price for in any real way – so long as you act with humility – respond respectfully and disagree agreeably. This is being an advocate for America for our way of life. There comes a time when you need to stand up and be counted or when the time comes no one will count on you to take a stand. If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. Look deeper into issues, care more about your country, do more to support warriors, understand policy before you blindly criticize it and be the kind of leader you wanted to follow.
‘When you see millions of the mouthless dead‘
When you see millions of the mouthless deadCharles Sorley
Across your dreams in pale battalions go,
Say not soft things as other men have said,
That you’ll remember. For you need not so…
War is a rapacious creditor that can exact its cost long after the war has ended, it can take its toll on love, marriage and it can take you life during and long after – if you are an American who loves their country remember it is the soldiers who enforce our foreign policy, they pay these cost. For every promise policy makes, another one other often is broken, and the cost is born on the backs of the loyal sheepdogs who guard the gates.