January 22, 2017
By Mike Plue, San Diego 2nd Platoon
On the blog we’ve discussed the identity and experiences of post-9/11 veterans a lot. But we also want to hear from pre-9/11 veterans with their wealth of experience and dedication to service. The two generations share more in common than meets the eye. We interviewed Mike Plue, a stalwart member of the San Diego 2nd Service Platoon, to talk about his perspective and experience as a pre-9/11 veteran.
Over the years he has collected these inspiring takeaways:
The veteran bond transcends generation
Throughout my civilian career I have come into contact with veterans, and regardless of branch or era, I have felt an immediate bond and higher level of trust. (I even was hired by my current employer based upon the referral of a veteran that I met over 10 years before.)
But what really solidified this lesson for me was when I had the honor of visiting the VA hospital in San Diego delivering care packages. I spoke with veterans who had their careers in the military and some who had only served for a few years. All who I spoke with had worked to establish successful civilian careers, and had raised families after coming home. At the end of the day, all agreed that the military was the greatest time in their life, and that enlisting was the best decision they could have made.
I’ve realized whether you are a pre-9/11 or post-9/11 veteran, there is always the common calling to get involved with something “bigger than yourself.” With time comes perspective, and like the veterans I visited at the VA, you realize the calling to serve whether it be to pick up a rifle or a paint brush. Even after we leave active duty, we are a band of brothers and sisters, and we are here to make the world a better place.
There is a place in the Service Platoons for everyone
I separated from the military 20 years ago and made the transition to civilian life. I got a job, went back to school and raised a family. While these gave me a purpose, I still missed the environment that the military provided. Volunteering with The Mission Continues has helped fill that void for me. The Mission Continues and my fellow volunteers understand the bigger picture, and I like being part of something larger than myself.
I appreciate that The Mission Continues gives me the opportunity to connect with other veterans and re-establish the camaraderie that I missed so much. When you spend four hours painting, you have plenty of time to chat and even bond with the veteran next to you. Veterans are a special family and each project is in some ways similar to a reunion.
The Mission Continues is a great way to reconnect with those positive military attributes while having a positive impact on your community and society at large. Like returning to an activity from your youth, you don’t always appreciate how much you missed something until experience it again — my service platoon has been that for me.
Pre-9/11 veterans bring it
From my perspective, there is a great deal that pre-9/11 veterans bring to the table. Our lives and careers are more established, and so I feel that it is easier for this generation to commit to volunteer. Like the older veterans at the VA, the 40-50 year-old veterans are looking for ways to reconnect and work towards the common good.
While they were able to establish successful careers, many experienced the challenges of transition. With this in mind, my generation brings personal experience, a professional network, and resources that can help the service projects and younger post-9/11 veterans as they build their civilian careers.
I can inspire future generations to serve
Several years ago I signed up my family to volunteer at an orphanage in Tecate, Mexico. My three boys were in their early teens and were less than enthusiastic to give up their Saturday and drive two hours to help someone they had never met. We worked hard all day and on the long ride home we talked about the orphanage, what impact our work had and other topics around volunteering.
I was proud of my boys but was not sure if the day and made an impact on them. I knew the message had gotten through when they returned home from school on Monday and asked if their friends could come on the next trip. They had obviously shared their experience with their friends, which in turn generated additional interest.
It got to the point where other parents reached out to me asking how their children could get involved. Those parents see the value of working for the greater good, but also the empowerment that comes from volunteering.
You can lead again too
The military has always placed an emphasis on leadership, and one of the lasting lessons that I learned was “lead by example.” The Mission Continues gives veterans a tremendous opportunity to share that core value with our family, friends and the larger society. We can set the example in our dedication to make our society better, and invite others to join too, as we are at our best when we work on a common goal together.
Thanks Mike, for sharing your thoughts and experience with us, and for you and your fellow platoon members’ contributions to the San Diego 2nd Platoon.
Report for duty in your community with The Mission Continues. Serve with a Service Platoon at an upcoming service event near you. You can learn more about our programs on our website and stay updated on the latest news and announcements on Facebook and twitter.