The “Greatest Communicator” Generation
Jason Criss Howk, U.S. Army retired
10 Feb 2018
Living with purpose. I think that may best define my wartime generation.
We are a close cohort. In this long war, with such a small force, we have repeatedly worked together on life-or-death issues like no generation of peacemakers has in U.S. history. Additionally, social media keeps us connected and ever-scheming to make another positive change in our society. The bond between us is unbreakable and we use that bond for good.
Every war cohort holds a special place in society and this group has found its role. The post-September 11th veterans (some still in and many now out of uniform) are this nation’s premier storytellers.
We are connecting the military with our civilian society, just as so many institutions tend do the opposite.
Public speaking, teaching, advising, disruptive media, loud and proud businesses, out of the box think tanks that hoist a beer, you name it—our veterans are doing it. And they are making an impact while they share their stories.
I am honored to be part of this generation of storytellers. We didn’t just learn economy of force in combat zones, we learned economy of words. We learned how to see problems, explain them, and inspire others to solve them. The military creates leaders and wars refine those leaders. I am often asked as I travel the country talking about Muslim cultures and the Qur’an, “will we be OK as a nation?” The answer is yes. Another “greatest generation” has been created and they will take this nation to even greater heights.
You don’t know all their names. But you should and you will.
Scott Smiley, Travis Mills, Ivan Castro, Diane Maye, Mike Erwin, Greg Stube, Steve Hopkins, Evan Hafer and Matt Best, Joe Byerly, Steve Leonard, Nate Finney, Wesley Hobbs Bauguess, Phil Walter, Micah, John, Jason, Jack Landers, Brian Evitts, Mike Ratkowski, and thousands more are leading a movement of storytellers. These are just a handful of veterans that I know of— it wont take you long to find all the others.
You won’t hear about them on the typical media outlets. Mike Rowe will highlight their work, as he is an even-keeled patriot, but the other media outlets seldom want to tell you the good news about our wars veterans it seems.
Not to worry, we have just created our own media platforms and we will go directly to the American people to tell our stories and solve our nation’s problems.
You can hear the greatest communicator generation in many venues. Find them at Strategy Bridge, Divergent Options, the Foreign Area Officer Association’s International Affairs journal, From the Green Notebook, Task and Purpose, and Doctrine Man. They share their ideas orally at Defense Entrepreneurs Forums and other Drink and Thinks, and places like The Positivity Project. They also share physically at Team Red, White, and Blue and in new martial arts facilities. They are even telling a story through their coffee, beer, beer, and whiskey.
Michael Ferriter is teaching inspired leadership in various venues while Stan McChrystal and Chris Fussell lead their merry team of teams sharing their leadership and organization ideas with American businesses across the nation through the McChrystal Group. Meanwhile across the pond, our closest partner, the UK has a gem of a storyteller that is still shaping the world in LtGen (ret) Sir Graeme Lamb.
Some veterans are heading to DC to share our generation’s lessons with government leaders to help solve national and international problems. Secretary Mattis is already there and Ivan and Mike are trying to relocate from Virginia and Florida.
So many of our veterans are sharing their ideas and gifts through business and other entrepreneurial venues that in our own Western Fort Bragg community (called the Sandhills) we started a Guild to harness the intellect and passion of our veteran entrepreneurs and to help veterans and military spouses transitioning from Fort Bragg to the Sandhills. (please borrow this idea and recreate it where you live)
We are different from our mentors in some ways…
Some previous war cohorts put their heads down and tried to just work and forget the war; while some hung their heads and couldn’t forget their combat experiences. This generation is raising its heads to look to the stars and they express themselves confidently.
I am so proud to see all our veterans from across the services and across the ranks getting busy in the non-profit and for-profit world. Some are noticeably wounded while others carry hidden wounds. But few let the wounds of war slow them down…its actually sped most of them up.
These highly motivated and selfless veterans aren’t just lifting themselves. They are still a team focused cohort…they find and lift other veterans.
This generation uses many angles to heal our society: humor, physical fitness, mental fitness, and heart tugging storytelling are all arrows in our quiver.
The big lesson almost every veteran learns in war is the fragility and surprising resiliency of humanity. We learned it from previous generations of veterans that raised us and from the people in the nations we served.
Some of us are no less than devoting our lives to issues of world peace. Speaking (and taking action) on issues such as human rights, religious dialogue, tolerance, forgiveness, humility, redemption, refugee resettlement, at-risk youth, and non-violence (when possible). You won’t hear all our stories as the sad state of the press these days only shares veteran stories that support their bias. While the press wants to show you veterans destroyed by war in dire need of assistance, we will show you veterans that are here to help lift up America. You (mostly) supported us in war and now we are giving back.
Do not despair America. We have been unstoppable on the battlefields and we will remain unstoppable in the public arena. Our wars and our leaders taught us selflessness, teamwork, and determination.
We are not perfect…we have and will make mistakes.
We care about our nation, our youngster’s future, and the world.
We are here and we will change the world.
Jason Criss Howk is a teacher, writer, public speaker, advisor, and non-profit leader that focuses on Islam and Muslim cultures. He speaks regularly about Islam to promote inter-religious understanding and to dispel myths about Islam and Muslim cultures. In 2017 he published his award-winning book, The Qur’an: A Chronological Modern English Interpretation. He thought about this a lot yesterday on his 45th birthday as he reflected on 23 unforgettable years in the Infantry, Engineers, and FAO world.
Contact him for speaking events at email@example.com
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(Rain falls on the roof and Johnny Cash (on vinyl) is playing in the background as I write this…now that man was a story teller)