[June 3, 2019] Like many before me who served in the military, I’m repeatedly asked what I miss about being in the service. “Do you miss the action?” is a common question but misses the point about why our military folks miss being around other service members. Military veterans will tell you that they miss the people because nothing else comes even close to the camaraderie of their service.
If you ever get the chance, visit a Veterans’ Administration health clinic or hospital. If you walk around and pay attention, you will see veterans sitting around, not waiting on a doctor but who are there just to be around other veterans. Often, nothing is said. They are there because they are in the company of those who had similar, life-altering experiences.
“I won’t miss coaching. What you miss is that camaraderie with those boys and the other coaches. You miss that.” – Bobby Bowden, one of the greatest American college football coaches upon his retirement
I belong to a Veterans Club, where I now live in Southern New Jersey. We have a large club with good attendance. What brings the veterans out every month to sit and talk and listen to a short speech? The decaf coffee and sweets are an attraction. But it’s the camaraderie of those in attendance that attracts them.
A few years ago, I wrote an article called Being there helps make a leader. My point was that leadership is about people, and the physical presence of leaders is the most effective way to show they care. Another way to say this would have been to write that leadership is about building camaraderie and in the camaraderie is trust, respect, and a mutual understanding of others.
There are ways to build upon camaraderie. I ran across a good article that lays out some good, common sense ways to do this. The article, by Brandon Carter, is worth reading. You can find it here (see link). Carter explains the benefits of camaraderie and the role of a leader in making sure it remains strong.
Ultimately, camaraderie is the spirit of trust and friendship. That is why our military service members have seen it work and once ‘infected’ by it, can never go back to being the average citizen again. I don’t miss the action, and I don’t miss the work. I do miss the people who gave significance to my life. Just ask any military veteran, and I’m sure you will get the same answer.