Program - Millenial Veterans, Pondering Their Legacy
Paul McNamara introduced Chris Weimer as a leading example of the Post-9/11 Veterans, and an awardee of the Distinguished Combat Device. A veteran of two tours in Iraq, (Fallujah and Ramadi) as a member of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines Regiment, Chris now holds the position of Director of Programs and Development for the MCRD Museum. Chris is a funny, dedicated and no-kidding all-American Patriot. After the 9/11 attacks, Chris was moved to drop out of college to join the Marine Corps. After finishing up, he went back to College and earned an MBA. Chris Weimer’s moving presentation’s theme was to help us understand how to relate to people who have experienced combat in the Post 9/11 World. September 11, 2001 was his generation’s Pearl Harbor.
He presented slide shows and video to explain the cycle of emotional responses to the experience of combat in Iraq. Using the audience’s experience of seeing the iconic photographs of the Twin Towers before, during and after the terrorist attacks, he listed the emotions of fear, terror, sadness, confusion and disbelief. Showing the photo of first responders raising the American Flag on the site, the emotions we have in response are: brotherhood, resolve, unity and purpose. Seeing the New World Trade Center Tower brings us full circle in our emotional responses – beauty, freedom, and the new “Norm”.
He then presented a 3 ½ minute video of his own experience one day in Ramadi, from a video camera under the gun mount of one of the platoon’s Humvee. The audience’s emotional responses to the 9/11 photos are a guide to understanding the experience of one journey in the Humvee that day. First, the emotions are calm, ignorance of what is coming and some boredom. After being separated from the other trucks, and trying to meet up with them, there is the urgent need to find the others, with confusion and terror, then relief as radio contact is made with them. Then there is a road-side bomb explosion, where fear, terror, confusion, disbelief and a sense of urgency predominate. Finally, reunited with the others, they come full circle to emotions of brotherhood and hope. They cycled through these emotions two times in just 3 ½ minutes, and were doing this over and over again on a daily basis. The challenges of combat experience involve 95% boredom, and 5% sheer terror. In this particular deployment of 7 months, in his platoon alone, 2 members died, and 4 were wounded. There were 5 IED attacks, and a half-dozen firefights.
The Post-9/11 Generation of veterans and society generally are living at a time of unprecedented technology and social media. It is possible for us to search on Google and U-Tube and witness first-hand the combat experience via Go-Pros on helmets.
The reality of PTSD Stereotypes in public opinion hits veterans after the combat experience ends. The veterans are moving on to their next job, providing for their family, and trying to regain the sense of purpose and brotherhood.
Chris emphasized that veterans, including himself, live with PTSD, and battle PTSD, and there is a body count for them as well. He knows as many members who have lost their lives in the battle with PTSD as died in combat.
The MCRD Museum has launched a new website, with new programs. History will not label us for our Iraq experience, but what was achieved afterwards.
His message is to not just “thank” veterans, but get to know them, and their goals and passions. Learn from them. Don’t reward veterans on the basis of their veteran status, but provide veterans an opportunity to prove who we are and what we can achieve. That is the best way to “give back” to veterans returning home.