“Freedom isn’t free”….yet another simply deep collection of words that sadly is so simple and so overused that we seem to have lost what the heck it really means. Geez….one of my favorite coffee cups given to me by one of my favorite Navy Corpsman has this saying beautifully inscribed on it. Flag, lady liberty, stars, etc adorning these simple words bringing my attention to the importance of these words most mornings as a sipped away and missed it.
That is until these past few months as I have poured myself into launch the VIP Healthcare Leadership Initiative with the mission of getting our finest healthcare experienced veterans ready and employed in healthcare business leader roles. Trust this aint no commercial for our program!
Over the years my life has been TOTALLY blessed by relationships with some of the finest men and woman that have served our country. They brought me in close. Blessed me with friendship, loyalty, care and trust. I saw so many of them excel, crash, rise again, fall aside, do great things and frankly just persevere to do the right thing and find a mission in a civilian world that is lost for a mission. They amazed me then and amaze me now. I knew their struggles……I existed to help with those struggles! I felt blessed to provide opportunities that I thought led to overcoming the struggle, but as of late I feel very much like that little boy in the story about the star fish on the beach. (You MUST have heard the story. If not click here.) As the little boy in the story, I believe I made a difference with those few. But in my time launching our Initiative I have learned that I accomplished very little. Actually I feel as if I accomplished nothing. We helped a few hundred yet TEN Thousand amazing enlisted healthcare professionals are transitioning out of the military annually. 60% unemployed and nearly 75% do not have a college degree and only two states have any type of traction with getting these heroes the civilian credentials they deserve to thrive with their skills and abilities in a reasonable job. What % of those 22 vets PER DAY whom commit suicide are these healthcare heroes? Homeless? Recently I learned that due to the consistency of the trauma, stress and carnage our healthcare heroes experience while in active duty they therefore have a higher incidence of lets say "challenges". Well DUH….. Yet they persevere.
So what does this have to do with my coffee cup saying…..well in my efforts over the past couple of months I have been confronted with a new perspective on “freedom isn’t free”. I actually changed the saying on my cup to “Freedom Enslaves”. Oh God I sure hope this doesn’t create some political firestorm but though I hate what I am seeing, I am going to call it as I see it and our strategy with these healthcare heroes whom went forward prepared to provide the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom seem to have been overwhelmingly enslaved. Enslaved by joblessness that leads to all kinds of bad stuff. Enslaved by addiction, divorce, homelessness, physical pain and suffering. Enslaved by loss of purpose, loss of self, loss of value and worst is loss of hope. Enslaved by the most convoluted support / admin system you could ever imagine. Enslaved by prescription pill addiction prescribed by the VA! I thought I knew.... but oh boy these past few months have really shown me. Enslaved by debt created by the very system that is supposed to be helping them. ZERO down VA loans is BAD, BAD, BAD. Enslaved by an regulatory / academic bureaucracy that requires these heroes to go through the motions of obtaining credits in a classroom of snowflakes, being taught by instructors whom have half the experience and competence they have. PS…sure it is all paid for by the government but that isn’t the problem. This hit to the ego and the nature of having to endure and delay your life is exhausting these already exhausted men and woman. I could go on and on…..Also I don’t want to only be dark because there are a few great success stories, though I will tell you that in my travels over the past 10 years in this space, I have seen much less thriving and really much more surviving.
So on this independence day as we revel in our freedom and in our hearts being grateful for those whom underscored that Freedom Isn’t Free…..lest we forget those whom Freedom has Enslaved and give some thought to how we break the bondage that enslaves these amazing Veteran Healthcare Heroes whom desire the freedom that those of us with half their skills, competencies and experience get to enjoy.
Thank you my brothers and sisters. You know who you are. I’m working on it!