Growing up, I didn't have a father in my life. I have his last name, but I never knew the guy. That doesn't bother me, and I really never cared about it except for the fact that I think having my Mom's last name, Palmitessa, would've been a lot cooler. The only men I was really around growing up were my Grandpa Rudy, his brother my Great Uncle Cosmo, and my Grandmother's brother Great Uncle Carmine (who I called my Grandpa because he was the only real father figure I had).
These were men from the World War II generation, and they were hard nosed, gun carrying, whiskey drinking men who also drank grappa for breakfast (its a really strong alcoholic drink). My Grandpa Rudy and Uncle Cosmo were both World War II veterans, but Grandpa Carmine was too young at the time to go and fight. They were Italian Americans, and proud of their Italian heritage and even prouder to be Americans who's country kicked the shit out of Hitler and Mussolini to free the old country. They were also hard working men, who grew up during the great depression, fought for every penny they had, and who'd dealt with discrimination against Italians and Catholics throughout their younger lives. They dressed well, but never got flashy, and they all drove Buicks. Despite the fact that two of them had seen immense death and destruction fighting in Sicily and North Africa, and all of them went through years of poverty and living in small apartments containing over 10 people through their childhoods, I never heard one complaint from any of them about being traumatized or victimized. Their generation didn't recognize victims.
They also didn't give handouts, but they did give knowledge. Though my mother was a single mom working three jobs just to pay rent, she knew never to ask her parents for money. But my sister and I never went hungry. Why? Because my grandmother taught my mom how to make a good marinara out of canned tomatoes, and my grandfather taught her to stockpile canned foods and pasta during grocery sales so there would always be food in the house - something he learned during the depression. So we ate like kings and queens in my house. Yeah my grandparents were hard core penny pinchers, but it was about more than stinginess. My grandparents knew that giving someone money would only help them for a little bit. Teaching someone how to make a dollar go further would help them for the rest of their lives.
Before I get into the meat of this article, I want to clarify why I talked about my grandparents' generation. Unlike those who suffered through the depression and lived through World War II, we live in a time of abundance. People no longer have to go to libraries to check out books. They can pull up information about anything with their smart phones. People no longer have to walk miles to get to the store - they drive there in their cars, and they have cars whether they're poor or not. Most of my great uncles and grandparents couldn't afford a college education because even though they had the GI Bill, their families needed them to work when they got home. Today a college degree is as common as a high school diploma, and kids get a four year vacation prior to entering the working world.
The key point I'm trying to drive home here is that we've gone soft. Rather than celebrating heroes, we are now a nation that celebrates victims. Victimhood has become something attractive because there's now a benefit to being a victim. People get a pass because they had a less than perfect childhood, because they get bullied in school, or because someone says something mean to them on Twitter or Facebook. People pray for celebrities who have drug overdoses in whore houses, while the media ignores the deaths of men who died fighting overseas. Even hip hop has gone soft and we've gone from the hard and real lyrics of Biggie and the Wu Tang Clan to whiny little girly boys who wear skinny jeans.
As Will Durant said, "a nation is born stoic and dies epicurean." In other words, we're born hard and then we die because we concern ourselves with luxury rather than necessity.
I sound like an old man, but maybe it's because I'm old fashioned. But I also know I'm not alone. In fact, I'm seeing more and more veterans and patriots wondering what happened to our country, and this gives me hope. It tells me that we've found a voice. We've gotten over our initial resistance to using social media to show how pissed off we are, and we're speaking our minds.
The unfortunate thing is that we are now a minority. Despite the fact that we just got through two wars, there are less people who served in the military today than in any other post war period.
But there's a good thing about being a minority here in the good old US of A: we now get to be the new counter culture. What's a counter culture?
Remember the hippies from the 1960s and 70s? Well aside from being a bunch of hairy, non showering draft dodgers, they were also able to get some things done. They're the ones who changed American culture from the hard nosed World War II days to the peace, love, and I don't care how hard you've worked for what you have give me a handout days of today. To be fair, they also created things like the apple computer I'm writing this blog on and some decent music that led to more decent music like heavy metal.
What I'm trying to get across to you here is that people were attracted to the hippy movement because they were on the fringe. Flower power was cool because it was something new, and even though most people in America were not hippies, hippies were able to leave their lasting mark on American culture.
The big opportunity for veterans is this: now we are on the fringe. We have a different vision for America than the rest of this country, and we are the new hippies. No, not in the sense that we're going to start communes and have our own Woodstock, but in the sense that we too can leave a lasting mark on America.
If you look at what's happening in American culture now you can see the signs. The fasting growing sport in the United States is obstacle course racing - which is based largely on military training. More veteran focused movies are coming out like American Sniper and 13 Hours. And as exhibited by the Trump presidential candidacy, more and more Americans seem pissed off that our country seems weaker right now.
Yes, these are small signs, but I believe they have strong implications for what many Americans are responding to.
Veterans have a huge opportunity to become influencers by telling their stories, expressing their opinions, and by becoming leaders.
This opportunity is made even bigger by the fact that many veterans have led hard lives up to this point. Think about it, the life of the average American must be pretty boring considering the fact that the news goes crazy every time a celebrity reveals that they dress like a woman.
Veterans, on the other hand, have real stories. Yes there are stories about their combat experiences, and the media has certainly covered it's fair of stories about PTSD, but here's what they need to hear: stories of veterans rising from the ashes. They need to hear about veterans who overcame everything the world threw at them and came out on top. They need to see veterans shunning dependence on a government system and a society that will never be able to truly repay what they did for this country, and helping themselves. We my friends, should show this country how strong veterans really are.
What does this all mean? If veterans want their stories and messages heard, they have to put the work in to become the best version of themselves. If we are going to be strong, we need to be strong as a community, and we need to help each other to become stronger. That means that, in addition to getting our voices out there, we need to be putting knowledge out there.
In my capacity as owner of this company, I am going to make every effort to ensure that this blog motivates you and educates you in order to help you take these steps, but I also need your help. First, I need to know how many of you are with me in wanting to create this movement. So I am putting a form to sign up for our Warrior for Life email list below. Basically, this is going to be a special newsletter that gives you free knowledge based content, and that offers various educational opportunities to learn about business and gain mentorship from myself and other business owners.
Second, I need people who can help. Specifically, I need other veteran business owners and influencers who are willing to get a message of strength out there and to educate veterans on how they can become successful. We'll basically ask you to write some blogs or to create some videos to tell your own story. And when we begin to have meet ups, we may ask you to come and speak if it is convenient.
I never started this company just to sell tee shirts. I started it because I believe in veterans and their strength, and I believe that they can bring this country back to where it needs to be. If I can get even a percentage of you to live better lives because of my experiences, I will die a happy Marine.