posted: May 27, 2023
tl;dr: Some of the best people I’ve hired and worked with are military veterans...
Even though it has been a quarter-century since we last worked together, I can still remember the smiling face of one of my Engineering Managers at ADC Kentrox, an ex-Marine. He was almost always in an upbeat mood: no matter how difficult things got at work, he was always happier to be in that professional, civilian workplace than deployed in a combat zone. No matter how hard he worked on the job, it wasn’t as hard as the tasks he had been asked to perform in the military. The hours were shorter too, even when I asked him to put in extra work to meet deadlines. The military had prepared him well: everything that came after his military service was easier.
As a whole, the vets I’ve known and worked with tend to be down-to-earth, no nonsense people. They communicate in straightforward language, and respond well when you do the same. Adversity does not upset or panic them; they keep their cool under pressure and focus on what can be done to improve the situation. Having once been commanded to hike ten miles in full packs before breakfast, or told to do 200 pushups because of a minor infraction, there’s little that can be asked of them on the job that will surprise or upset them.
Having worked inside of a huge organization, the U.S. Department of Defense, they are used to bureaucratic snafus. In fact, the word snafu comes from an acronym coined in the military: Situation Normal: All Fucked Up. Another of my favorite military acronym words is FUBAR: Fucked Up Beyond All Repair. These acronyms illustrate the humor that many in the military use to deal with the inanities and insanities of life inside a large organization. It’s a survival mechanism, and it serves vets well in the corporate world too.
As much as I appreciate veterans, military service was never even an option for me due to my height. Maybe things have changed now, but when I was in the prime age group for service the military didn’t want to have to accommodate tall people. We don’t fit very well in submarines, airplanes, and tanks. I have enough trouble finding civilian pants and long-sleeved shirts and jackets that fit me: the military didn’t want to have to stock and issue uniforms for the 99th percentile in height. My maternal grandfather, who was even taller than me, was told by his World War II draft board that they didn’t want him because if they put him on the front lines, he’d be too easy a target. When the U.S. Naval Academy gave a scholarship to seven foot one inch basketball player David Robinson, who went on to become the best player in Academy history and also star in the NBA, it was controversial because it was clear that the Navy was bending its usual height restriction rules in order to win some games and generate publicity. It worked.
I did register with the Selective Service when I was a young man. The draft ended about when the Vietnam War did, but males were still required to register in case the draft needed to be reinstated. In that timeframe there was discussion about instituting compulsory military service, as is done in Israel and some other countries, perhaps with community service as a secondary option. Some felt that this would benefit the young adults and society as a whole by instilling a sense of duty, discipline, camaraderie, and a strong work ethic. It probably would have, but service remained voluntary.
I respect those who volunteered, and I’ve enjoyed working with them throughout my career. As an added bonus, some vets ride really fun motorcycles...