When Anderson Cooper’s mother, the designer and heiress Gloria Vanderbilt, reached her 91st birthday, they began a correspondence, breaking a wall of silence between them. This 2016 conversation covered life in the spotlight, suicide, money, and grieving for a parent and a child. Vanderbilt Died in June at age 95.
When former Army sergeant Mike Pereira came home from Iraq, things fell apart quickly. He had panic attacks, his girlfriend left, and he spent his days in a fog. The friendship of another veteran helped him start to address his PTSD, but when that friend took his own life, Pereira was lost. What finally brought him relief was serving again – this time in his community. For many veterans, putting their military skills to use in public service projects can be healing during the transition to civilian life. Journalist and author Joe Klein writes their stories in a new book – and says it’s time to recognize the huge potential in our returning military ranks. The stories behind one positive path for returning veterans.
- Joe Klein Author, "Charlie Mike: A True Story of Heroes Who Brought Their Mission Home" and six other books; political columnist, Time
- Ken Harbaugh Former U.S. Navy pilot; COO, Team Rubicon; co-founder, The Mission Continues
- Mike Pereira Former sergeant, U.S. Army; former director, fellowship program at The Mission Continues
Read An Excerpt
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. When former Navy pilot, Ken Harbaugh visited the Bethesda Naval Hospital, he heard it again and again, injured veterans want to keep serving. For many, the will to serve doesn't end when they come home. Driven by this, Ken cofounded The Mission Continues, which provides paid public service fellowships for veterans. Ken Harbaugh joins me in the studio. He's now COO of Team Rubicon, which organizes vets for disaster relief projects.
MS. DIANE REHMAlso with me, journalist and author Joe Klein, who writes about Ken's story and others in his new book, "Charlie Mike: A True Story Of Heroes Who Brought Their Mission Home." Joining us from a studio in St. Louis, Missouri, is Mike Pereira, a former sergeant in the U.S. Army and former director of the fellowship program at The Mission Continues.
MS. DIANE REHMAnd throughout the hour on this Veteran's Day, I'll look forward to hearing your thoughts, your questions, comments. Join us on 800-433-8850. Send your email to email@example.com. Find us on Facebook or send us a tweet. And welcome to all of you.
MR. KEN HARBAUGHGreat to be here.
MR. JOE KLEINThanks for having us, Diane.
REHMSo good to have you all. Joe Klein, the title of this book, "Charlie Mike," many people, including me, perhaps don't know what that term refers to.
KLEINWell, in military radio code, it means continue the mission, Charlie Mike, continue the mission. And that's what this book is about. It's about the fact that this generation of veterans is different from any other we've ever had, in part because they were all volunteers, in part because of the way they were trained to do counterinsurgency work which was to protect the innocent in towns in Iraq and Afghanistan. I saw them doing it over there, which lead me to the conclusion that this generation was trained not only in counterinsurgency, but also in public service.
KLEINAnd what we've seen since they've come home, in some surveys, upwards of 90 percent of our veterans want to continue serving when they get home.
REHMSo tell me about how you came across this whole idea and to whom did you talk to get some insight.
KLEINWell, I guess it starts with September 11. I live in a small town north of New York City and nine of my neighbors didn't come home that night. I had just retired as the Washington correspondent for The New Yorker and I very promptly unretired because there was a new mission. And in the course of this, I studied counterinsurgency with General David Petraeus out at Fort Leavenworth and was wildly impressed by the caliber of people that he had put together to create the doctrine.
KLEINAnd then, I started going over and embedding. And I kept on going back to this one town in Afghanistan called Sangeray where there was a young -- a succession of 30-year-old captains who were essentially governing the town and doing things that had never been done before in human history. You know, the first captain, Jeremiah Ellis, sent out his troops. I went out on patrol with them to ask the people in the town what they wanted. We had money. We had Public Works money and they wanted us to open the school.
KLEINReopen the school, which had been closed by the Taliban. The local government, the local warlord wanted us to do something else, to spend the money on an irrigation ditch going out to an area 12 miles west of town, which just happened to be owned by the warlord who had cut a deal with the Taliban, you know, to grow poppies there. And, you know, Jeremiah Ellis, at the age of 30, said, no way. And that school is open today. So when I saw this happening, I came back and I called General Petraeus and I said, did it ever occur to you that you might have trained the entire U.S. Army to be public servants.
KLEINAnd he said, you know, I hadn't thought about that, but he began to refer me to young people who had come out of the military and were doing things at home, like Eric Greitens and Ken Harbaugh at The Mission Continues, like Jake Wood at Team Rubicon and other people, like Paul Rieckhoff of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans, and eventually I settled on telling the story of these two guys, Eric Greitens and Jake Wood who are linked by a tragedy, but who also have saved countless lives since they've come home.
KLEINAnd it's a very important message. When Eric went to Bethesda Naval Hospital and he walked up and down the wards, and we've all had the same experience. I had it at Walter Reed and, you know, the terribly wounded kids, when you ask them what they want to do next, they say, I want to go back to my unit. I want to continue to serve. And if you can't do that, well, I want to go back home and coach Little League or be a teacher or be a cop.
KLEINI want to Charlie Mike. I want to continue my mission. And Eric came up with four very important words that we should all be thinking about on this Veteran's Day. He would say, thank you for your service, but he'd also say, we still need you. And that message was like a sledgehammer. He could see it in their eyes. And I've seen it on the ground in the four years since.
REHMJoe Klein, he's the author of a new book. It's titled, "Charlie Mike: A True Story Of Heroes Who Brought Their Mission Home." Ken Harbaugh, you say something struck you about the veterans you visited at Bethesda Naval Hospital Monday. What did you find?
HARBAUGHThere was one in particular who was about to be wheeled into this 10th or 11th reconstructive surgery and he looked me in the eye and he said -- he was a Marine so he said, sir, I lost my legs, but that's it. I didn't lose my desire to serve or my pride in being an American. And that really provided the animating spirit behind The Mission Continues, which has become a movement, a movement that's about far more than the veteran fellows that The Mission Continues supports or the service platoons that go out to their communities.
HARBAUGHIt's about redefining what it means to come home as a veteran in my generation. So...
REHMSo at the very outset, what did you hope, what did you think you could accomplish?
HARBAUGHAt the very outset, we were focusing on these individuals, these veterans like Mike and like Chris Marvin who were telling us that what they wanted more than anything was, to borrow Joe's phrase, was to continue their mission. They wanted to feel that sense of purpose that so many of them lost in such a visceral way when they took off the uniform. They wanted to regain that. But what we found along the way was that we had an opportunity to change the whole narrative about veterans returning home.
HARBAUGHMy dad was a Vietnam vet and the welcome he received was not the welcome he deserved. I daresay the welcome his whole generation received was not the welcome home they deserved. And I think we thought fairly quickly after those early experiences with those first few fellows that, you know, we were onto something here. Through the example of service, of reengaging in communities through service, we could change the way vets not only thought of themselves. We could not only reset the expectations vets had of themselves.
HARBAUGHWe could change the way their communities thought about them and, in turn, the way the whole country thought about what vets can bring back.
REHMAnd let me turn now to Mike Pereira who is on the line with us from St. Louis Public Radio. Mike, you ran the fellowship program for The Mission Continues. Tell us how that program works and what it is you believe motivates the people who are involved.
MR. MIKE PEREIRAYes, ma'am. So as Ken and Joe had said earlier, these are individuals that come home and show this incredible initiative, serve as models in the veteran community. While I was one of those lives saved and I came to work at The Mission Continues because I was inspired by Eric Greitens. I was inspired by his philosophy of being able to serve beyond the uniform, to be able to regain purpose and camaraderie through engagement in the community.
MR. MIKE PEREIRAAnd at The Mission Continues, and this is back in 2009 to 2011 when I served as the director of the fellowship program, our mission was to give veterans an alternative, an alternative to some of the challenges that they were experiencing in their transition. And I think, first and foremost, what we wanted to do is we wanted to give them an opportunity to share and to engage with and to make relevant their experiences that they had overseas.
MR. MIKE PEREIRAA lot of individuals had come home at the time, we were working solely with disabled veterans, and it was hard for them to relate to people in the community, what it was like to serve, what it was like to work for a currency other than a dollar.
REHMMike Pereira, he's a former sergeant in the U.S. Army, former director of the fellowship program at The Mission Continues. Short break here. Your calls, your comments throughout the hour. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMAnd on this Veterans Day, we are pleased to have Joe Klein with us. He's written a book titled "Charlie Mike: A True Story of Heroes Who Brought Their Mission Home." Also Ken Harbaugh is here in the studio. He's a former Navy pilot and current COO at Team Rubicon, co-founder of The Mission Continues. And on the line with us from St. Louis Public Radio, Mike Pereira, a former sergeant in the U.S. Army and former director of the fellowship program at The Mission Continues.
REHMJoe Klein, talk about how PTSD has affected many of those returning from combat and how Charlie Mike plays into that.
KLEINRight. Well, I mean, this is the standard story that we've heard about veterans for the last 10 years, that they're basket cases, that they're drug addicts, that they live under highway bridges, that they beat their wives, that they commit suicide, and much of that is true. But it's interesting, over the last four years as I did the research for "Charlie Mike," I began to realize something about post-traumatic stress. It wasn't only about the things that you saw and did over there. It was about being part of something larger than yourself, being part of a community, having an important purpose in life every single day, loving the person to your left and to your right, and then all of a sudden, you come back to our society, where nothing is required of you.
KLEINAnd it seems to me, and this is at the heart of the reason why I wrote "Charlie Mike," that we have a lot to learn from our veterans, that over the last 70 years in this country, a period of incredible affluence and wars but nothing existential that threatened our very existence, we've kind of lost the habits of citizenship. And these kids were trying to do democracy without citizenship. You just spent an hour talking about the Republican debate last night, which thankfully was a little bit more substantive than the ones before.
KLEINAnd I think that that's a consequence of the fact that we've lost these habits, we've lost the sense of community, and when you go out on a deployment, as I have, with The Mission Continues or Team Rubicon, there is this unbelievable kind of emotional rush, you know, the endorphins start running. You know, you're working together with other people. You're doing good things. And to me, we're just beginning now to see the first academic research on this that shows that helping other people is a great way to treat post-traumatic stress.
REHMKen Harbaugh, talk about how Team Rubicon has played into this whole PTSD and helping vets, both male and female, move on.
HARBAUGHI think Team Rubicon really does embody this idea of veterans continuing their service in their community when they come home, when they take off the uniform. And I think Team Rubicon is good at what it does because it channels the skills our veterans have learned the hard way. We repurpose the skills our veterans have acquired during the longest wars in America's history, and we redeploy those veterans as disaster relief workers in communities across the country and now across the world.
HARBAUGHWe started almost six years in the aftermath of the earthquake that leveled Port-au-Prince, Haiti, with eight Team Rubicon responders led by two Marines and have since grown to nearly 32,000 veterans and first responders standing at the ready, 24/7, to deploy whenever disaster strikes. And we've experienced that growth because we've touched a nerve among the veterans.
REHMAnd is there remuneration for those folks who are moving out of the service and moving in to help in other ways?
HARBAUGHWell, not monetary, but that's, for our members, the least important kind. What they get from their experience with Team Rubicon is that renewed sense of purpose, community and identity, which is probably the most important factor in addressing some of the challenges Joe addresses in the book, PTSD foremost among them.
REHMWait a minute, hold on one second. Mike Pereira, tell us about yourself and what happened when you came home.
PEREIRASo during my deployments, I had worked in an interrogation facility, and I was tasked with drafting interrogation plans for individuals. And when I had come home, you know, the transition in itself, even if you just go from the military just to civilian life in itself, is a challenge. Coming from a combat zone, where you're involved in such a complex and intense mission, to say a college campus, there's a number of transition factors that take place.
PEREIRAMy post-traumatic stress, actually it started in my childhood, having survived the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, living three miles from the epicenter, having a challenging childhood, dropping out of high school. Military was the only option for me at that time. So when I came home, I had a number of demons to face, and it presented itself first at nights in anxiety, then in relationships, and eventually I found myself imprisoned in my own home, staying up most of the night, just kind of mindlessly watching TV and sleeping during the day or sleeping when I could.
REHMSo tell me how becoming involved with The Mission Continues helped you.
PEREIRAWell, I feel like I got -- I had a very unique connection with The Mission Continues. Eric Greitens had served as my officer in charge when I was in Iraq. And when I was downrange, Eric pulled me aside. He said that he saw a talent in leadership in me. He told me that if I ever got out of the civilian -- out of the military and worked in the civilian world that I could make an incredible leader and if I ever doubted him or doubted, you know, myself, that I could reach out to him.
PEREIRAAnd so I feel like I had a lifeline, and when I went through the most challenging part of my transition, it was Eric's words that I held on to, that pulled me through.
REHMAnd what happened to Eric?
PEREIRAWell, Eric had come home from Iraq, and he had started The Center for Citizen Leadership and later had, with Ken Harbaugh, had turned that into The Mission Continues. And he had this already established way of welcoming veterans home through this fellowship program. And when I saw what they were doing with the veterans, when I heard Eric speak about the service behind the uniform, something inside me just clicked.
PEREIRAYou know, I had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress. I had been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury. But when -- the paradigm shift came for me when I realized there were other veterans that were suffering. And if I couldn't do it for myself, I could do it for them, and I could do it for them because Eric believed in me.
REHMKen, what kind of training was needed to get these veterans who had come out into the world and back into helping others?
HARBAUGHThe neat part is they have the hard skills already. They know how to lead in tough environments. They know how to solve problems with a bare minimum of resources. They know how to live and operate in circumstances that most of us could barely imagine. We don't have to teach that. It's really easy to add onto that the skills needed to go into a disaster zone, the chainsaw skills, the terminology to work with the local emergency managers, the police departments, the fire departments. That's the stuff that we layer on top of a pretty significant foundation that they have already built, plus the most important intangible, their desire to serve. That's something in their DNA.
REHMAnd Joe Klein, what percentage of those service personnel coming back home do you think want to do this kind of community work, and what percentage simply want to stay unto themselves?
KLEINWell, according to the surveys, 90 percent want to do this work. They want to continue to have the sense of community that they had in the military. I should tell you the story, in response to your question to Ken, of how Team Rubicon was founded. Jake Wood came back from his second deployment overseas. He was filling out his MBA applications, reluctantly, and he saw the Haiti earthquake on the news, and he just started calling his friends.
KLEINAnd, you know, the scenes that he saw there, of collapsed buildings, of people hurting, reminded him of what he had been through. And so he and three or four others, one his co-founder William McNulty, had a connection to the Jesuits in Chicago, who wanted to get some medical supplies into Port-au-Prince. Four of them, five of them and three medical people they picked up on the airplanes going into Santo Domingo, went to Port-au-Prince, and because they were so well-organized -- you know, Jake says we -- I'm a Marine. I do chaos.
KLEINBecause they were so well-organized, within three days without any disaster relief training they were running the emergency room in the largest hospital in Port-au-Prince. And so -- I mean, and that's, when I go out, when I've gone out with them, it's something you noticed immediately, that they are really well-organized because they've been trained to be that way.
REHMBut at the same time, this is not how we think of the typical veterans returning here after seeing combat in Afghanistan or Iraq or even now Syria. I mean, many have been reported, at least, to have come home and been really unable to move forward.
KLEINWell, you know, it's interesting that both Team Rubicon and The Mission Continues have recognized that. You know, when you go out on a deployment, and you see everybody feeling really great, you also realize that a lot of these folks are just going to go back home and crash afterwards. And so as a result of that, both of these organizations have set up a partnership with Give An Hour, which is the association of 6,000 psychological counselors across the country who give an hour each week to, you know, to treat veterans.
KLEINAnd Team Rubicon now has given our people on their staff and, you know...
HARBAUGHAnd on missions.
KLEINAnd on missions, and 20 percent of the proceeds from "Charlie Mike," my book, is going to fund the Give An Hour operation in both The Mission Continues and Team Rubicon.
REHMSo when you went to Haiti, for example Ken, how did that work? Who paid for transportation? Who paid for how you were cared for, how you were housed and what you did?
HARBAUGHWe have come a long way since that first mission in Haiti, which was Jake and Will and that small team. And we've reached the point now where most of the time when we deploy into a community in this country, we're asked to come in. There have been cases, in fact, where within a day or two of us hitting the ground in a devastated community, whether it's a wildfire or a tornado or a flood, they've asked us to take over the response.
HARBAUGHOne of the really heartening things to see is how the entire community comes together. They just need a little leadership, a little organization. In one weekend, in a town in Arkansas earlier this year that was struck by a tornado, we had less than 40 Team Rubicon leaders, members on the ground managing a response, and nearly 4,000 spontaneous volunteers from the surrounding communities come out to be led by those Team Rubicon members.
HARBAUGHThat goes back to the point about those basic skills that we don't have to teach.
REHMKen Harbaugh, he's a former Navy pilot and current COO at Team Rubicon. And you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. We have a number of callers who'd like to join the conversation. Let's go to Menish (PH) in Charleston, South Carolina. You're on the air.
MENISHHey, how are you?
REHMI'm great, thanks.
MENISHI'm driving, so pardon the background noise if there is some. I just wanted to thank the author for bringing light to The Mission Continues because there is a lot of press that goes on about a lot of different other organizations, and I'm actually a Mission Continues alumni, and I was actually able to do the program. And I served my country proudly, I may add, in Iraqi Freedom in 2004.
MENISHAnd this gave me an opportunity as a veteran to go back and, you know, basically give back to my community where I live, and it also helped me not to be ashamed of the wounds that visually people can't see that I have. So, you know, a lot of times, you know, I think a lot of focus sometimes is on the veterans that are -- you know, and rightly so that lose their limbs, but then there's a lot of us that you can't see my wounds because I suffer from PTSD.
REHMIt's interesting to hear her talk about the wounds that we cannot see.
HARBAUGHWell, you know, I should add a few things about Mike Pereira, who is -- who is very and unduly humble. But Mike was at the very brink. I mean, Mike is one of the five people in this book who put guns to their head. And he wound up organizing a bunch of veterans in Bellingham, Washington, to take care of the elderly. And he wanted to prove that he could do that even before he approached Eric Greitens. And when Eric heard his story, Mike, you know, he hired Mike immediately.
HARBAUGHAnd Mike is now an academic, and he has a full scholarship to medical school, and he's come up with this notion of post-traumatic growth that when you come home wounded, with wounds that you can't see, you undergo a journey like the one Joseph Campbell describes in his mythological studies. And you grow from that. You grow by helping others and by learning more about yourself. And, you know, Mike, I hear the hesitancy in your voice as we're on the radio today, but, you know, God you're an amazing story, and you have helped -- he -- Mike has saved the lives of more than a few people.
REHMAnd Mike Pereira, when we come back, I want to hear more about that. We're going to take a short break here, but when we return, more of your calls, your emails, your tweets. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMAnd welcome back. Mike Pereira, it's time for you to speak up a bit about the moment you knew that organizing veterans to do community service was effective. Tell us about that.
PEREIRASure. So after months of spending time in my, in my living room, having gone through Tim's suicide, the veteran that had helped me out, I -- and after I started listening to Eric, his speeches about this service beyond the uniform, you know, I decided to try it out. I grabbed some veterans, went down to a local volunteer center.
PEREIRAAnd I was moved by several things. The first was when I asked other veterans if they'd be willing to try this service out and the community thing, there was an overwhelming sense of enthusiasm. When I went and talked to the volunteer center she said, well, we have 68 projects that are pending for the disabled, the elderly and the ill here in the community. You know, simple fixtures and lawn work. You know, she said, and then we got this black list of things that nobody really wants to do.
PEREIRAAnd so I went back to the veterans and I had asked them, I said, well, we got 68 projects available and there are some that are really nasty. And I was moved by the fact that all these veterans -- and there was only about four of them at the time, but they said, well, we'll take all of them. And we'll do the worst ones first. And that kind of inspired something in me.
PEREIRAIn the military you have a green book. Especially when you're an NCO, when you're a sergeant. And as a leader, your job is to be accountable and look after the welfare of your troops. And so there's a number of logistics, a number of reminders and a number of information that you have to record constantly. And you hold those in what's called a green book.
PEREIRAAnd it's a little green notebook that you carry around. And mine had been sitting on the shelf, at that time, for about a year and collecting dust. And I hadn't touched it. I kept it just to be reminiscent of times in the military. But I found myself coordinating logistics, keeping track of individuals, of making sure that people had what they need when I started to put together these service projects and started to bring the troops out.
PEREIRAAnd so the next thing I knew is I'm giving a safety briefing to 12 to 15 veterans before we went in and helped a flood victim. And I'm using my green notebook to remind myself of certain points and to keep track of who's there. So I think it was at that point where I said, wow, okay. I feel like a sergeant again. I feel like a leader again. So I think that was the big a-ha moment for me. And that's when I reached out to Eric and said, sir, you got it. This is something that works.
REHMAnd I gather that Eric is currently running for governor.
KLEINYes. He's running for governor of Missouri. He is a Republican, a moderate Republican. And what he's concerned about, I think, is bringing back that sense of responsibility. You know, you watch politics very closely, so do I. And you hear politicians talking about our rights all the time. You know, various groups' rights. You know, the opportunities that they're gonna provide us. But you never hear politicians talking about our responsibilities as citizens.
KLEINYou know, Democracy doesn't just work with people sitting on the couch with clickers. And I think that not only Eric, but Seth Moulton, who's a congressman from the North Shore of Massachusetts, there are other people who are from this generation who are running for public office who are trying to bring the values, the sense of purpose that they had from serving others to the general community.
REHMAnd, Mike, tell me about the transition from the military to medical school. What's that like for you?
REHMI know because my daughter went through medical school, as well. So it's quite rigorous.
PEREIRAWell, I have to tell you that I know -- that there are certain pillars of support that veterans need. You know, they need access to each other. They need access to resources. They need access to that supporting community. And they need access to role models. And I do wanna say that Joe captures all of those in his book, "Charlie Mike." For me, what's helped me out in my transition, in addition to individuals like Eric and people like Joe and Ken, has been my family, my father, my mother and, you know, and then supporting relationships I have in my life.
PEREIRAIn addition to a very robust and dynamic university. I currently attend Washington University in St. Louis. And particularly the University College portion as I prepare for medical school. And their initiative there and their leadership has been key in being able to offer resources and help me transition fully. I mean, it's a process, you know, coming home from a combat zone and preparing to go into something like medical school.
REHMKen, I wanna ask you about vets and jobs, and to what extent young vets returning from service have a hard time getting a job and/or once they get a job, how much time off can they have to serve with a community like Team Rubicon?
HARBAUGHSo one of the toughest challenges for that part of the transition -- there are a number of pieces that have to come together, family, health, housing, jobs is a big one -- is translating what you've learned in the military in such a way that civilian employers can digest it…
HARBAUGH…and really value what you can bring. And there are some great organizations out there that help vets do it. But once they're in that job, the next challenge becomes regaining that sense of mission and camaraderie that is just so palpable in uniform. I mean, you live and breathe it every day. And when you take off that uniform and you go get a 9:00 to 5:00 job, it's like a piece of your soul is ripped out for a lot of these vets.
HARBAUGHThere are some exceptional work places out there that have found ways to recreate it, but for many of our 32,000 members, they regain that sense of purpose and community and identity by reconnecting with veterans outside the workplace. And I think that's okay, too. One of the new experiences that we're dealing with as a country now is this all volunteer force that has fought through 14 years of war, that is tighter knit than most war-fighting militaries in our history, that takes care of each other.
HARBAUGHAnd we found ways to do that in our own spaces outside of the workplace, through organizations like The Mission Continues and Team Rubicon and others.
REHMAnd that's what I wanted to ask you, Joe. You and I are old enough to have seen numerous vets returning from numerous wars. Why and how is this group so different?
KLEINWell, we mostly saw Vietnam veterans come home. And they were a very different breed of cat because they were -- many of them, most of them drafted. They served involuntarily in a war that they didn't like. And…
REHMThe country didn't like.
KLEINYeah, and, but the other thing is they went over as individuals and came back as individuals. I did a book about Vietnam veterans 30 years ago. And I took one squad and they hadn't seen each other from the day each one left individually. These kids go over as groups, they come back as groups, they're in touch with each other. They have social media up the wazoo. But I can say one thing on the jobs issue?
KLEINThere's something the government could be doing that it hasn't been doing. And I've been really disappointed in it. You have all of these skilled people in the military. You have welders, you have computer programmers, you have all -- truck drivers. And they -- we could be licensing them for jobs before they leave. We're light 70,000 welders in this country. We need 70,000 welders. What if your military order of specialty was welding and you could receive a license that would be good in any of the 50 states to become a welder?
KLEINIf you want to become a truck driver in Ohio, it takes three months and something like $10,000 to go through the course. I kinda figure that the guys who were driving me in MRAPs through Kandahar Province can handle I-80. And so that's something that we should be far more active in doing. And it'll really help the economy.
REHMAnd I guess, Mike Pereira, that is one of the questions. How involved do you believe the government should be in the activities that you Ken are involved in, that is bringing these vets together and helping them find places within their community to continue the mission?
PEREIRASo I think that there are a lot of lessons learned, that the government can take advantage of, from a lot of grassroots programs and the national non-profits that are led by people like Ken and Jake and Eric. And I think what's most important is that, not just that we find veterans jobs, but we find them the right kind of jobs. In the military we don't run on a currency of profit. It is not a for-profit economy. What we run on is a currency of values.
PEREIRAAnd so we run on a for-values economy. And being able to translate a currency of values into a currency of profit can be detrimental and, as Ken had mentioned, can rip the soul of out of you. So I think what we wanna do as a nation, as a country, is we wanna look to lessons learned and the successes of groups like The Mission Continues and Team Rubicon and countless other non-profits and community led organizations and efforts that have brought out the best in veterans.
PEREIRAAnd if the -- if I could have a clear message to our country and to our government, it would be to support the potential of these veterans coming home in whatever way that looks like. But letting them share their currency of values, giving them that economic opportunity to share that currency of values. And that's exactly what The Mission Continues does.
REHMAll right. To Drew, in Norman, Okla. You're on the air.
DREWYes, ma'am, thank you. And to my fellow veterans, happy Veterans Day, and thank you for your service. I was calling -- I'm a former Marine Corps war correspondent so I kinda know what's going on with Joe. I appreciate all the hard work all the journalists do out there. I left service after eight years active and I still do some reserve time, after being a marketing and public relations director. A lot of people don't know we have those in the Marine Corps, but we do. And I started to going to school at the University of Oklahoma.
DREWAnd I've experienced a lot of what we've talked about here first hand. Not so much the PTSD, but more or less the coming back and being a professional. Or at least thinking of yourself as a credible professional, used to people taking your advice on, you know, your lanes of expertise, only to come to a university that didn't -- I'm not knocking the University. The University is very supportive, but not recognizing some of the credibility that I had as a working professional.
DREWAnd really, when you hear the term veteran anymore, it's -- at least when I was growing up it was somebody who had done their time and was, you know, well past retirement age. You know, my great-grandfather served in World War II, some of Korean and Vietnam. And nowadays, it's, when you come back as a veteran, people say thank you for your service, but they put a period on the end of it as if you're done.
DREWAnd at the time I was 26 and all I could think to myself, was I have a lot more to do. Like, I'm not…
DREW…leaving my career. I'm just transitioning into a new one with all the added skills and experience that I've gotten from my first one. So I'm not starting over. I mean, I may be starting over with a new career, but I'm not -- my experience didn't go away. And I think that's one of the things I'd like to see happen more. Thankful for Team Rubicon. I'm actually gonna go sign up now. Hopefully, you have use for a communications expert. I'm getting my degree.
HARBAUGHWe'll be on the lookout for you.
REHMAll right. Drew, thanks so much for calling and letting us in on your thinking. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show."
HARBAUGHSo I wanna comment on something Drew said about having your skills be recognized when you come back. Most civilians might find what I'm about to say surprising, but I think every veteran will get it when I say that our 32,000 members who deploy into these disaster zones, who help homeowners and disaster victims on the worst days of their lives, are good at that, not in spite of their time in uniform, not in spite of the horrors many of them have seen, but because of it.
HARBAUGHBecause they come back with this -- not just this experience, but this wisdom that we as a country are missing an opportunity to repurpose, to redeploy, to revitalize our communities.
REHMWe have an email from Patrician in Arlington, Va. She says, "I'm a 79-year-old woman who's had my eyes opened by this program, regarding the strong organizational skills of former military people. I had no idea. And I think many Americans don't. I think you're organizations will do more than all the VA hospitals put together for the future of veterans." Do you agree with that?
KLEINYes. Well, we also need the VA hospitals. And we…
KLEINAnd we do need them to be a lot more effective and efficient than they have been. But I have to say, once again, the core of my reason for writing "Charlie Mike" was that over the years, especially in the 20 years or so that I did in inner cities as a journalist, I saw that an ethic of service was a very valuable thing for communities. And, you know, I've traveled around the world and I know how delicate civilization is. You see very civilized places that all of a sudden are rubble.
KLEINAnd we take for granted a lot of stability and prosperity that we have in this country. But it's not for nothing that, you know, one of the great surprises writing this book is how many of the US Officer Corps are either classics majors or minors, and philosophy majors and minors. And they get their sense of citizenship from the Ancient Greeks. And I'm a former Rolling Stone writer. I get my sense of citizenship from Bruce Springsteen, who wrote, "We have to stop -- we have to start saving up for the things that money can't buy."
REHMAnd for you, Ken Harbaugh, what do you want to say to the veterans out there who may not yet be involved in Team Rubicon?
HARBAUGHWell, first of all, happy Veterans Day. But I wanna dovetail Eric's challenge, Eric Greitens' challenge to every vet out there. We still need you. Your time serving your country isn't done. Not because you haven't done enough, but because this country still needs you. And I know the vast majority of you signed because it's in your blood. Recognize that -- signed up because it's in your blood, recognize that and keep serving.
REHMKen Harbaugh, he's a former Navy pilot, current COO at Team Rubicon and co-founder of The Mission Continues. Joe Klein is the author of the new book titled, "Charlie Mike." And Mike Pereira is a former sergeant in the US Army, currently on scholarship at medical school. Thank you all.
REHMAnd happy Veterans Day. Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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