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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Charlie Mike = Continued Mission

Charlie Mike = Continued Mission
Impressions of Charlie Mike, by Joe Klein

Social service providers of various disciplines have been observing that the Post 9/11 generation of veterans return from military service wanting to still be of service. Among veterans, this phenomenon is known as Charlie Mike, or Continue Mission. Not surprising there has been a book written about Charlie Mike, entitled as such. In all possibility, I may have set myself up to dislike the book. I wanted to like it, I wanted it to be a game changer; and I found myself disinterested and ‘over it’ until the very last chapter. Is this a good book for the general population? Absolutely. Is it an appropriate book for most veterans? Absolutely not.

Let’s delve into the aspects of which would be irritating for most veterans to read:

  • The tagline of the book is ‘A true story of heroes who brought their mission home,’ leading a consumer to believe that the book would be about many normal veterans. Wrong. Enter our main characters, Jake Wood (Marine Corps) and Eric Greitens (Navy); along with mention of several other characters with whom Jake & Eric served with in the military. The cliff notes version about Jake, Eric, and other veterans mentioned in the book: veterans of elite units, sniper schools, recon intelligence, and other special military organizations. The veterans in this book translated their military skillset into civilian accepted methods of giving back to the community at large. But, how does the run of the mill military policeman, infantryman, medic, etc. relate to the stories in this book? They don’t. [With one caveat, I very much enjoyed reading about Jake Wood’s experience attempting to volunteer at the Red Cross. “What do you mean I am not trained?!” I think that is relatable to most veterans!]. Simply put, this book illuminates the unicorns of the military and our society-- the few who made it through elite military training, and the few who went on to build very successful NGOs. As a “type A” military person, I finished this book feeling inept. Whereas my experience would be uplifting if the book was about these types of veterans instead: an Army human intelligence professional who is now a middle school teacher, a Marine rifleman who is now a VA Social Worker, a Navy master-at-arms who is now a mental health therapist, and a Navy Seabee who is now a community activist. That story would be about real veterans who have relatable experiences to other veterans. The struggles would still be real as would the perseverance to a successful continued mission.
  • Now let’s back track to the front cover, it is of a soldier in a uniform the Army has since discontinued. The main characters are Navy and Marine Corps veterans, and no one caught that the front cover is of a soldier?!
  • Lastly, not to be overly picky, but it is agitating when civilians write books about the military and use a term like “seamen” inappropriately. Seaman is a rank in the Navy and Coast Guard (E-3); “sailor” would be the accepted term for a mass of Navy personnel.

Gripes aside, there are positive qualities about the book.

  • Many of us have heard of Clay Hunt, a veteran who died by suicide, because of the Clay Hunt Act. The book covered parts of Clay Hunt’s life in a careful and distinguished manner; very much exemplifying how hard it is to come home from the military and how real the struggle to acclimate is. I also enjoyed reading Eric Greitens debrief to Mission Continues core executives, stating: “Our attitude toward suicide has to be this: warriors do not commit suicide. A true warrior helps people, suicide does the exact opposite.” This quote speaks to me in that as veterans we need to be there for other veterans, and do what we need to do to keep ourselves healthy. I think it is possible; systemically difficult right now, but possible.
  • I learned of a survey and subsequent report entitled “All Volunteer Force: From military to civilian service,” and am excited to read it.
  • Near the end of the book, the author transformed Jake Wood from unicorn to a relatable person—better late than never!
Unfortunately, as one of my chiefs (Navy, E-7) used to say “One ‘argh s***’ takes away 100 ‘atta boys’.” That’s where I am with this book.

Klein, J. (2015). Charlie mike. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Kimberly Hardy, LMHC