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  • Jess Brown

Rethinking the System

[sys-tem] noun; a set of things working together as parts of a mechanism or an interconnecting network

Success seems like a subjective goal most people, not known by their specific order at Taco Bell late night, strive for. We all have role models we quote or companies we emulate. They seem to share an initial vision, the work, and then recreating the product or process on a larger scale. We are all familiar with the McDonalds or Ford Motor model by now. We think to be successful we must set up a reproducible system with boundaries, expectations, and employee manuals for when mishaps arrive. Americans inherently believe that success happens in a system. Heck there is even a system of how to become a viral YouTuber and a millionaire if you ask any sixth grader. Nature and/or nurture we buy into a specific game plan often before our prefrontal cortexes are formed. You can subscribe to the higher institution bound or a dishwasher works their way up to owning their own restaurant meritocracies, just as two of many examples.

From Carrie Cabral’s Shortform blog….

So how do systems work? Systems allow organizations greater productivity, measureable standards, and worldwide reproducibility. They can persist for generations without oversight when a leadership structure is created, and they can survive changes in the environment remarkably well. Why is that? It’s all a part of how systems work.

Strong systems have three properties:

  • Resilience: the ability to bounce back after being stressed

  • Self-organization: the ability to make itself more complex

  • Hierarchy: the arrangement of a system into layers of systems and subsystems

I hear the system and I think of the human body, solar system, economy, and the railroad. We all can agree their sum is greater than the individual pieces. We can agree an economy (no matter the type i.e. Communist, Capitalist leaning, competitive) can’t exist without a governing body. Or if our body’s cardiovascular system went on strike and issued a civil war, no matter how mighty an organ like the heart is, it can’t survive alone or independently. This is where individual ego can get diluted. If we isolated Jupiter from our solar system, the other planets would suffer. Jupiter is the largest and most massive planet in our solar system. Its strong gravitational pull affects the orbit of all the other planets. It also is a major protector. Jupiter attracts AND absorbs asteroids and other threats that could cause huge Earth collisions. So, does Jupiter only matter because of what it can do for others? What about Jupiter? What if Jupiter’s time with us is fixed, or it gets injured or in trouble, is Jupiter erased from our history? Does Jupiter matter if they can’t be of service to others in their original functional capacity.

I’m on the precipice of taking this analogy to far so I’ll spare your sanity.

The United States military is one of the most efficient systems created. They take young adults and give them structure, purpose, and a life to be proud of. But the harsh reality, like a favorite song, must end. Hopefully, that is on the hero’s terms BUT sometimes it isn’t. That could look like disability, death in family, injury, legal action, criminal activity, substance abuse, and early unexpected retirement. This list isn’t even everything that could derail a person that has decided to commit to selflessly serve our country for at least 20 years. When a person has been molded and modeled and invested into the levels the US Military has, what happens to them when they are removed from that system? There is no 4 AM PT test, no comradery at the water machine, and you feel a stranger residing in your own home. The machine can get a new cog, but the cog has no function without the machine. Sure, if you’re lucky only the service element of the puzzle has changed but when the military is your entire solar system, a person feels they don’t exist in a world without the military.

What a conundrum.

And then we throw in what that hero saw during their time in United States Military uniform. Do they come from a stable family? Did they graduate high school or college with some sort of training or degree, that can provide a job and income? Did they grow up abused or neglected? Did the age out of the foster system? DO they have any other income sources? What is their belief structure? Are they religious or spiritual? DO they have children at home? What sort of individual stressors exist in their home-life, like do they have neurodiverse children? And now they are home from deployment injured and released and expected to follow the trail of white suburban driving Karens in the school car line? AT least during the Korean War, when warriors returned home, they had a transatlantic boat ride to rest and decompress with the people entrenched with them. The truth is an event can happen to the same people and they will have separate responses to that. Hence “it’s ok to be okay” and “it’s also ok to not be ok.”

There is nothing I hate more than when people point out problems and don’t attempt to offer solutions, am I right? 

It is essential to build hierarchy, rank and brotherhood for the military to be successful BUT we need to also prepare heroes for their eventual separation, their choice or otherwise. In my former bartender life, it’s 1:45 AM the house lights turn on the music stops and a bass shout “You don’t gots to go home but you can’t stay here!”

Humor me. Let’s re-think examples of systems. Really everything that functions together to achieve a common goal is a system. Football team, girl scout troop, SO let’s use a dining room chair as a system. Yes, the thing I am sitting on to type this. The four legs, screws, rectangular board, padding, and buttons are all functioning together to allow me to sit. Say this is a fancy chair not something from HomeGoods. Say I think this chair is the most sentimental object I own. My great-grandparents sat on it and it is essential to my family’s immigration story. It has been preserved, passed down and taken care of meticulously. If tornado rips throw my house and breaks it into pieces except one leg, I’m not tossing this baby in the green dumpster with diapers. I take care and time and think what ways this leg can best preserve it’s integrity and value in my life. Maybe it’s days as a chair are over but who knows what it’s future holds? A chandelier for the family room, a unique attachment to a baby’s crib, I don’t know I’m not a carpenter, but I would be all about thoughtful preservation. And hopefully this grain of caring this chair leg’s legacy lasts longer than my time here.

SO that’s part of it upcycling. 

[Up.cyc.le] verb; originated in the 1990’s, reuse (discarded objects or material) in such a way as to create a product of higher quality or value than the original

How can we honor these hero’s service and find their new purpose. We need to not erase or abruptly flush them from the military system we need to acknowledge and honor them leaving service as much as they were honored and INVESTED at the beginning.

All humans are flawed. All humans make mistakes. 

Why must we senselessly rank each other or put ourselves over? I am sorry and this is just my opinion BUT we need to honor and thank all service members no matter how their tenure ends. That term dishonorable discharge tans my hide. These heroes answered the nation’s call when ninety-eight percent of people hit ignore. I know some people do some awful things. I think it’s imperative even if an irresponsible action is causing their departure to thank the hero for what they did do. All their great accolades and achievements and wish them nothing but well and healing at their next venture. We must stop shutting doors in hero’s faces. Would we do this to Jupiter?

I tried to think of transitioning out of service as a band member going solo, Micheal Jackson achieved way more success than the Jackson 5 BUT that’s not quite right. I think a sector of people that can relate to what our hero’s transitioning deal with are professional athletes. We again are talking about a small population, only about 1% of high school athletes go on to play professionally. Athletes undergo similar questioning of worth and identity when the game moves on without them. Sure, some people can find adjacent positions. Some soldiers go on to administration or policy, some athletes go on to be coaches or agents. But what about those that truly went back to the drawing board to evaluate who they are and what they want out of this gift of life. 

Myron Rolle had 77 tackles and was awarded ACC Defensive Player of the Year as a true freshman at FSU in 2006. But an incredible college career turned into a sixth-round draft pick and within three years he was out of the league. Myron could’ve easily sat on a couch and drank himself to death. Now he spends his mornings lacing up in a different sort of locker-room, at a hospital where he is a neurosurgeon. What a cool thing about Americans have a seventy something life expectancy, we have freedom and space to switch it up.

I still believe our military is the best in the world and there will never be enough ways to thank this tiny two-percent subculture BUT….we must instill the individual parts that when their time with the system is complete, THEIR LIFE STYLE MATTERS! In poker you always get a new hand, after you fold. Please know if you are nearing the end of your time in the service, your best could be yet to come. 


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