It has been a while since my last column but not a time of inactivity. Whoever said that retirement is a time of leisure is obviously not retired? After the turn of the year, activity has picked up. We have had a new basic membership drive where NCOA is giving free memberships in order to increase our legislative footprint. This membership has no benefits, but is one step closer to bringing eligible potential members to one day become a benefited member because we get to share out legislative newsletter with these people so that they can see value in what we do.
In March, we held a social well attended by about 30 members. We held our 2nd Snowflake event over the Memorial Day weekend where, in partnership with the Grants Pass Active Club, several gold star children came to the Boatnik weekend. Portal to portal expenses were covered for these families who lost a father and/or husband since 9/11.
We held another social at Veterans Park and had a very interesting speaker. This young disabled Afghanistan veteran decided to turn the focus of his life from his disabilities to helping other veterans suffering from PTSD or depression. He is now involved in a foundation that helps these veterans deal with their issues through outdoor activities such a white-water rafting, rock climbing, hiking, fishing etc. It is a well-known fact that Mother Nature can have a calming effect on people. Add teamwork to the calming setting of Mother Nature and we find that these vets can begin the process of effectively dealing with the stresses of war.
An issue that is becoming more evident to many organizations in this country is that organizations as we know them are dying. There are many contributing factors to this process. We are getting older and tired of the hectic pace that we have operated at for the past forty years. The answer may very well be right in front of us if we are perceptive enough to see it. We have to get younger if we hope to keep alive. The problem is that it is hard for our older generation to change how we do business. Part of the reason for that is habit, part is a changing technology and part of it is a societal change between our generation and the millennial generation.
Survival means changing gears. We must be willing to either accept the changing technology that drives today’s millennials or at least stop pretending that we don’t have to change. If we don’t change, we die. Young people communicate differently than we did. They don’t believe in brick and mortar meetings. The kind of things that they like to do and are willing to do is very similar to what we did when we were that age, but we seem to have forgotten that. They want to be active and they want to make a difference for their community, but just in a slightly different way. We don’t want our accomplishments to be forgotten or we perceive that we will then become irrelevant. A simple concept can be the answer. Instead of focusing on how hard change is for us to accept because we don’t know how to change, perhaps we use the process of a grandparent passing down things to their grandchildren. That idea is a lot more palatable. It doesn’t intimidate someone to imagine sitting down with the grandson or granddaughter to pass on life’s accomplishments but we shy away from doing it with strangers. Today’s millennials are like our grandkids (age wise) and the survival of our life’s accomplishments should provide the motivation. Change is scary, but being forgotten is even worse.
A recent event took place at the Hellsgate boat ride in Grants Pass honoring the wives and children of a fallen brother. This event was called a “Snowflake” and it focused on the kids. Some participants traveled in excess of six hours to attend this event. NCOA holds this event for many reasons. Sometimes just getting out and doing something different allows mom and children a break from everyday events and hardships from their loss.
One wife was asked, “What do you remember the service doing to help you during this life changing event”. Her response was “Everything is a big blur. I remember when it was time to put him to rest, the military service had taken care of all necessary and critical events. They provided on going assistance and were open to any and all questions”.
You could see how excited the wives and children were about going on this trip by their outburst of laughter, silliness and just plain excitement. From the time they arrived to the time they departed they were addressed with pride, honor and thanks from all other participants on the ride. One child stated, “I like the people thanking me for my dad and what he did.”
We stopped on the way back for something to eat and at the end of the meal, one unrelated participant asked if he could speak to the children and parents. He lost his father, the same way they did. He mentioned that every mother stepped up for the best for their child. He advised, “You can do anything and this is your start point. I am a fighter pilot in the Air Force and got there because of my mother.” As he closed his talk with them, he had them promise to continue and always do the best they can. He then asked for a “high five” and a hug. They charged him and continued with each of these points of appreciation for some time.
It was evident that the wives and children received pride, patient and honor. Please remember this for some day we pray that many like these people will step forth and honor our families for what we have done.