These were just some of the questions that Nick fielded during last week’s visit to a sociology/women’s studies class at the University of Northern Colorado. The course taught by Dr. Hedy Red Dexter and entitled, “The Crisis in Masculinity” explores the role of society in defining and shaping the masculine identity and male behavior.
Nick spoke about his time as an Army Ranger and the work he is doing now with VetEx. Some of the questions asked by Dr. Dexter and her students surprised me, but I guess they reflect commonly held ideas and beliefs about the military and those who serve our country. For instance, “Were you indoctrinated and socialized so much that you lost a part of yourself or that your personality changed?” Nick took these difficult questions in stride and spoke from his personal experience to clarify some common misconceptions.
One of the coolest parts was when a young guy near the back asked, “You’re a real man’s man. How did the military shape your idea of masculinity…shape your idea of what it is to be a man?” Without really skipping a beat, Nick said that his time in the army taught him that “being a man means doing what’s right when nobody else is watching.” From my perch in the front of the classroom, I could see heads nodding and pens scribbling as that sentiment struck a chord with more than a few folks in the room.
Eventually, the conversation turned from Nick’s experience in the military to his life after it. A discussion ensued about the challenges facing those who serve when they come home. I was surprised that a number of students mentioned having family members or close friends who are struggling veterans. In my mind, this fact definitely reinforced the need for VetEx and the opportunities it offers.
“You get a lot of training for what to do while you’re in the military, but we didn’t really get any training on what to with all those experiences once we got home, “ explained Nick. “That’s exactly where VetEx comes in. We’re shedding light on the issue, taking folks outdoors and giving them a place to build community so they can deal with some of the challenges they currently face.”
Words and images by Chris Kassar, a freelance writer and friend of VetEx.