Can the lessons learned in combat or military service offer some strategies for us to cope with COVID-19?
According to the 19th U.S Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murty Americans suffered from a chronic loneliness problem before the COVOD-19 pandemic. While social distancing guidelines can help reduce the spread of COVID-19, the rules and regulations can also increase our isolation and surge feelings of loneliness.
There are various parallels between military service and the circumstances we are experiencing during COVID-19. During military service, overseas assignments, and deployments, veterans and their family members face periods of isolation and confinements. This pandemic can seem like a deployment or overseas assignment to some veterans.
Some examples of parallels between military service or deployment:
- Veterans and their families are sometimes assigned to duty stations far away from family support and have to adapt to restrictive host nation practices and continuous change.
- Frequently servicemembers operate with a sense of hyper-vigilance due to uncertain conditions that can lead to being wounded, captured, or killed in action. Conversely, veteran spouses might live with the anxiety that their servicemember could become incapacitated while facing a loss of employment due to military moves.
- Some military servicemembers and their families experience how it feels to be away from family and friends at stateside for months or years with the knowledge that they cannot be at home to help loved ones due to travel restrictions, finances, or missions. Some veterans are not present for the birth of their child or able to attend the funeral of loved ones.
- Military servicemembers function in unforgiving environments that require operating in a constant state of the unknown.
- Servicemembers mostly rely on information passed down the chain of command, and the secretive nature of the information sometimes poses more questions than answers.
- Leaders dictate where military servicemembers can go and what activities are permitted or restricted. Many servicemembers are involuntarily extended on active duty, or even reactivated without warning.
- Some military servicemembers are required to operate with protective masks or even dawn full protective gear in temperatures over 100 degrees in the desert.
Military concepts that can help us cope with the COVID-19 pandemic:
This military concept of camaraderie centers on the idea that we should have trust and friendship because we are on the same team. It is undeniable that the human race is at war with a virus, so let’s set aside our differences and work together as a team. Working with others to overcome the obstacles due to COVID-19 can help us cope. Military servicemembers have an innate proclivity to work in teams. Servicemembers have a sense of esprit de corps. During COVID-19, we might lose our ability to physically connect with our “work team” or “family team.” However, we can bridge the social distancing gap by employing virtual media to connect with our team(s). We can help the elderly with obtaining food. Furthermore, we can do some teambuilding activities to strengthen our relationships.
Find a “Battle Buddy or Shipmate”
Your Battle Buddy or Shipmate is the person that covers your back in a firefight fight or uncertain environment. The concept hinges on the idea that two is better than one. We all need some level of support to avoid self-isolation or loneliness. The battle buddy concept can prove an effective antidote. Battle buddies are individuals we trust or associate with that can help us when we are feeling down or angry. It can be a family member, a friend, a co-worker, or an individual we trust.
Do some “Buddy Checks”
“Buddy Checks” is a concept used after contact with the enemy or a military movement. It hinges on the idea that sometimes we might not realize that we are damaged or missing equipment. There is nothing wrong with sending an email or message to check on your friends and family members. While you can be “ghosted,” most will appreciate your efforts and reciprocate by checking on you. Buddy checks might not only help with feeing more connected, it can improve the emotional state of a loved one.
Have a “Charlie Mike” attitude:
“Charlie Mike” (CM) means “Continue Mission.” One of my good buddies, Sergeant First Class Miguel (SFC) Wilson, would always say “Charlie Mike.” The Charlie Mike concept offered that we had to continue our mission despite the dire circumstance and tragedy. By adopting a positive mindset, we can be a positive energy for our friends, families, and community. We will undoubtedly face losses during this pandemic. We need to bond with our network to not only avoid self-isolation but to serve as a base for support for our community. We can be a light for others to cope with unfortunate loss and grief. My buddy SFC Miguel Wilson is no longer with us, but his can-do attitude and positivity serve as an inspiration to persevere in these unpredictable times. If he was here today, he might say, “Hey! This sucks, but let’s Charlie Mike!”
Our veterans and their families can serve as a source of support for each other and their communities.
I highly encourage you to reach out to veterans, as their experience can help many cope with uncertainty. We will survive this COVID-19 deployment and will come out stronger than before.