GORUCK strives to bridge the gap between the military and civilian worlds. I experience it myself first-hand every day working with the Cadre. Here’s some advice on something that always highlights that contrast – the times they let me into a little bit of their world and tell stories.
How to Hear a True War Story
1. Don’t ask for one.
Regardless of how he’s feeling today about his past experiences, these stories are personal. It sounds cliche, but I do feel you have to earn hearing one. Sometimes it’s a long car ride from Boulder to Colorado Springs where no one has said anything for two hours and then he just starts talking about being a 20-year old Marine defending a bridge somewhere horrible and seeing some Green Berets with cool clothes and hair product and knowing That’s where I’ve gotta be. Or you’re walking back from the bar together and you mention you went to Stuyvesant High School and he says, “I actually had a buddy in Iraq named Stuyvesant, but he got killed.” Right place, right time kind of thing, I guess.
2. Don’t interrupt the flow.
It’s good to ask questions – just like when any friend is telling you any story about literally anything. But there are probably going to be a lot of terms you don’t know – RPG, joe, limit of advance, fuck fuck games – and you don’t want to interrupt every two seconds. You can get the general gist of the story without knowing what everything means. Like Italian Opera, right? When I first got to GORUCK, sometimes it felt like the guys were speaking a different language. Well, they pretty much were – MilSpeak. I would say these days I’m better than I was, but it’s the same as with Italian – I can understand a lot more than I can speak. (Sidenote: I have a great idea for a website called Milspeak.com which is like Google translator but you can type in military language and it’ll spit it out in Civilian Tongue.)
3. For God’s sake, don’t ask if they’ve ever killed someone.
Not that it needs to be said, but it actually does need to be said. Just don’t.
4. Be normal.
If you don’t know what to say, you don’t have to say anything. Don’t overthink it.