Written by: Reilly Rastello, Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs, Class of 2020.
This past January, the 72nd Class of Coro Fellows embarked on a series of interviews and reflections on the topic of bridging the civilian-military divide. The Coro Fellows had a wide range of personal experience and knowledge of the United States Armed Forces going into the day.
An Interview with Major McClure
We began by heading down to San Mateo for an interview with Marine Corps veteran Major Andrew McClure. Major McClure described the impact that the 9/11 terrorist attacks had on him personally, and how the attacks contributed to his desire to serve his country. One of the primary takeaways I had from our interview with Major McClure was his insight on leadership. Major McClure described how the military ingrained in him how to be a man of integrity (showing up early, being prepared, practicing humility, etc.) and how to be a leader that other people will follow. The Fellows learned about how the average age of enlisted men in the U.S. military is in the low 20s. Additionally, we learned that the Bay Area has less density in terms of the number of connections people have to the military as compared to the rest of the country. This lesser density has impacted the connective tissue between the people in the Bay Area and those who serve in the military. I will remember Major McClure’s expressed sentiment that many people who join the military feel that they are a part of something that is greater than themselves. In our current times, it is heartening to see Americans drawn to something greater than their own individual interests.
An Interview with an Intelligence Specialist
Upon our return to San Francisco, we interviewed Michael Julve, who served as an Intelligence Specialist in the Marine Forces Reserve. The primary lesson he learned from his military experience was how to cope and deal with adversity. Michael learned how to break adversity into smaller tasks in order to overcome the adversity facing him. The mental mindset of overcoming adversity is a primary takeaway I had from our interview with Michael. Fellows learned that one of the strengths of the U.S. military is about building individuals up and bringing people together to accomplish a common objective.
Swords to Plowshares
For our next interview, we met with Michael Blecker, Executive Director of Swords to Plowshares and his colleague Kevin Miller, Assistant Director of Communications. The Fellows learned a great deal about the difficulties that many veterans face during their transition from military to civilian life. From my perspective, I think the Fellows expanded our awareness about what constitutes a “marginalized” group in America. In prior discussions, the Fellows have talked about various marginalized groups and the policies that impact these groups. For me, it was striking when Kevin made the point that going back to the Civil War, veterans have been a marginalized group that has had to fight to receive the benefits that were promised to them when they decided to serve their country. I hope this takeaway was one shared by the other Fellows, because it expanded my perspective.
The Mission Continues
To conclude our day, we had the privilege of interviewing Nate Field, a Platoon Leader and Organizer at The Mission Continues. Nate served eleven months in Afghanistan and talked about his views on the future of America’s role in Afghanistan and the difficulties veterans face when transitioning back to civilian life, particularly after being in combat. It was inspiring to hear about the work Nate is doing at The Mission Continues, and how many veterans have benefited from being able to serve their community while readjusting to the routine of civilian life.
I ended the day with a profound sense of gratitude for those who have given so much to this country. I believe the Fellows as a group gained a better understanding of the U.S. military, the challenges facing veterans when they return home, and the sacrifices these people have made to allow us to live in a free country.
Curious about the Fellows Program in Public Affairs? Learn more here.