LL Decker & Associates, Inc
I returned from this Monday's Veteran’s Day Parade with a lingering sense of connection this year. My wife had a luncheon date so I went to the parade alone. To honor the occasion I wore a patriotic ball cap, a t-shirt that said, “Marine Dad,” and I hung my old Army garrison cap over my belt. I’d been watching the parade for an hour or so when a unit of Vietnam War era soldiers marched past. One guy in the unit looked over at me standing in the crowd, pointed at my garrison cap, and gave me a thumbs up. He saw the quarter-sized metal insignia on the cap that identified me as being in the Army Transportation Corps and as a UH-1 helicopter mechanic. That’s all it took. I smiled, nodded my head “yes,” and flashed a thumbs-up back to him. Without a single word we were connected. The affiliation was clear. He marched on and I walked home feeling part of a community I’d left 40 years ago. We had the common experience, like 10 million others, of having served in the military between 1962 and 1975.
Communities are funny things. As an academic I teach the “three conditions” that are required for a community to exist. The first is a common mission or experience. The second is a set of rules or laws that members agree to accept. The third is a system of governance for promulgating the rules, assuring compliance, and effecting change. Every biological community requires these “three conditions” to survive and thrive, but sometimes I am amazed with my lack of visceral understanding when the academic is transformed into a very real and personal experience.