MetroFocus: October 21, 2021

PBS’S “AMERICAN VETERAN”: THE CROSSING

America is home to nearly 18 million military veterans. Yet increasingly, it seems like the lived experience of those who have served in the military is something most Americans know little about. To bridge that divide, and to give voice to the millions of veterans past and present, PBS has launched a new multi-platform initiative, “American Veteran.” At the heart of the project is a four-part documentary series featuring diverse voices from every branch of the military, talking about every aspect of their experience, from boot camp, to the battlefield, to civilian life. Tonight, Leah Williams, one of the directors and producers of the series as well as two veterans who contributed to the project, Judge Michael E. Jackson, a Marine combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient and Greg Cope White, a former Marine sergeant turned Hollywood author, screenwriter, and producer join us to discuss the first installment in the series titled “The Crossing,” which is hosted by Marine veteran Drew Carey and chronicles the transition from civilian to soldier.

For more information on PBS’s “American Veteran,” click here.

TRANSCRIPT

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> THIS IS 'METROFOCUS,' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

AND BY -- JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION, THE JPB FOUNDATION.

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS,' I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

AMERICA IS HOME TO NEARLY 18 MILLION MILITARY VETERANS, YET INCREASINGLY, IT SEEMS LIKE THE LIVED EXPERIENCES OF THOSE WHO SERVED IN THE MILITARY IS SOMETHING THAT MOST AMERICANS KNOW LITTLE IF ANYTHING ABOUT.

TO BRIDGE THAT DIVIDE, AND GIVE VOICE TO THE MILLION OF VETERANS PAST AND PRESENT, PBS HAS LAUNCHED A NEW MULTIPLATFORM INITIATIVE CALLED 'AMERICAN VETERAN.'

AT THE HEART OF THE PROJECT IS A FOUR-PART DOCUMENTARY SERIES FEATURING DIVERSE VOICES FROM EVERY BRANCH OF THE MILITARY, TALKING ABOUT EVERY ASPECT OF THEIR EXPERIENCE, FROM BOOT CAMP TO THE BATTLEFIELD TO CIVILIAN LIFE.

HERE'S A PREVIEW.

I VOLUNTEERED FOR MISSIONS.

IT WAS JUST TOO EXCITING.

BEWARE WHAT YOU WISH FOR.

THAT'S WHEN THE AMBUSH STARTS.

HE WAS WALKING ON THE RIDGE LINE AND I FIRED.

YOU ARE NEVER THE SAME.

IT'S IMPORTANT FOR PEOPLE TO HEAR THESE STORIES TO UNDERSTAND WHY AND WHEN AND WHERE WE SEND OUR SONS AND DAUGHTERS TO GO AND FIGHT, BUT ALSO IN HELPING US TO COME HOME.

AND JOINING ME NOW TO TALK ABOUT 'AMERICAN VETERAN' IS LEAH WILLIAMS, ONE OF THE DIRECTORS AND PRODUCERS OF THE SERIES.

LEAH, WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME, I'M EXCITED TO BE HERE.

OH, THANK YOU.

WE'RE ALSO JOINED BY TWO VETERANS WHO CONTRIBUTED TO THE PROJECT.

FIRST, WE HAVE JUDGE MICHAEL E.

JACKSON.

JUDGE JACKSON IS A MARINE COMBAT OFFICER VETERAN AND A PURPLE HEART RECIPIENT.

JUDGE JACKSON, WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

AND WE'RE ALSO JOINED BY GREG COPE WHITE.

NOW, GREG IS A MARINE SERGEANT WHO IS NOW A HOLLYWOOD AUTHOR, SCREENWRITER AND PRODUCER.

GREG, IT'S GREAT TO HAVE YOU ON THE SHOW.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME.

SO, LEAH, I WANT TO START WITH YOU AND JUST SORT OF GET INTO THE PURPOSE OF THIS SERIES.

I SORT OF TALKED ABOUT, IN THE BEGINNING, THE FACT THAT MOST AMERICANS DON'T REALLY HAVE ANY FULL UNDERSTANDING, LET ALONE ENGAGEMENT WITH THE MILITARY AND ESPECIALLY WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE A VETERAN.

SO, WHAT WAS IT THAT YOU WERE AIMING TO PORTRAY WITH THIS SERIES?

YES.

YOU KNOW, I REALLY LIKE TO SAY THAT THIS SERIES IS ABOUT VETERANS, BUT IT'S ACTUALLY FOR VETERANS AND CIVILIANS.

AND I SAY THAT BECAUSE WHAT WE REALLY WANTED TO DO WAS TO MAKE SURE THAT VETERANS DIDN'T FEEL ALONE IN THEIR EXPERIENCE.

THERE ARE SO MANY DIFFERENT EXPERIENCES TO BE HAD AND WE REALLY WANTED TO MAKE SURE THAT ALL KINDS OF VOICES WERE HEARD, WHETHER THAT BE THROUGH GEOGRAPHY OR JOBS, ROLES, ETHNICITY, IMMIGRANT STATUS, LGBTQ REPRESENTATION, YOU NAME IT, WE WANT TO MAKE SURE WE HEARD ALL OF THESE VOICES.

AND WHAT WE REALLY WANTED TO GET ACROSS WAS WHAT WE WERE ASKING OUR VETERANS TO ESSENTIALLY GO THROUGH.

WHAT THEIR TIME WAS REALLY LIKE, FROM THE BEGINNING, FROM ENLISTMENT AND TRAINING ALL THE WAY THROUGH THEIR TOUR OF DUTY TO RECKONING WITH IT ALL WHEN THEY WENT BACK TO CIVILIAN LIFE.

SO, REALLY, IT WAS TRYING TO MAKE SURE THAT CIVILIANS HAD A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THAT.

AND TRUTHFULLY, THE HOPE IS THAT SO ALL OF US AS CITIZENS COULD BE MORE ENGAGED.

OF COURSE.

WELL, WE DO HAVE TWO VETERANS JOINING US.

SO JUDGE, I WOULD LIKE TO START WITH YOU AND JUST ASK IF YOU COULD TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY AND THE EXPERIENCES THAT YOU WANTED TO CONVEY TO A WIDER AUDIENCE.

WELL, THIS TAKES ME ALL THE WAY BACK TO 1966 WHEN I WAS GRADUATING FROM COLLEGE.

I GOT TWO LETTERS IN THE MAIL, ONE WAS TO BE INDUCTED INTO THE -- TAKEN TO THE DRAFT, BE INDUCTED IN THE SERVICE AND THE OTHER WAS ADMITTED TO LAW SCHOOL, SO I -- MY FAMILY BACKGROUND WAS WORKING CLASS, EVERYONE WORKED WITH THEIR HANDS AND THEY HAD MILITARY EXPERIENCE.

SO, I DEFERRED LAW SCHOOL AND JOINED THE MARINE CORPS TO AVOID THE DRAFT.

I THOUGHT I WAS PREPARED WHEN I WENT TO BASIC, TO BOOT CAMP, TRAINING AT QUANTICO.

AND I LEARNED THAT I HAD A LOT TO -- A LOT TO LEARN AND A LOT TO PICK UP IN BASIC TRAINING, WHICH WAS CERTAINLY A CHALLENGE TO ME AND ALL OF THE OTHER CONDITIONS WHO WANTED TO BE MARINE OFFICERS.

GREG, SAME QUESTION TO YOU.

I MEAN, TAKE US THROUGH WHAT YOUR EXPERIENCE WAS, HOW YOU CAME TO THE MILITARY AND, OF COURSE, WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE A VETERAN IN AMERICA.

I ENLISTED AT A TIME OF PEACE AND AS YOU'LL SEE IN THE PIECE, I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT I WAS DOING.

I DID IT WITH MY BEST FRIEND.

HE WAS DOING IT SO I DID IT.

AND IT WAS FUNNY, BECAUSE WE FORGOT THAT IT WAS ILLEGAL TO SERVE OR ENLIST WHILE YOU'RE GAY.

SO I WAS ALREADY -- I ALREADY WAS CERTAINLY AWARE OF MY SEXUALITY AND ENLISTED ANYWAY AND MY -- I SERVED FOR SIX YEARS AND I NEVER TOLD ANYBODY, IT WAS ALL DURING AN ILLEGAL TIME, SO I LOVED MY TIME IN SERVICE AND I CHERISH IT AND YOU USE THINGS THAT I LEARNED EVERY DAY, BUT MY SERVICE WAS A LITTLE UNUSUAL BECAUSE IT WAS ILLEGAL.

SO, LEAH, THAT'S ONE OF THE THINGS THAT THIS SERIES MAKES IT A POINT TO BRING FORTH AND HIGHLIGHT, AND THAT IS SOME OF THE MORE COMPLICATED INTERSECTIONAL, I BELIEVE IS THE WORD THAT WE'RE USING NOW, LANGUAGE AROUND DIFFERENT TYPES OF EXPERIENCES IN THE MILITARY.

WHY WAS THAT SO IMPORTANT?

YOU KNOW, IT WAS REALLY IMPORTANT TO ME PERSONALLY AND IT WAS ALSO A LARGER MISSION FOR THE PRODUCERS, ALL THE PRODUCERS OF THE SERIES.

OF COURSE I HAD SEEN, YOU KNOW, A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT KINDS OF STORYTELLING ABOUT VETERANS AND I FELT LIKE THERE WERE CERTAIN VETERAN STORIES THAT WEREN'T GETTING TOLD.

AND I WANTED TO, YOU KNOW, BE PART OF A PROJECT THAT GOT TO HEAR FROM PEOPLE WHOSE SERVICE WAS COMPLICATED, FROM PEOPLE WHO, YOU KNOW, LOVED ASPECTS OF WHAT THEY WERE DOING, BUT ALSO EXPERIENCE TENSION WITHIN THAT, AS WELL.

SO WE JUST THOUGHT IT WAS -- WE THOUGHT -- WE WANTED THE SERIES TO REFLECT, FRANKLY, AMERICA.

AND TO ME, THAT'S PART OF THE STORY.

SO, GREG, WHEN YOU WERE TALKING TO US A MINUTE AGO, JUST ABOUT, YOU KNOW, HOW MUCH YOU -- THERE WERE A LOT OF ASPECTS THAT YOU REALLY DID, AS YOU SAID, ENJOYED ABOUT BEING IN THE MILITARY.

I WAS WONDERING IF YOU COULD TAKE US BACK TO YOUR BOOT CAMP EXPERIENCE.

AND I ASK THAT QUESTION, BECAUSE FOR THE MAJORITY OF AMERICANS WHO DON'T SERVE, WHO AREN'T SOMEHOW ENGAGED WITH MILITARY LIFE, ALL MOST OF US KNOW IS THROUGH HOLLYWOOD AND YOU'RE IN HOLLYWOOD SO I WANT TO GET YOUR TAKE ON, WHAT WAS YOUR REALITY VERSUS WHAT TENDS TO GET PORTRAYED TO THE AMERICAN AUDIENCE?

I'M GLAD YOU ASKED THAT, BECAUSE WE -- I WROTE THE BOOK ON BOOT CAMP, MY BOOK IS NOW MADE INTO A SERIES FOR NETFLIX, SO, YOU'RE GOING TO GET TO WATCH WHAT MARINE BOOT CAMP WAS LIKE.

I HAD NO GUIDANCE WHEN I WAS A KID.

I WAS RAISED BY A SINGLE MOM WHO IS AMAZING, BUT I WASN'T RAISED WITH STRUCTURE.

YOU KNOW, THE JUDGE HAD A FAMILY HISTORY OF PEOPLE SERVING, I DIDN'T COME FROM THAT.

SO IT WAS SO ALIEN TO ME, BUT I HAD NO IDEA HOW MUCH I NEEDED THE THINGS THAT I WAS GOING TO LEARN IN BOOT M KA P.

IT'S AWFUL.

BOOT CAMP IS -- MARINE CORPS BOOT CAMP IS UNIQUE IN THAT IT'S EXTRA, EXTRA TOUGH.

I'D NEVER BEEN DISCIPLINED.

I'D NEVER BEEN TOLD TO WAKE UP, I'D NEVER BEEN TOLD TO EAT AT CERTAIN TIMES.

TO GO INTO THAT STRUCTURE AND THEN COMBINED WITH THE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY, WHICH I I'D CERTAINLY NEVER HAD, IT CHANGED MY LIFE.

IT CHANGED MY LIFE DURING THOSE THREE MONTHS AND CONTINUED TO CHANGE MY LIFE IN THE SERVICE.

I WENT TO OCS AT QUANTICO, I DECIDED NOT TO TAKE MY COMMISSION AND FINISHED MY TIME ENLISTED, BUT IT WAS ALSO INCREDIBLY TOUGH.

I SPLIT IT INTO TWO SUMMERS, I WENT TO BOOT CAMP THREE TIMES.

WOW.

FIRST OF ALL, JUDGE, YOUR THOUGHT ON GOING TO BOOT CAMP THREE TIMES, BECAUSE I HEARD A LITTLE CHUCKLE THERE.

WELL, OBVIOUSLY FOR ME, ONCE WAS ENOUGH.

I DIDN'T NEED THREE TIMES.

MAYBE THEY THOUGHT I NEEDED THREE TIMES, BUT ONCE WAS ENOUGH.

THE STRIKING EXPERIENCE THAT I HAD WHEN I GOT THERE AND WE DIDN'T -- I MEAN, YOU'VE HEARD ABOUT IT, BUT REALIZING AND ENGAGED IN IT, IS THAT HALF THE PEOPLE IN OUR UNIT WERE ENLISTED PEOPLE.

THAT'S BECAUSE THEY NEEDED SO MANY MARINE OFFICERS AT THAT TIME, BECAUSE THIS WAS THE HIGH POINT OF THE VIETNAM WAR.

AND SO HALF OF OUR GROUP WERE ENLISTED PEOPLE, SUCH AS THEN SERGEANT GREG WHITE AND HALF OF US WERE COLLEGE GRADUATES RIGHT OUT OF COLLEGE GOING INTO THE MILITARY.

THEY CERTAINLY HAD A KEY ADVANTAGE TO UNDERSTANDING THE BOOT CAMP PROCESS, BECAUSE THEY'D BEEN THROUGH IT AS ENLISTED.

SO, IT WAS ALL NEW TO US.

AND YOU COULD CLEARLY SEE THAT WE WERE WAY BEHIND IN OUR ADVANCEMENT THROUGH BOOT CAMP TO THE ENLISTED MARINES.

AND THAT WAS -- WE WERE AT A GREAT DISADVANTAGE.

THEY WERE AT AN ADVANTAGE, BUT THE DRILL SERGEANTS TREATED US THE SAME.

MISERABLY, FOR THAT TEN WEEKS.

AND SO, WE HAD TO DEVELOP A WAY TO GET THROUGH THAT PROCESS.

AND I CAN REMEMBER GOING ON MANY RUNS AND THEY NEVER TOLD YOU HOW FAR IT WENT AND I WOULD NEVER MAKE IT.

I WOULD ALWAYS STOP.

I WOULD ALWAYS THINK I WAS GOING TO DIE.

I COULDN'T TAKE ANOTHER STEP.

AND HALFWAY THROUGH THE PROGRAM, I WAS STRUGGLING TO GET THROUGH IT.

AND I DECIDED I HAD TO MAKE A STRONGER COMMITMENT.

AND SO I TOLD MYSELF, AS OTHERS AROUND US WERE GETTING NOTES UNDER THEIR PILLOW TO THE EFFECT OF, DON'T YOU KNOW THAT YOU DON'T HAVE THE QUALITY TO BE A MARINE OFFICER, WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE, WHY AREN'T YOU QUITTING, YOU'RE NOT GOING TO MAKE IT?

AND THEN ALL OF A SUDDEN THESE PEOPLE WOULD BE GONE.

SO, WE STARTED OFF WITH APPROXIMATELY, I WOULD GUESS 60 PEOPLE AND WE GRADUATED 36.

SO, THOSE INDIVIDUALS WERE THEN ENLISTED IN THE MILITARY FOR TWO YEARS, BUT THEY WERE NOT GOING TO BE OFFICERS.

SO, THERE WAS A LOT OF STRESS TO GET THROUGH THIS PROGRAM AND YOU NEEDED AN INDIVIDUAL COMMITMENT TO MAKE IT WORK AND ABOUT HALFWAY THROUGH, I SAID, I NEEDED TO MAKE A STRONGER COMMITMENT.

SO, I TOLD MYSELF ON THE NEXT RUN, I'M GOING TO RUN UNTIL I DIE.

AND I MADE IT.

AND ONCE YOU MAKE IT, YOU REALIZE IT'S A MENTAL TOUGHNESS THAT YOU'RE DEVELOPING.

IT WASN'T NECESSARILY PHYSICAL.

SOME OF IT'S PHYSICAL, BUT YOUR MIND CAN -- CAN INHIBIT YOU AND CAN ENCOURAGE YOU TO MAKE IT.

AND ON THAT MOMENT, WHEN I MADE IT, I KNEW THAT I HAD AT LEAST THE BEGINNINGS OF A POSSIBLE SUCCESS TO MAKE IT THROUGH BOOT CAMP.

SO, THEN, THE QUESTION THAT NOW COMES TO MIND FOR ME, AND BOTH OF YOU SORT OF TOUCHED ON JUST HOW RIGOROUS AND SHOCK TO THE SYSTEM THAT BOOT CAMP WAS FOR YOU, EVERYTHING THAT BOTH OF YOU DESCRIBE -- I SHOULDN'T SAY EVERYTHING, BUT A LOT OF WHAT BOTH OF YOU DESCRIBED RIGHT NOW SEEMS TO, AM I'M TALKING ABOUT CIRCA 2021, RUN COUNTER, PERHAPS, TO WHAT A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE NOW REASSESSING OR RE-EVALUATING AS A GOOD WAY TO BUILD SO-CALLED MENTAL TOUGHNESS OR TO REALLY PUSH SOMEBODY TO -- IT SEEMS LIKE A LOT OF THINGS THAT -- OF THE BOOT CAMP EXPERIENCE THAT YOU HAD MIGHT BE FROWNED ON, LET'S SAY, BY THE LARGER SOCIETY AND SO I'M WONDERING IF YOU COULD BOTH TALK ABOUT HOW THAT EXPERIENCE CHANGED YOU AS A PERSON AND I'M ASSUMING YOU CHANGED YOU FOR THE BETTER AND SO JUDGE, I'LL GO BACK TO YOU.

WELL, MY COLLEGE CAREER IS BEST DESCRIBED AS A ROLLER COASTER.

THE UP SLOPE WAS AN A EVERY ONCE IN AWHILE, THE DOWNSLOPE WERE Cs AND Ds.

WHEN I GRADUATED FROM COLLEGE, I HAD VERY LITTLE DISCIPLINE.

I KNEW I WASN'T READY FOR LAW SCHOOL.

I GOT THE PAPERS THAT I WAS GOING TO BE DRAFTED, I DIDN'T WANT TO BE DRAFTED, SO I JOINED THE MARINE CORPS.

AND SO DISCIPLINE WAS A KEY FACTOR IN MY DECISION.

I NEEDED THAT DISCIPLINE.

AND FOR SOME REASON, WHILE I WAS FACED WITH EITHER BEING IN THE DRAFT OR BEING IN SERVICE, MY CHOICE, AND SO PART OF MY THINKING WAS -- I WASN'T READY FOR LAW SCHOOL, I NEEDED THE DISCIPLINE, THE MENTAL DISCIPLINE THAT -- TO KEEP MY BEING AT THE HIGHER LEVEL RATH THAERN THAN UNDERMINING MYSELF AT THE LOWER LEVEL.

AND THE MARINE CORPS THROUGH BOOT CAMP GAVE ME THAT OPPORTUNITY TO DEVELOP THAT DISCIPLINE, IN FACT, THEY INSTILLED THAT DISCIPLINE IN ME OR BROUGHT IT OUT.

NOW, TO YOUR POINT OF WHETHER THAT WORKS EFFECTIVELY TODAY AND ARE THERE OTHER METHODS TO DO THAT, I SUSPECT THERE ARE.

BUT I NEVER FELT AT RISK PHYSICALLY.

I NEVER FELT THAT I WAS GOING TO BE HARMED BY MY DRILL INSTRUCTOR.

I WAS YELLED AT, BUT I WAS NEVER THREATENED BY HIM, I WAS SOMEWHAT INTIMIDATED BY HIM AS A PERSON WHO, BY THE WAY, WAS IN VIETNAM, CAME BACK, WAS TEACHING US TO BE OFFICERS IN THE WAY OF BEING LEADERS, NOT JUST TO GIVE ORDERS, HE WENT BACK TO VIETNAM AND WON THE MEDAL OF HONOR.

AND WAS KILLED IN VIETNAM, BUT THAT GIVES YOU A SENSE OF HIS CHARACTER AND HIS -- THE WAY HE CONDUCTED HIMSELF, WHAT HE EXPECTED OF OTHERS.

SO, I THOUGHT THEY WERE TRYING TO BRING OUT THE BEST IN ME, BOTH PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY.

I NEVER FELT AT RISK IN EITHER FASHION AND I SAW THEY WERE TOUGH ON OTHER PEOPLE, AS WELL.

THEY WERE NOT PLAYING FAVORITES.

BUT I THOUGHT -- AND I LEFT THE MARINE CORPS WITH THAT DISCIPLINE.

I WENT TO LAW SCHOOL AFTER THE MARINE CORPS AND MY ATTITUDE WAS THE SAME.

LAW SCHOOL WAS BOOS C BOOT CAMP ALL OVER AGAIN WITH BOOKS.

I GRADUATED WITH HONORS.

I NEVER WOULD HAVE GOING TO LAW SCHOOL HAD I NOT BEEN IN THE MARINES.

I CAN'T IMAGINE THAT.

SO, IT WAS THAT DISCIPLINE THAT I THINK WAS THE KEY FOR ME AND IT'S BEEN SOMETHING THAT I KIND OF FOLLOWED MY WHOLE LIFE.

TRIED TO, ANYWAY.

AND GREG, I'M TALKING ABOUT NOW, WITH SO MUCH EMPHASIS ON, YOU KNOW, CARING FOR ONE'S MENTAL HEALTH AND ALL OF THOSE OTHER THINGS AND SO I JUST WANT TO GET YOUR TAKE ON HOW IT BENEFITED YOU HAVING GONE THROUGH THAT EXPERIENCE.

IT'S TOUGH TRAINING, NO QUESTION, JUST LIKE JUDGE WAS SAYING.

IT'S -- IT'S CRAZY.

I'LL NEVER -- DON'T EVEN WORRY ABOUT MEETING A MEAN PERSON OUT IN THE REGULAR WORLD, BECAUSE YOU'RE NOT GOING TO EVER SHOW ME ANYBODY MEANER THAN MY DRILL INSTRUCTOR, SO, THAT'S COVERED.

BUT IT'S -- YOU KNOW, THE BASIC, YES, IT'S A SOFTER WAY OF TRAINING NOW THAN IT WAS WHEN THE JUDGE AND I WENT THROUGH, BUT IT CERTAINLY HASN'T CHANGED IN ITS PRINCIPLE OF HONOR, COMMITMENT AND DUTY.

THAT'S WHAT THEY'RE OUT TO GET.

YOU HAVE TO RETURN THAT THEY'RE ONE OF THE TOUGHEST JOBS THAT THEY HAVE IS TO TAKE US FROM REGULAR CITIZENS TO THOSE THAT WILL COMMIT THE BIGGEST ACT THAT'S AGAINST OUR BASIC HUMAN NATURE, WHICH IS TO KILL ANOTHER PERSON, THAT'S AN ENEMY OF OUR COUNTRY, IN COMBAT.

THAT'S THEIR JOB.

THEY BEND YOU, THEY DON'T BREAK YOU.

I CAN'T SPEAK FOR EVERYBODY'S MENTAL EXPERIENCE, BUT JUST LIKE THE JUDGE, I NEEDED THAT.

THE DISCIPLINE THAT I RECEIVED, I WASN'T GOING TO GET THAT IN THE REGULAR WORLD.

I DIDN'T KNOW THAT I NEEDED IT, AND I CERTAINLY CARRY THAT WITH EVERY PROJECT THAT I DO.

MY INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS ARE BETTER AND STRONGER BECAUSE I HAD THE EXPERIENCE OF CAMARADERIE.

I LEARNED TO WORK TOGETHER AND I AM SO, SO HAPPY THAT I MADE THAT MISTAKE IN ENLISTING.

OKAY.

WELL, THEN, LEAH, I WANT TO GO BACK TO YOU NOW AND TALK ABOUT THE SERIES.

BECAUSE AS WE JUST HEARD FROM GREG AND MICHAEL ABOUT WHAT THEIR EXPERIENCES WERE, YOU ALSO MADE IT A POINT TO DRAW OUT SOME OF THE COMPLICATED EXPERIENCES OF WOMEN IN THE MILITARY.

IN THE PAST FEW YEARS, WE'VE HEARD A LOT ABOUT ISSUES OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT, SEXUAL ASSAULT AND YET WE STILL SEE WOMEN ENLISTING AND STAYING IN THE MILITARY.

SO, WHAT WERE SOME OF THE NARRATIVES YOU HEARD FROM WOMEN?

YEAH, UM, IT'S -- IT'S -- THE WOMEN IN THIS SERIES ARE PRETTY INCREDIBLE, FOR SURE.

EACH ONE CAME WITH THEIR OWN REASON FOR ENLISTING.

ONE WOMAN IN PARTICULAR WANTED TO JOIN BECAUSE SHE HAD A BROTHER WHO WAS GOING TO JOIN THE SERVICE AND ANOTHER BROTHER WHO ACTUALLY WAS A PROTESTER AND HE SAID, YOU KNOW, IF I WOULD WANT SOMEONE TO BASICALLY TAKE CARE OF MY BROTHER IN ANY SORT OF CIRCUMSTANCE, AND SO THAT'S WHY SHE ENDED UP ENLISTING.

SOME OTHER WOMEN HAD JOINED BECAUSE THEY HAD FAMILY -- SERVICE IN THEIR FAMILY AND THAT SORT OF HISTORY.

BUT A FAIR NUMBER OF THEM, YES, DID EXPERIENCE HARASSMENT OR SEXUAL ASSAULT AND EACH ONE DEALT WITH IT DIFFERENTLY.

SOME WOMEN LEFT, ENDED UP LEAVING THE SERVICE FAIRLY SHORTLY AFTER BEING ASSAULTED, OTHERS STAYED IN FOR 20 YEARS AND, YOU KNOW, RETIRED, YOU KNOW, WITH A 20-YEAR CAREER.

AND EACH WOMAN WAS EFFECTED IN DIFFERENT WAYS AND THAT SORT OF SHOWS UP IN DIFFERENT WAYS AND IT DOESN'T ALWAYS SHOW UP RIGHT WHEN IT HAPPENS, YOU KNOW?

IT COULD BE 5, 10, 15, 20 YEARS LATER THAT THE EFFECTS OF THAT KIND OF INTENSITY SORT OF REAR, BUT YEAH, ALL -- ALL OF THE WOMEN WHO SORT OF EXPERIENCED HARASSMENT, DISCRIMINATION, AND ASSAULT WERE INCREDIBLY BRAVE IN JUST TELLING THEIR STORIES AND IT WAS REALLY IMPORTANT FOR ME TO SORT OF TALK ABOUT THAT, BECAUSE -- TO KEEP IT SORT OF IN THE CONVERSATION, TO SHOW THE SORT OF PROGRESS THAT HAD BEEN MADE, YOU KNOW, FROM WHEN WOMEN ENTERED, YOU KNOW, OFFICIALLY SORT OF IN THE 1970s AND THERE WAS A BIG SURGE AT THAT POINT BECAUSE WE BECAME AN ALL-VOLUNTEER FORCE, THROUGH, YOU KNOW, THROUGH ESSENTIALLY THE PRESENT, THERE HAS BEEN SORT OF AN EVOLUTION, IF YOU WILL, WITH DISCUSSING THIS ISSUE.

AND SO, IT REALLY DOES CONTINUE.

I THINK IT'S IN THE MEDIA MUCH MORE AT THIS POINT AND I THINK THE IDEA IS THAT WITH THIS SORT OF CONTINUED CONVERSATION, WE CAN REALLY TRY AND MOVE -- MOVE THE NEEDLE.

WELL, OKAY, SO GIVEN THAT, ONE OF THE OTHER THINGS THAT I FIND SO INTERESTING IS JUST, AGAIN, HOW LITTLE MOST AMERICANS UNDERSTAND OF WHAT THE EXPERIENCE IS WHEN YOUR MILITARY CAREER IS OVER.

AND SO, TO THE JUDGE AND TO GREG, I'M WONDERING, WHAT IS, PERHAPS -- WHAT IS IT THAT MOST PEOPLE ARE MISSING WHEN IT COMES TO TRANSITIONING BACK TO CIVILIAN LIFE?

BECAUSE BOTH OF YOU HAVE VERY SUCCESSFUL CAREERS, BUT AT THE SAME TIME, WE HEAR A LOT OF STORIES ABOUT VETERANS WHO ARE IN POVERTY, THERE'S STILL VETERANS AFTER VIETNAM WHO ARE STILL STRUGGLING WITH POVERTY AND THE SUBSEQUENT WARS AFTER THAT.

SO, WHAT IS IT THAT THE REST OF US AREN'T GETTING?

AND GREG, I'LL START WITH YOU.

MY BIGGEST HOPE IS THAT IF A RESUME COMES ACROSS SOMEONE THAT'S HIRING'S DISK AND IT'S A VETERAN, YOU HIRE THAT VETERAN.

I WANT THEIR RESUMES ALWAYS TO GO TO THE TOP.

MY HASH TAG HIRE A VETERAN ON SOCIAL MEDIA ALL THE TIME, BECAUSE WE NEED TO BE RECOGNIZED FOR HAVING THOSE EXTRA SKILLS.

VETERANS HAVE MORE TO OFFER THAN MANY EMPLOYEES.

I'M NOT SAYING THAT THEY'RE MORE QUALIFIED THAN EVERY EMPLOYEE, BUT THEY HAVE AN EXPERIENCE THAT'S UNIQUE.

THEY'VE WORKED HARDER, THEY'VE BEEN EXPOSED TO MORE TYPES OF PEOPLE, SITUATIONS.

THEY HAVE EXTRA TRAINING AND I REALLY HOPE THAT MORE EMPLOYERS START TO FLOAT RESUMES WITH VETERAN EXPERIENCE TO THE TOP OF THEIR LIST.

OKAY.

JUDGE?

WHAT'S INTERESTING, GREG, THAT YOU MENTIONED RESUMES, BECAUSE WHEN I LEFT THE MARINE CORPS AND WAS IN LAW SCHOOL AND GRADUATED FROM LAW SCHOOL, I WENT TO A RECRUITING COUNSELOR TYPE WHO WAS WORKING WITH MY RESUME AND SHE TOLD ME TO TAKE ALL THE DATES OFF MY RESUME AND NOT PUT MY MILITARY EXPERIENCE ON MY RESUME.

AND THE REASON SHE SAID TO TAKE THE DATES OFF THE RESUME IS THAT I WAS YOUNG ENOUGH, SHE THOUGHT, THAT MY HISTORY WOULD FOLLOW AND FLOW WITHOUT REFERENCE TO FOUR YEARS BEING MISSED, BEING IN THE MILITARY.

SO, I WENT TO HIGH SCHOOL, I WENT TO COLLEGE, I DID THIS, I DID THAT AND PEOPLE WOULD, GIVEN MY APPEARANCE, WOULD NOT MAKE A CONNECTION THAT THERE'S A FOUR-YEAR GAP.

AND THAT PUTTING MY MILITARY EXPERIENCE ON MY RESUME WAS A NEGATIVE.

YOU WILL NOT GET INTERVIEWS WITH THAT.

BECAUSE THIS WAS THE -- THE AFTERMATH OF VIETNAM AND YOU WERE NOT -- YOU WERE NOT CONSIDERED WELL BEING A VETERAN.

I HAD A JOB AT A BANK WHEN I WAS GOING TO LAW SCHOOL, WE WENT TO COFFEE, WE HAD COFFEE AND SOMEONE SAID, LET'S ALL TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU DID BEFORE YOU JOINED THE BANK.

AND I WAS HALFWAY AROUND THE LIST AND I WAS GOING, DO I SAY IT OR DO I NOT?

WE TALKED TO EVERYONE, EVERYONE SAID THEY DID X, Y, Z, IT GOT TO ME AND THEY WERE ALL LAUGHING ABOUT THIS AND MAKING JOKES AND THEY SAID TO ME, MICHAEL, WHAT DID YOU DO?

AND I SAID, I WAS A LIEUTENANT IN THE MARINE CORPS IN VIETNAM.

TOTAL SILENCE.

NO ONE SAID A WORD.

EVERYONE PAUSED, THEN THEY WENT TO THE NEXT PERSON AND ASKED.

NO ONE WANTED TO HEAR ABOUT IT.

NO ONE SAID ANYTHING ABOUT THE SERVICE.

I FELT GUILTY THAT I PUT THEM IN A DIFFICULT SPOT OF BEING UNCOMFORTABLE AND I WAS UPSET BECAUSE I COULDN'T EVEN MENTION THAT I WAS A VETERAN TO FRIENDS THAT I WORKED WITH.

AND SO, YOU'LL LEARN TO SAY, OKAY, I'M GOING TO PUT THAT BEHIND ME.

EVERYBODY WANTS TO PUT IT BEHIND ME, I MAY NOT NEED -- IT MAY NOT BE GOOD FOR ME, BUT I NEED TO DO THAT TO MAKE IT.

AND IT'S A VERY DIFFICULT TRANSITION.

IT'S VERY COMPLICATED.

IT'S VERY CONFUSING.

AND YOU END UP STUFFING ALL THESE FEELINGS THAT YOU HAVE ABOUT BEING A COMBAT VETERAN AND BEING TRANSITIONED IN THE SERVICE, THINKING THAT WHAT YOU'VE DONE WILL BE A BENEFIT TO AN EMPLOYER, TURNED OUT TO BE A NEGATIVE.

SO, THAT'S VERY HARD TO GRAPPLE WITH AND A LOT OF VIETNAM VETERANS HAVE STRUGGLED WITH THAT FOR A LONG TIME, UNFORTUNATELY.

OF COURSE.

LEAH, WE'RE RUNNING OUT OF TIME, UNFORTUNATELY, WE HAVE ABOUT A MINUTE LEFT, BUT HOW DID WORKING ON THIS DOCUMENTARY SERIES CHANGE YOUR VIEW OF, OR YOUR UNDERSTANDING, I SHOULD SAY, OF PEOPLE WHO SERVED?

YEAH, I MEAN, I THINK, YOU KNOW, I HAD PEOPLE IN MY FAMILY, EXTENDED FAMILY WHO SERVED, MY FATHER WAS IN THE NAVY RESERVE, I -- BUT I COULDN'T -- I COULDN'T IMAGINE SORT OF SITTING DOWN FOR UP TO FOUR HOURS IN FRONT OF SOME OF THESE PEOPLE AND -- AND LISTENING TO WHAT THEY WERE TELLING ME AND NOT BE CHANGED AND NOT BE IMPACTED.

THE CONCEPT OF COMMITMENT, THE CONCEPT OF BEING PART OF SOMETHING LARGER THAN YOURSELF, THOSE ARE THINGS THAT I FEEL LIKE EVERY CITIZEN ACTUALLY NEEDS TO THINK ABOUT AND TRY TO INCORPORATE IN THEIR LIVES IN BIG AND SMALL WAYS.

AND I HEARD THAT AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN.

WE HEARD IT 50 TIMES.

SO IT -- IT WAS AN INCREDIBLE EXPERIENCE.

IT WAS REALLY A GIFT AS A STORY STORYTELLER AND A PRIVILEGE TO SIT IN FRONT OF THESE VETERANS.

THE SERIES IS 'AMERICAN VETERAN' AIRING ON PBS.

LEAH WILLIAMS IS ONE OF THE DIRECTORS AND PRODUCERS.

WE WERE ALSO JOINED BY JUDGE MICHAEL E. JACKSON AND GREG COPE WHITE.

THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH FOR JOINING US AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, THANK YOU FOR THIS SERIES.

THANK YOU.

THANK YOU.

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

AND BY -- JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION,

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