Nobody said being a Rakkasan was going to be easy and leaving the unit can be harder than the challenges there. When we leave our close-knitted, intense, and slightly crazy Rak family it’s hard to forge friendships that strong in other military units- and even harder in civilian life.
That torii gets branded on our souls and it’s forever a part of us. I served in other units when I left Fort Campbell, but none had the impact on me that being a Rakkasan had. I loved the Rakkasan routine, and that routine can benefit us in our civilian lives as well. We couldn’t be a more different group of people, somehow the magic of the Rakkasans manage to throw together teams of ordinary individuals who become great together and accomplish incredible things from WW2 to today. But there are things we should all do, every single day. Structure is how you build momentum, and momentum is how Rakkasans win battles.
“There weren’t any people available to fill up my company. So the people that were considered unfit for the Army got sent to my company. Some by virtue of flunking their basic infantry tasks… then there were the guys with master’s degrees in Elizabethan literature and creative writing… Then the others came from the stockades… literally those who had been in prison.” Medal of Honor Recipient Rakkasan Paul W. Bucha
1. Own The Morning
I still feel like 3rd Brigade comes to work before the rest of the 101st or even the Army. But if you win the morning, you’ll win the day. We got up early, too early sometimes, and we stayed late at 3BCT. It was always the cars with the torii stickers coming through the gates of Fort Campbell first and we were the last to leave. That’s what greatness takes, it doesn’t sleep in. You don’t have to get up before the sun every day anymore, but don’t sleep till noon. Make it a priority to start your day right and fill up your Rakkasan mug with coffee before attacking the day. Rakkasans do more before noon than the rest of the Army does all day, keep that work ethic into your civilian life.
2. Talk To Another Rakkasan
Good friends are hard to find in civilian life but easy to find as a Rakkasan. Although I know my first team leader hated me, eventually I earned his respect. Our bond should play an essential role in our lives, we are lucky to have the FB groups and the Rakkasan Association to connect not only with people we served with, but past Rakkasans as well. It doesn’t matter how you do it, text someone, interact online, or call a fellow Rakkasan each day. Sometimes you just have to talk to someone who gets it. That strengthens our nation and our veteran community, we are still in this thing together.
3. Something Physical
You don’t need to report for 0600 formation and do a ruck march anymore, run the obstacle course at Sabalauski Air Assault school, or climb the ropes but do something. Daily exercise will improve your mood, your brain, and your emotional state. We are incredibly active in the military; we work out every morning and then train all day. I didn’t struggle sleeping when I was at Fort Campbell, because I was exhausted at the end of the day. Living a more sedentary life post-service is what kicked off my sleeping problems.
The military can ruin working out for us because for some reason it’s always raining at Fort Campbell, or maybe only on the 3rd Brigade footprint. We aren’t Marines but we still feel the need to count all of our exercises like kindergarteners in the Army. Go ride your bike, hit a punching bag, take a walk, or anything to get your heart rate up. I met one Vietnam Rakkasan while I was living in New York, he told me he would take a walk with me if he could drink a beer during it. Whatever you choose to do, do something every day. It’ll relieve your stress, improve your cognitive functions, you’ll be stronger, healthier, and you’ll live longer.
Laugh every day to survive civilian life. We carry heavy loads as veterans and post-military life can be stressful. Frankly, the military is both serious business and a joke at the same time, life is like that too. There are an unlimited number of funny clips on the internet to laugh at and share. Every Rakkasan should at least have a military joke ready to go, laughter isn’t prescribed to us by the VA but maybe it should be. Laugh about your old stories downrange and the crazy things in the 3BCT formations and barracks. Check out some of our Rakkasan Facebook groups or other military networks for a laugh. Laugh at yourself, laugh when it’s inappropriate, laugh about anything. Look for ways to insert more comedy into your life, have a good time with it. It might be impossible to recreate that Rakkasan bond, but good friends are part of what makes us happy so make some friends and enjoy the freedom we fought for.
5. Get Field Time In
Civilian life is stressful, it isn’t easy being a veteran and especially not with the modern world. I’ll let you in on something you already knew, the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division spends a lot of time in the field. That field time is why we are one of the most combat effective units in the entire military. We spent our military careers outside and a lot of us retreat inside to join the rest of society when we get out. Americans spend a staggering 90% of our time indoors and we’re more stressed and fatter than ever. Nature boosts our mental and physical health, even if it’s just for ten minutes. It’ll help you think, boosts creativity, clear your mind, and provides much-needed peace. We don’t view nature as medicinal yet, but we will. It’s easy to get caught up in the fast-paced, technology driven world and forget out the
great outdoors. Getting outside is something every Rakkasan should do every day, prescribe yourself some outdoor time.
6. Be Grateful
I love that I’m a Rakkasan, today and always. I had never heard that word before I got inducted into the crazy and amazing cult that is the 187 Infantry Regiment but now it means everything to me. I’m grateful the military chose to send me there, I met some of the most amazing people in the world. Admittedly, some of the craziest as well but they were part of the journey too. The 101st is not a unit for the faint of heart and I’m grateful for my experiences at Fort Campbell and deployed, even the bad ones. If you made it in the 187th , you can make it anywhere. Nothing is too small to be grateful, if you aren’t dead or in the hospital it was a good day. Each day write something down you’re grateful for, say it aloud, or tell someone. I see my torii everyday on my wall and the one tattooed on me and I’m grateful for the people who stood shoulder to shoulder with me.
Get Going... Start this today and civilian life will improve. Or you can start tomorrow, but don’t wait too long. Our country needs us, now more than ever. Successful military units, people, and teams leave clues to that success, one thing they do is embrace the power of daily routines. Good habits are just good decisions repeated. If you think of anything Rakkasans need to do or you do that helps you, let me know. Or just as importantly, not do. Because what we should stop doing is as important as what we should start.