Advancing National Service

What Does a Tote Bag Have to Do with Bridging the Military Civilian Divide?

January 16, 2015
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What Does a Tote Bag Have to Do with Bridging the Military Civilian Divide?
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The Got Your 6 Storytellers exemplify all that veterans have to offer.

As a freshman at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vt., Emily Núñez Cavness would wake up early in the morning to dress in her Army Combat Uniform and drive to the University of Vermont in Burlington for Reserve Officers’ Training Core (ROTC) training.

“I seemed to lead almost double, but complementary lives,” she says in her Got Your 6 Storytellers talk.

While standing in front of a picture of friends posing in front of a party bus and another of soldiers running toward a helicopter, Núñez Cavness explains that the two groups that experience the military civilian divide most vividly are national policymakers and undergraduate students.

Núñez Cavness had a hard time relating her military experience to her college friends, so in her senior year, she and her sister started Sword & Plough, a fashion company that produces bags made of recycled military fabric to support veteran employment, reduce waste, and — perhaps most importantly — strengthen civil military understanding.

Now an executive officer with the 10th Special Forces Group in Fort Carson, Colo., Núñez Cavness spends much of her Got Your 6 talk reflecting on several of her own experiences with the divide. She also proposes a few ways to bridge that divide, emphasizing the importance of conversation and calling the Sword & Plough bags “conversation starters.”

“What we’re really passionate about is emphasizing that every person is capable of strengthening civil military understanding,” she says.

And while a Sword & Plough tote bag is a step in the right direction, it can only go so far. When you talk with a service member or veteran, go beyond thanking for them service. Ask them what it involved and what it means to them.

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