In an effort to increase the notoriety and effectiveness of its “Veterans Voices” initiative, the Minnesota Humanities Center this month granted a fellowship to Minneapolis criminal defense attorney and veterans advocate Ryan Else. As a research and writing Fellow, Ryan’s efforts will focus on illuminating the serious issues that arise out of authority, conflict, and loyalty in the reintegration of military veterans.
The Issues: What are the specific cultural traits and traditions relating to conflict, authority, and organizational loyalty that military veterans take from their service; and how do those traits and traditions effect these veterans reintegration to civilian society in legal, employment, social, and familial areas?
Background: Many veterans are labeled as anti-social or simply “difficult” when the exact same behavior would be acceptable, if not exemplary, in the military. Military culture encourages direct, often confrontational, communication methods, whereas civilian culture is often threatened by direct confrontation. Military culture also conditions members to maintain very formal relationships with authority figures and challenge authority is highly discouraged, whereas civilian culture often expects, if not requires, the assertion of personal rights and opinions with authority figures. Finally, military culture is largely founded on conceptions of very deep loyalty to the functional unit of the company or platoon that subordinates the individual to the needs of the unit, whereas civilian culture often values the individual over the collective.
Ryan Else has dedicated his life and career to serving the veteran community. In September 2013, the Minnesota Humanities Center honored Ryan for his commitment to the Minnesota veteran community by naming him to the inaugural class of Veterans’ Voices Award winners. Ryan also currently serves as the Executive Director of the Veterans Defense Project, and is a co-author of the premier text regarding military veterans in the criminal justice systems, The Attorney’s Guide To Defending Military Veterans In Criminal Court. Prior to his legal career, Ryan served in the Army National Guard, in the historic 2/135 Infantry Battalion of the 34th Infantry Division, “Red Bulls,” from 1998 to 2006, reaching the rank of Sergeant. He was deployed to Kosovo in 2003 and 2004.