Corie Weathers grew up as a self-described “Gen X latchkey kid” who loved playing Wonder Woman and saving people.
“I didn’t realize it at the time," Weathers shared, "but I think that was the core part of me that really longed to do something that made a difference. I also didn’t like to see people bullied and would frequently get into fights defending my brother even though he was older. It got so bad my parents had to move us,” she laughed. “I realized I am pretty feisty when it came to people who were hurting.”
That sense of justice and helping others led her to become a mental health therapist just as she and her husband began Army life. Not long after his commissioning as a chaplain, he was deployed to Afghanistan and Weathers started her practice.
“I think that's what ultimately led to writing the book. After serving individuals and families and small groups for 15+ years, I realized I was seeing this hurt happening in a whole culture,” Weathers explained.
Military Culture Shift: The Impact of War, Money, and Generational Perspective on Morale, Retention, and Leadership was released in the fall of 2023. No stranger to writing, Weathers is also the author of Sacred Spaces, published in 2016. It was a book she wrote after taking her own tour of the Middle East with the Secretary of Defense, an experience that shifted her perspective and brought a deeper empathy for serving those who serve.
As Weathers watched the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in 2021, her heart broke for the families who dedicated so much to the region. When the mass exodus began and recruitment was at an all-time low, she wanted to understand the why.
“This is kind of a Greek tragedy and yet, it's the truth," Weathers explained. "You can't gloss or pretty up the truth. We have to be able to have those conversations of how we all had that common purpose of post-911 patriotism, saving the country, serving the country, whatever you want to call it. That cohort that came in with that sense of purpose is now dealing with massive amounts of moral injury of how it ended. Even those who carried that momentum are now struggling to pass that down because they're questioning and they are exhausted and they're tired or they're physically broken.”
From her research for the book, Weathers indicated that a big part of the problem she is seeing is the lack of focus on valuing the current uniformed members and retention.
“These are the ones who ultimately pass the flame down and right now they aren’t wanting to,” she added.
It’s more than a sense of absent purpose or a devaluing of the Armed Forces, it’s the consistent battling of the same issues that have plagued the military community for decades. The frustration with the continuous fight on basic quality of living issues have taken a toll.
“We were talking about housing issues in the 1980s and the child care centers not being fit. When I saw this it caused a big drop in my stomach. I questioned why we were still talking and advocating for the same issues over 40 years later,” Weathers said. “The other surprising part of my research was discovering that the military can essentially be considered a welfare state by the civilian community.”
This is due to the entitlements created once the military was shifted into an all-volunteer force and for the way recruitment tends to focus on socio-economically depressed areas of the country.
Recruiting Gen Z is proving to be harder than anticipated. From the pool of eligibility dwindling (only 23% of youth qualified according to the DOD), no 9/11 to create a call to arms and shifting priorities, the United States is entering a crisis point.
“Our military families are carrying the burden of the nation when the nation should be carrying it with us. So a lot of parents are going, 'No, I don't know if I want this to be a family business anymore.' It's for the sake of our kids, it's for the sake of having a choice on whether our kids come in or not because none of us want this to become a draft,” she said. “So part of it is to protect that choice. There is a whole massive group of people, some of them are out and veterans and have families now and some that are still in, who have carried the cost for decades who feel forgotten. It's never okay for a large part of our society to feel forgotten, especially if they sacrificed for the country. This is where my anti-bullying and compassionate heart comes up. I want to shake the nation and just say, 'Pay attention, this is on you and this happened on your watch.'"
Those carrying the burden have flooded the mental health system and the wait or lack of providers is causing even deeper problems within the services. "Military Culture Shift" is a deep-dive examination of warfighters through the ages, their families and the changes (both good and bad) impacting a nation. Weathers indicated she wrote it for leadership trying to solve the crisis, those who serve or served and the spouses holding down the homefront.
“I think at the core we’ve forgotten how to talk to people, to reach out and be empathetic. I remember a time when the single soldiers would come back from deployment and the spouses would fill their barracks with goodies. It doesn’t really happen anymore,” Weathers stated. “A lot of what I’m doing is reminding people how to be human again.”
You can learn more about Military Culture Shift and Corie Weathers by clicking here.