Before participating in this video, what details did you know about the project?

I learned about it from a family member. It sounded like an emotional experience for people, so that’s what I expected. I didn’t know that this had anything to do with the military.

Before participating in this video project, what was your impression of service members and the military? Did you have any particularly strong opinions about service members?

My one predisposed thought about service members was that they’re very dedicated and committed to one thing, so they’re very focused. Uniquka was very focused and determined and a really hard worker.

When you first started speaking with your conversation partner, Uniquka, did you get any impression that she might be in the military?

When I first saw her, my impression was that this person seems like a fun person to be around, by their style and their demeanor. So, nothing crossed my mind that she was in the military at all – until telling me about her occupation, which I first thought was a general kind of recruiter. But it turns out she was a military recruiter. So, I didn’t get that into my head until mid-conversation.

What did you think of your experience and conversation with Uniquka?

It wasn’t a private place, so that was something that I wasn’t used to. And I said that at the beginning, “I’m sorry, it’s hard for me to focus.” But then we started talking, and we got more in-depth in our conversation and our questions, and the background started fading away. And I was a lot more focused on hanging out with her.

Was there a particular moment in the conversation that stood out to you?

I remember it got really deep … we started talking about our families, and I just didn’t know it was going to get there, and that was really memorable. So, when she asked about my relationship with my parents, that definitely stood out.

What was the strongest connection between you two?

We connected on having really great relationships with our fathers, and she talked about how her dad recently passed away. And I talked about my dad … we’re still close, but being an adult, we’re a little bit more distant … I don’t see him as often.

Also, she is very passionate about what she does. So that was something else that we connected on, the importance of that. We are both focused on our passions in life, and how hopefully we can put that into our careers.

What was the greatest difference between you two?

I’ve had so many different jobs … and it seems like she’s been dedicated to work, and only two jobs as a U.S. Army reservist and police lieutenant. And she’s been on the same track for a really long time, while I’ve been trying different things since graduating college. So, I think that was a big difference. And I admired that about her, and I told her that as well. I always admire people who are really focused.

What do you feel is the most important thing you gained from this experience?

It was such a unique situation to be in, talking to a stranger and addressing really in-depth questions. I got an interpersonal connection with a stranger, and that just never happens … the circumstances were so unique. So just learning about someone else’s life and taking the time to do that is so valuable.

Did your opinion of service members change at all after speaking with Uniquka and finding out she was in the military?

It really didn’t change my perception of service members. I don’t think of service members as all the same person. So, of course, everyone’s different individually.

What is something about the military that you learned during your conversation that you didn’t know before?

I learned about a different career path. I think that’s a big thing that a lot of people don’t realize … all the different career paths you can take. I know there are a lot, but I don’t know that many specifics. It was educational for me to learn how she’s a recruiter and she really motivates people to join, and that she also works with the Atlanta Police Department. I was surprised by what she was doing.

If you could ask a service member one question, what would it be?

I know that there are health crises for many veterans. I would ask, “Do you feel that you are supported in the best way? How can the government support military members in a way that’s most effective?” Another question is, “Are you happy with your choice? Would you do this again if you had the option?”

At the USO, we often talk about the “military-civilian divide” – the social and cultural gulf between service members and civilians, in which there are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings. As a civilian, how many service members do you talk to regularly? If none, why?

I’m a public health professional working with the government, so I work with colleagues who are veterans. They don’t talk about it … I only know because of their credentials. I don’t think I frequently talk to anyone who’s a current service member, or maybe I do, and I don’t realize it.

In your opinion, what are some of the barriers that prevent civilians from connecting with service members?

I didn’t really ever have a connection with service members growing up. I didn’t even know that much about [serving in the military]. There wasn’t an overlap, so there wasn’t a connection. I grew up in Washington, D.C. and I think my perception of being in the military is that people are more likely to be from rural areas. And I don’t know if that’s technically true, but that was my impression.

If you were to propose a solution to bridging the military-civilian divide, what would you suggest people do to meet each other halfway across that bridge?

Maybe having some presentations in schools [about military service], just for the exposure. And maybe that happens in other places, but not where I’m from.

What do you think the benefits would be to bridge that divide? How is it going to make our lives better or make the country better when civilians and service members better understand each other?

More awareness of what’s happening in the military. It’s a huge part of our country … Unless I really put effort into learning about it, I won’t know about it.

Have you stayed in touch with Uniquka since filming the project?

We have not, but now that I’m reminded, maybe I should hit her up.

Do you have any other thoughts or feelings you want to share about the project?

Of course, it’s different whatever your role is, but now I’m more interested in how people live their lives when they’re service members. I have no idea. And I’ll never know until I speak with someone again who’s a service member. That’s really what it takes.