How veterans can 'embrace the suck' during social isolation

Jack Murphy
March 25, 2020 - 11:23 am
Troops passing some time

Getty: Joe Raedle / Staff

State and local governments have asked all of us to practice social distancing in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus. By making a small sacrifice and staying at home for a short period of time, the number of infected can be drastically reduced. In the meantime, millions of Americans are struggling with a unfamiliar level of social isolation. I consider myself a bit of a social distancing champion, virus or not, and thought I might lay a few ideas on you. One thing about veterans that gives us a leg up right now is that we've been deployed for long stretches of time always from the things we are familiar with. I would like to think this helps us manage some of the anxiety as we can "embrace the suck" until things go back to normal.


In a perfect world, we would all have a home gym with free weights, a squat rack, a pull-up bar, and a treadmill but since we don't live in that world here are a few ideas.

If you can get your hands on a kettlebell, this is the best single piece of home fitness equipment you can have. Just by browsing youtube you can find hundreds of different kettlebell workouts. Even those little baby kettlebells can smoke your shoulders with enough repetitions. But what if it is too late? You're stuck at home in social isolation without any way to get a kettlebell? Arnold Schwarzenegger has an answer for you.

As a life long fitness advocate (maybe fanatic?) Arnold reminds people how important it is to stop the spread of the virus and, "that means no bars, no restaurants, no gatherings, and you’ll all be shocked to hear this from me, but no gyms," he wrote on Reddit. Instead, he provides a bodyweight routine that requires no gym equipment. "You don’t need a gym to be fit. I’ve written a program for all of you. You can do it every other day and it will cover all of your muscle groups," Arnold says. Whether you are just beginning to work on your fitness or need something to fill the gap in your gym time, Arnold's bodyweight routine is a great place to begin.


I'm not really a fan of television, but we're trapped indoors so it is what it is.

I've noticed some interesting deals and freebies that companies are offering due to the current situation. Patrick Stewart announced yesterday that his show on CBS, bringing back Jean-Luc Picard of "Star Trek" fame, is now free to watch by following this link and using the code GIFT. If you are more of a "Star Wars" type of person, Disney+ offers a free 7-day trial to help you go and binge "The Mandalorian". Netflix and Amazon Prime each offer free 30-day trials which with a little luck will take yours through our self imposed social exile. 

Comcast is offering two free months of its Internet Essentials deal to help face coronavirus

Video games

Sometimes video games get a bad rap, but they also have a social aspect if you play them online with your friends.

"Doom Eternal" just came out and looks pretty awesome. Looking for a game that will keep you occupied for weeks, well months, on end? Try "Skyrim".

Want a game you can disappear into and your friends and family will never find you again? Take a look at "Baldur's Gate". This may be the moment in history you have the time to sit down and play some of these games that suck you in for long periods of time.

Tabletop games

If you've stuck with me this far through "Star Trek", "Star Wars", and "Baldur's Gate", then you're ready for the final frontier of geek culture.

I play "Dungeons and Dragons" with my daughter each week and now that we're stuck at home, well, we're going to be rolling a lot more dice. Think of it as an exercise in collaborative storytelling. You set the stage, the players inhabit the protagonists. Another way to think of it is as a video game you create and control all the mechanics of. Getting started is easy and low cost with the "Dungeons and Dragons" Essentials Kit which is only 15 bucks.

Playing D&D
Courtesy of the author

I was also recently contacted by a half dozen friends scattered across the world from the UK to Japan asking me to host a D&D game for them since they are all trapped inside as well. Software like "Fantasy Grounds" and "Roll20" makes that possible.

Of course, there are lots of other more conventional boardgames out there from "Axis and Allies" to "Catan". On that note, don't forget card games either. "Uno" is a classic that never dies.


Now is a great time to catch up on some reading, especially some of those gems you've been holding onto that you just haven't had time to read. Most of my reading is work-related however, but I'll give you some recent books I've read and a few I have on deck.

"The Unexpected Spy" by Tracy Walder is a memoir about the author's career as a CIA Staff Operations Officer and a FBI Special Agent. In the CIA she worked to counter biological terrorism and in the FBI she participated in a counterintelligence investigation leading to the arrest of a Chinese spy.

"The CIA War in Kurdistan" by Sam Faddis recounts his experience of leading a CIA paramilitary team into Iraq in 2002, prior to the invasion, with the mission of defeating the Ansar al-Islam terrorist organization and collecting intelligence on the Saddam regime.

"American Cipher" by Michael Ames is about the truth behind the Bowe Bergdahl saga, which is completely different than the narrative about his capture by the Taliban and subsequent release that most of us are familiar with.

Currently on deck:

"Parthian Shot" by Loyd Little is an underground classic in the Special Forces community. Written as fiction, some of the graybeards may tell you over a beer that it is actually true.

"Tiger the LRRP Dog" by Ken Miller is written by a former LRRP/Ranger who served in Vietnam. 

"Surviving the United Nations" by Robert Adolph is about a retired Special Forces officer who worked security for the United Nations, and some of the crazy experiences he had along the way.

Staying Connected

Social distancing is supposed to be a temporary health emergency measure, not a lifestyle prescription.

On that note, don't forget to stay in touch with friends and family. We have more methods of communicating with the outside world than any of us know what to do with. 

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Reach Jack Murphy: or @JackMurphyRGR.