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Last quarter, we posted the first installment of our Persona Spotlight series. The Persona Spotlight series takes a deep dive into our persona research by interviewing real-life examples of each of our audience personas. This month, we take a closer look at John, the veteran.

Persona Research: John, the Veteran

Based on our persona research, John is a 66- to 71-year-old male. He is a browser, meaning he habitually checks obituaries, but maybe not in the way you expect. His military unit maintains a Facebook page, and it also sends regular emails when they need volunteers for military funeral honors detail. John is a veteran and has a strong connection to fellow veterans, whether he served with them or not. He understands the importance of respect and honor, and he is frustrated when others don’t. Because he is a veteran, he is a little more familiar with death than he’d like to be. He doesn’t want his family to be burdened with his death, so he’s planned out the details.

John Ethnographies Takeaways

We met with five men who fit the profile of the persona of John, the veteran. Here are some important themes we saw throughout the five interviews:

John’s war experiences are still top of mind. The men we interviewed proudly showcased war memorabilia throughout their house. They attend meetings at their local Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, and they still feel a strong connection to the people with whom they served. One veteran told us about a time when he got to fly the same plane he flew in Vietnam, 40 years later. He even had pictures from that day in a large display in his living room. Their war years seem to hold more weight than the other years of their lives, despite the time that has passed.

vet memorabilia2Combat conditions are perfect for bonding. Because John’s war years hold more weight than other years of his life, the relationships he formed during the war remain incredibly strong. In war, structural downtime is punctuated by adrenaline highs. This structure allows for time to bond – and in war, those bonds are tested continuously.

A good death is part of military culture. With death being a very real and common occurrence during a veterans’ time in combat, John is familiar with death. Because of their familiarity with death, the men we interviewed had an interesting outlook on death: They view someone dying while protecting others, doing something they loved, as a “good death.” This notion was captured well in one veteran’s reflections on the death of a friend: “Doug died in combat, and I always looked at his death as a good death. He loved combat; he loved it. He died on a mission, and he died very quickly. He was shot in the head. He was doing exactly what I think he was meant to do in this world, which was to lead Marines in combat. That’s a good death to me.”

Traditions matter. Funerals for this group are very solemn occasions that deserve to be treated with the utmost honor and respect. From volunteering for military funeral honors detail to helping to pay for the funerals of veterans whom they never knew, this group is exceptionally generous in making sure that their fellow veterans are cared for in death.