Have you ever been to a sporting event where a veteran or active-duty service member was recognized for serving our country? I have always wondered how these deserving warriors were chosen to be honored. The purpose of this article is to urge anyone who has served to take advantage of the opportunities they’ve earned and provide insight into my experiences.
I won’t lie, whenever possible, I try to ask for a veteran or military discount. I’ve only had one negative experience that comes to mind, and that was with U-Haul. During my move to NYC, I nonchalantly asked the man behind the counter about a military discount. Without hesitation, he replied, “We don’t like military guys; they are arrogant and full of themselves.” Needless to say, I was taken aback by his lackluster, ignorant statement and paused to see if I was being pranked. Before I could even respond, my native Brooklyn fiancée came after him like a sledgehammer through a window. She stated, “The reason you even have the freedom to say those things is because of those military guys, so maybe you should be a little more appreciative.” That’s the PG-rated version.
My positive experiences have come from the likes of Home Depot, Lowes, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), and the University of Wisconsin to name a few.
IAVA is a New York-based organization that frequently offers awards to veterans for various events throughout the country. They require you to register with them to validate your status as an OEF or OIF veteran. This can be done by sending a DD-214. From there, all you need to do is go on their website and look for events in your area. They have honored me with tickets to meet the band Linkin Park and tickets to a Mets game, among others.
Going into the Linkin Park concert, I figured it would be a quick handshake line—a meet and greet of sorts. Let’s just say I was high and to the right on that assumption. These dudes were totally cool. They took me aside prior to taking the stage and asked me questions about my time overseas. I talked about how I used to jam to their music prior to missions. Their music always got me hyped and made me feel as if I were sprinting out of the tunnel for the Super Bowl. After about 20 minutes, they gave me a Linkin Park challenge coin and were off to perform on stage.
This past fall, my fiancée (unbeknownst to me) contacted the University of Wisconsin about tickets to a football game in Madison, Wisconsin. In the spirit of full disclosure, the game was highly anticipated and tickets were few and far between, which drove the ticket price sky high. My fiancée inquired about a military discount and the university asked if they could respond back in a couple of days. The next day, she received an email from the university expressing gratitude and invited us to attend the game free of charge in two of the best seats among 80,000 screaming fans. As an avid sports fan, I can honestly say that I have attended my fair share of sporting events, ranging from the Belmont Stakes to Brooklyn Cyclones minor league baseball. The University of Wisconsin football game was one of the greatest experiences of them all.
The point I’m trying to make is simple: Go out and get yours. It’s hard enough navigating the intricacies of the educational and medical benefits that you are entitled to as a veteran. There are plenty of opportunities to see games, concerts, and movies to name a few that are easily obtained. IAVA, in my opinion, is a decent place to start. So go be honored. You deserve it!
(Featured image courtesy of hbr.org)