Veterans are often wrapped together into one lump sum and set aside at the same time without much thought to the individual. It is unfair that when a veteran voices their opinion, it’s sometimes conflated to represent veterans as a whole. While we all served our nation, we aren’t one unified school of thought. “As a veteran,” is a common preface to someone’s perspective on given topic. You aren’t speaking for the team. It’s okay to use the “I.”
I don’t know what it is – but there seems to be no shortage of veterans that preface a statement with, “as a veteran,” politically. Well, as a veteran, I don’t necessarily care what you think, as a veteran. I may or may not agree with you, but I want to know what you think, as an individual, not a veteran. It’s just that simple if you’re expressing your opinion. VA and Veteran issues are a different story, to me.
There are so many jobs and experiences in the military that there is no catch-all to sum it up. For the rest of society, it seems a veteran is a veteran, which is a symptom of misunderstanding and a lack of curiosity. I was lucky enough to get enough exposure in time to serve eventually with folks who are heroes; people who inspire others to join, who were there when the fight was at its peak. We can’t pick and choose what happens when we serve, but we can choose whether or not we’ll be boastful.
I don’t know even if I fit into that category or not. I feel somewhat selfish that I’m able to write and get published, primarily because I’m a SOF Veteran. But I have to embrace opportunities as they come in the private sector. I’ll never be able to forget that while I may have done more than some, I’ll never measure up to many. There were operators in my company who had well over ten combat deployments; this was their life. I just showed up in the third quarter, if that.
I understand that in the real world, you have to toot your own horn. But there does seem to be a willingness by the public to prop up stories of valor, as though they’re superheroes. In many respects, that may make it more difficult for those in transition because, how can anyone live up to that?
Everyone has seen the guy losing his cool at a cashier in his OIF/OEF hat. That isn’t what selfless service is about – but it’s reflective that folks don’t feel their part in important has been acknowledged. Bringing me to my main point, veterans and civilians, despite the rhetoric are out of touch with one another. It is palpable. In 2012, according to a Pew Research Center poll, 84% of post 9/11 veterans said the “American public has little of the problems those in the military face.” Problems, as in even a veteran’s daily life, where there are consistencies across the services. Despite all our differences, there’s still an overarching military culture.
I’ve been asked if I was allowed to leave my base on the weekends. I sat in a job interview and explained the core function of the work of an OD-A. I even sat in a congressional interview and detailed how language in the NDAA has an effect at the end user level, based an experience of mine.
In every instance, the interviewer wasn’t aware that I had the experiences I explained. Even though I can try to communicate my professional history on a resume, it’s too outside of the civilian norm for most to grasp. I was on a date once and felt under attack at the resistance of the scope and responsibility of an 18D (Special Forces Medical Sergeant) I was trying to explain. More so, many are in disbelief that an enlisted service member could have been granted such responsibility. Not only is the civilian understanding of military life out of touch, but it’s also outdated. It’s not anyone’s fault. It’s probably a natural repercussion of an all-volunteer force.
But it doesn’t make things easy for civilians or veterans. I bet as a result many are hired and fired unnecessarily without understanding the person. The LA Times reported that U.S. Military and Civilians are increasingly divided. Bottom line: it’s stressful to live in a society that’s both isolating and misunderstanding of the experiences that have shaped who you’ve become as an adult. This is no doubt a contributor to the ongoing veterans issues.
Featued image courtesy of nation.time.com.