I was raised on the belief that “if you have to tell someone how good you are, you’re probably not that good.”
Go ahead and read that a couple more times and let it soak in.
If you are a veteran prone to what I like to call IVS, also known as irritable veteran syndrome, you might just want to stop reading now. You will undoubtedly be butt hurt by the time I finish.
I am going to start with the old saying “if the shoe fits” and you can decide if I am out of line, dead wrong, or speaking about a truth we have lost sight of. I will be completely honest. I am ashamed of the veteran community as a whole when it comes to how we have been behaving. In the age of social media I cannot go through the day without seeing a viral picture or video passed like wildfire all over the Internet trying to ignite outrage among the ranks of veterans. It could be the latest installment of stolen valor, some moron stomping on the American flag, or even Bruce (Caitlin) Jenner and his/her sex change. The next thing you know, there is some veteran, or group of veterans, that is insulted by these posts and want to throw a hissy fit about how it’s disrespectful to not only them but the ones who never came home. We launch social media crusades to make sure that people know how affronted we are by their behavior. Even level-headed, reasonable veterans get caught in the trap because all they see is the rhetoric with no real thought about what the true issue is. It makes me scratch my head and ask why it is that veterans are so sensitive? Furthermore, what do you expect to gain from these crusades to educate the public of this nation? When was the last time you saw any member of our self-centered society stop being close minded and change their ways? When did social media become a platform to campaign for social change?
I am believe that this epidemic of hurt feelings comes from selfishness and entitlement. The “look at me! Look at me!” attitude makes you no better than the morons you demonize for their acts of stupidity because ultimately you share a common goal. Attention. How does that make sense? Fear not, I am here to be the voice of reason who can shed some light on the reality of what we do for a living and why.
First off, there is no doubt that many veterans have sacrificed a lot over the last decade or more fighting for this country. People have lost their families, limbs, humanity to come home to a place that is just as foreign as the one they had been fighting in. Most of those that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan joined during a time of war. Which is commendable. However, it doesn’t entitle you to a damn thing. You received a God-damned paycheck, didn’t you? We are currently fighting in an all volunteer army and no one dragged you down to the recruiting station and made you raise your right hand to swear to defend the constitution of the United States. It just didn’t happen. So we expect the world to bend over backwards to save your feelings because you volunteered to do a job where you knew the risks and sacrifice involved. Think about how self-centered that sounds. Not to mention it goes against the values the armed forces is based on. Selfless service. Whatever your reason for joining, you took on the responsibility knowingly and should do so without seeking recognition because the security of this nation isn’t about you and your ego. At the end of the day you know what you did and didn’t do. You have seen the world in a way that the citizens of this country might never in a lifetime. You did it so they wouldn’t have to. You shouldered that burden so that the masses wouldn’t have to, and could live their lives in whatever manner they wish. That’s the American dream right? The pursuit of happiness. Seek solace in the fact that by sacrificing you can now have an perspective about life and it’s meaning that some people go forever without understanding. How precious the time on this earth is and how important it is not to waste it. Its not our job as veterans to police the way people live and judge how they use that freedom.
But noooo… here comes another outraged veteran on the internet soap box reminding those silly civilians just how inferior they are because they never went to war. They need to understand how bad we had it. They need to feel the anger, loss, and guilt we feel. They need to know that even though we willingly chose this lifestyle, so that we can protect the freedom they have, they sure as hell don’t have the freedom to call a transgender former Olympic Gold metal winner “brave” without first kneeling before us veterans and paying homage to our bravery. We condemn anything negative that can remotely be considered to do with the military or this country. Hell, when that doesn’t work we invent reasons to be upset. I’d be willing to bet a majority of the veterans who are so outraged probably sat on a fob, gained 15 pounds, and went to green beans, guzzling down iced coffee every day. They are the same ones who flaunt their service wherever they go hoping to get an upgrade on a flight or a free drink at a bar. They are probably the reason that stolen valor exists. They run around flaunting their veteran status to exploit patriotic citizens and receive special treatment. Lo and behold some idiot sees this special treatment and throws on the same uniform our brothers and sisters died in to get the same treatment. Which is the bigger crime? Are you not doing the same thing?
Now I know you have seen this asshole. The one at the bar telling war stories to a group of girls when you can see it in his eyes that not a word of what he is saying is true. Those who have been there and done that typically don’t want to share unless it’s with others who can relate and understand. Which brings me to another gem of advice passed down through my family’s military tradition “you know how to know if a vet is lying? When he opens his fucking mouth.” I am in no way saying that you should not talk about your experiences. It’s necessary to heal from the wounds that war makes on your soul. I do know from personal experience that it only makes sense to talk to others like me who can actually relate to the things I have been through. Going on and on to civilians about combat makes no sense because they don’t get it. It goes back attention seeking. If I personally see it I know I automatically assume that you’re a fraud. Right or wrong.
What about those that died? You have to protect their memory right? I agree. You absolutely should. Think about that person who was taken off this world way too early. Picture them in your mind. Ask yourself if spending all this time and effort being angry and fighting an imaginary battle in their name is how they would want you to honor their sacrifice. Ask yourself what they would do if they could somehow come back for one more hour. Would they spend that hour on Facebook making sure that the public was more aware of their sacrifice. Fuck no. They would be with their families. They would be having a beer with their friends. They would probably call every single person that means something to them to say goodbye and I love you. So if you really want to honor their memory, put the social media dispensing device down and live every second of your life for the both of you. Hold yourself accountable for it because if you squander the gift they gave, you should be ashamed of yourself.
So I am asking you to hide your pride then right? No. Not even close. I am asking you to be more productive with that pride. How many veterans kill themselves every day? In the time it takes you to repost something on Facebook you could dial the number of another veteran just to check in. You don’t know the impact that could have. You could use your love for service to continue to serve your community. You know why there are so many morons out there? The family system is broken. We have kids raising themselves and how to we expect them not to be self-centered? Go mentor a child. Use the life experience you gained in the military to teach the next generation what is really important.
I am proud of my service to this nation. I still grieve for the ones who we lost to combat and suicide alike. I honor them by making the most of my life because I think it would be disrespectful to their sacrifice not to squeeze every bit of life out of the time that they were not afforded. My worst fear is that we alienate ourselves from the people we fought for by continuing to beat them over the head with the fact we did. I know if I am sick and tired of seeing all the complaining and anger, the average Joe is too. Then the message which I am sure is born out of good intentions gets ignored, and it becomes us against them. The people who we fought for become the people we fight. What a sad day that would be.
So be proud. Honor the fallen. Be an example because at the end of the day, if we are as good as we say we are? We wont have to say a damn word. It will show. Who knows, we might actually make a real difference INSIDE the country we fought for.