We all know at least one veteran. Maybe you have a close relationship with one or hold a mere acquaintance with another. Maybe you know of someone’s son or daughter that’s a veteran or maybe you are a veteran. Whatever the case may be its safe to say that after 9-11 (hard to believe it’s been 16 years) the amount of men and women that made a choice to serve increased drastically during this time. Although not all veterans joined for this reason they all have a unique reason of their own for serving.
Veterans come from all walks of life. There’s the veteran that joined out of family tradition, the one that escaped their hometown for a better life, the veteran that needed college benefits, the one that wanted to make a difference after 9-11, the single parent, the high school graduate, the college graduate, and the list goes on. Being a Veteran myself and a geographically single mother (since my husband is serving in Iraq) there are many things I wish civilians knew about veterans.
In preparation for this post I asked a group of veterans to choose one thing they wish civilians would know about veterans. These individuals range from retired senior non-commissioned officers (to include special operations) to commissioned officers and enlisted personnel whom are currently still serving. I included some of their input below.
1 THE BOND WE SHARE IS DIFFERENT
It is incredible what a few shared life events can do to a relationship…especially combat. I can humbly say I have never been in combat despite deploying overseas. Call me a POG (person other than grunt – pronounced P‘Oh’G) if you will but for this I am grateful. I know many others that have not been so lucky. Nothing creates a bond like being in a situation where you and your buddies almost die (unfortunately, some do). From basic training to deployments, from physical training to everyday military tasks (the list goes on), the military brings service members together in a way that no other institution does. Even if there are people you don’t necessarily get along with (or like) there is still respect and appreciation for one another.
2 WE WOULD DO IT AGAIN IN A HEART BEAT
All veterans have different (both good and bad) experiences in the military. However, one thing that most veterans will say is despite all the hardships they’ve experienced being in the military, they would do it again. Freedom isn’t free and we’ve chosen to stand in the gap of justice to defend those rights of freedom that many take for granted.
3 A PIECE OF CLOTH MEANS MORE THAN YOU THINK
The U.S flag is a symbol of freedom and hope. Veterans hold this symbol dear to their heart for so many reasons. Many have shed blood, sweat and tears for this symbol of freedom. Respect for the flag may be overlooked by some who have never had to bare the burden of sacrifice; what may be considered a piece of cloth to some means so much more to veterans than most will ever know.
4 THE SACRIFICE IS REAL
“Thank you for your service.” This is something that is repeated frequently on Veteran’s Day and especially Memorial Day but do you really know what that ‘service’ entails? It means sacrificing birthday parties, anniversaries, the birth of a child, school plays – you name it. What is rarely mentioned is the sacrifice the family makes. The sacrifice trickles down to their parents, spouses, siblings, and children. The sacrifice families make is often unnoticed. However, they sometimes bare the biggest burden.
5 PTSD AFFECTS MORE THAN ONE PERSON
Although not all veterans have PTSD it is definitely a real thing. It is almost considered common in the veteran community. I’m not entirely sure how it is perceived from the outside but some struggle with this disorder on a daily basis. This can affect the relationship they have with their family, co-workers, and friends. Lastly, having PTSD does not mean veterans are damaged. If you know little to nothing about PTSD I encourage you to do your research as it can potentially help someone you know.
I’ll end with stating something that was expressed by a fellow comrade, “The military as a whole is an institution that is bigger than us, a mosaic, thousands of individuals brought together to create distinctive art or a pattern. To belong to the profession of arms is a big responsibility because we must all do our part to contribute to the success of our military and create the mosaic. Our contributions are emboldened by the values taught to us in the military – Leadership, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage. We are raised to live these values and are given opportunities to fully engage and take on big responsibilities. In doing so we uphold the commitment to our team and the nation.”
The veteran is an individual that made a decision to give up some of their freedom in order for others to fully experience theirs.