Military service in a combat theater is a lot like sex. Both can be pretty exciting, sure. But one of the more nuanced rules applies to both — anyone who talks about it a lot has probably done it the least.That's just the warm-up. Here is where the article becomes a public service. Most people know this - but sadly - many just are not getting it.
Even with service members, if one manages to work his military experience into the first five minutes of a conversation, you can almost guarantee he’s never been anywhere or done anything.
At the other end of the spectrum, for the heroes who went well above and beyond the call of duty, one usually needs a crowbar to pry war stories out of them.
Most veterans fall somewhere between those extremes. We did our military jobs to the best of our abilities. We spent some days doing things that most civilians can only read about. We spent other days doing nothing, playing cards, or watching movies in a desert hooch or aboard a ship. Nevertheless, every service member who has served honorably should take great pride in that.
Many veterans pull the vet card anytime a civilian upsets them, be that at a government office, a bar, or a traffic stop. But the worst examples are at retail establishments. If Home Depot doesn’t give a non-active-duty veteran 10% off every single day, or Sears has a hard time processing your free gift card, guess what? They didn’t have to give special treatment to vets in the first place. So when the minimum-wage ticket clerk at an amusement park doesn’t allow you to take a fourth family member in for free admission, don’t lecture her about your extensive deployment experience.The next bit is serious. Especially for those who are in the civilian job hunt - this is a critical point.
No one, including other veterans, wants to hear an angry vet venting about an imaginary slight, whether in person or in a poorly-conceived YouTube or Facebook post. You’re spoiling it for everyone else. That advice goes double for spouses.
“I was in Afghanistan/Iraq/wherever” is not an answer to anything other than, “So where did you serve?” Also, no one, in or out of the military, wants to hear your story about indirect fire at the forward operating base. Let it go.
Veterans have a mixed reputation among civilians. They are grateful for what veterans have done. On the other hand, civilians are faced with overblown media accounts of vets with post-traumatic stress and adjustment problems.
As veterans, we owe it to each other to counteract those misconceptions. We need to be examples of mature men and women who bring hard-earned experience and wisdom to our communities. If veterans first strive to do that, civilians will want to hear our stories. Show, don’t tell. Teach, don’t lecture.
And finally - some atmospherics - though the worst offenders I fear never or little served - we could all just walk a bit more humbly.
... the civilian world isn’t all rainbows and unicorns, either. Joe Citizen has seen his income stagnate, even as he works harder and is more productive every year.
He probably doesn’t have a retirement plan, and has no idea how he’s going to send his kids to college. Joe Citizen sees a service member with a defined-benefit retirement plan and a transferable Post-9/11 G.I. Bill and is genuinely puzzled why he is belligerent over some trivial slight, whether by a store clerk, bar bouncer, or police officer.
And while we’re at it, one or two moto stickers on your car is more than enough. Really. Some of you look ridiculous.A side-note. Carl is in tune with one of the third-level themes of B.G. Burkett's Stolen Valor : How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of Its Heroes and Its History; who is setting the expectation of a veteran, and how does that perception match reality?
We need fewer who are all hat and no cattle. For the fakers, our friends over at ThisAin'tHell are doing a good job of cull'n that herd.