Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Appreciating Veterans

Lately, there have been a lot of articles written about how to "Thank a vet" on Veteran's Day. I even read an article that implied thanking a veteran for their service was a bad thing. The article turned out not to be as bad as I expected but I think part of it was poor choice of words for the title. (You can read the article here. Interestingly, the title has been changed from "When 'Thank you for your service' falls flat" to "For Veterans, is 'thank you for your service' enough? Big difference).

I never really knew what to say when people thanked me for my service. I felt I was just doing my job - and maybe not even doing enough when I was stateside instead of "in the AOR" or the front lines. I think of all the answers I've heard to being thanked my two favorites are a simple "Thank you for your support" and "It's my privilege to serve."

There are numerous organizations out there where veterans can find support. There are actually so many it's sometimes hard to figure out where to go or who to turn to. It's also hard to figure out which are for real and which may be scams. I had hoped that the Joining Forces initiative would help address some of these issues (see previous post here). However, Joining Forces doesn't seem to be focusing on what is already available and is instead focused on creating job opportunities for veterans and getting big names from Hollywood to make their commercials. If part of their mandate is to "give service members and their families the support they've earned" wouldn't it make sense to create some kind of clearing house kind of thing where people can go and see what all is available for them? 

The only place I've seen anything like that is at Operation Homefront Missouri, where they try to help people figure out which organization or service best fits their needs. Unfortunately, it is more of a local level thing. I had hoped "Joining Forces" would do the same thing on a national level. Maybe they have a plan for it? Might have been good to start with that in my opinion...
One of my recent pet peeves is how a lot of the new veteran organizations (sometimes even the old ones) specify that they are here specifically for Iraq and Afghanistan vets. Now, I know there are a lot of them. I also know they they have a lot of issues including a high unemployment rate and high rate of homelessness. However, I am not a vet of either Iraq or Afghanistan. But I did deploy for SOUTHERN WATCH and ALLIED FORCE. Does my service not count because no one remembers those missions? That's sure what it seems like...

I may not need the same help that some of the men and women returning from Iraq or Afghanistan do, but telling me (and thousands of others) that we don't qualify for aid because we served in a different part of the world or at a different time doesn't seem quite right either. Is it wrong of me to think that way? I'm not saying there shouldn't be something just for them, just as we have organizations for Vietnam Vets and Korean War Vets. But, why does it seem as if so many of the new organizations established to help and/or support veterans specifically say "for Iraq and/or Afghanistan" vets? Where is the support for the "I served but didn't deploy for any of the high-visibility stuff" veterans?
Well, I don't want to get any deeper into my pet peeve for fear that I'll start sounding like an ignorant dufus...I love my country; I love that I served and wish I could have done more; I love that people out there support the troops and our veterans..that's all that really matters in the end.

1 comment:

  1. I Understand, I agree, and I disagree. It's just not a simple question. I'm a veteran, as was my dad. Mine is the proud distinction of being 2nd Generation Air Force. My dad joined the Air Force in 1947, moving over from the Army. He saw time in Europe and Asia during WWII, never had to go to Korea, and retired before being pulled into Vietnam. His military service is largely responsible for mine. I served proudly and am a veteran of Desert Shield/Desert Storm. But what about those who also served during this time and never saw a deployment? Some of them were kids out of high school who had nothing else to do. They were looking for a job or a way out of a situation. There were those who started out and fell afoul of the military justice system, not being able to adjust. Others did their four years and bailed. The toughest duty many of these "veterans" saw was latrine duty during basic. But to take this approach suggests that there are not only campaign veterans but also degrees of veterans. Actually, I think there are. Problem is, there are differences in the consciousness of the country as to how one should view a veteran. Civilians have been conditioned to value a serviceman over a servicewoman, and one deployed to Iraq over one who serves stateside. Marine over Army, Army over Navy, and Navy over Air Force... the segmentation goes on. Ultimately, we are all veterans if we served even one day on active duty. Our privileges and benefits should only be based on the nature of our service (Honorable, Dishonorable, etc) and term of service (Separated, Discharged, Retired) without regard for when or where we served. Even so, Congress distinguishes by law between Vietnam vets and other vets. Employment applications ask ones status. We have become status conscious to the point of annoyance. So I'm on a bit of a rant too... maybe I should quit before I sound like an ignorant dufus too.

    Thank you for YOUR service to OUR country!