I am a Veteran…not a Victim
As a veteran, I have earned and am therefore entitled to exactly one thing, military retirement as I was promised over 20 years ago. I am entitled to nothing else. Nothing. Not a job. Not a home. Not even respect. I am a veteran, not a victim, and as proud as I am at having served, I am equally appalled at the mockery made today of those who have served and the entitlement attitude that it has generated in many hearts.
I am personally convicted that those who raise their hand in our nation’s hour of need are worthy of great honor. Yet, I understand that this is America and that many may disagree and not have the same regard. That is okay. Now, I will exercise my right to disregard those who might otherwise impugn our veterans but I have fought and will gladly fight again, in part, to protect your right not to have respect for what I do. This is, by definition, America.
I love soldiers. I loathe the caricature into which they have been molded for political and personal gain. This offends me to the core of my soul as it should any respectable veteran. Lest any forget, we volunteered. No one forced me to spend years of my life in the desert sands far from my family.
The civilian world is a cutthroat, bottom-line oriented arena. My capacity to generate revenue governs my personal marketability. Many veterans possess traits rendering them highly employable – integrity, work ethic, mission-focus, leadership, team-building. For this reason, I would encourage any employer to consider a veteran…not merely because they have served.
No veteran deserves employment. The job should go to the best-qualified, hardest-working person, whether they have served or not. I would like to think that combat veterans would excel in any situation but the bottom line is that I’ve known more than a few I’ve served with that I would hesitate in hiring to walk my dog.
Please, enable our soldiers. Provide job training. Hold hiring conferences. The Troops to Teachers (TTT) program is a great example that marries qualifications with a need. Afford veterans the opportunity to succeed on their own merits and I believe the majority will. Just quit telling us that we deserve more.
Perhaps you have heard it said, “No housing for immigrants as long as we have homeless veterans,” – a false dilemma logical fallacy. I have discovered an uncomfortable truth, that the vast majority of the homeless are in that condition because they choose to be. I have observed the sheer volume of government safety nets that already exist. I can go to the Salvation Army, today, and provided that I am clean, stay for a number of months, breakfast and dinner included. Other programs already exist – job assistance, housing assistance, transportation assistance – for those who wish to seek it. Yet many fail to capitalize on the assistance for a multitude of varying reasons.
The pendulum has swung from a previous attitude of blatant disregard for our veterans past that which is reasonable to the very opposite end of the spectrum, whereby we have convinced ourselves and many who have served that our nation has somehow victimized us and therefore we are owed.
The entitlement attitude that many lament in the younger generation has begun to permeate the venerable ranks of our combat veterans and even worse, has seeped into the active force. Today, many young soldiers believe, before they have served even a year, that the military, that the nation, owes them something. Some actively seek the label ‘veteran’ and all that encompasses today – pity, programs, and most of all, a paycheck for life.
Do veterans suffer uniquely? Certainly the nature of combat afflicts some in a severe capacity. The VA’s 2012 Suicide Data Report generated the commonly-cited statistic that 22 veterans commits suicide every day. However, the report itself stipulates that, due to the limited sampling, “the estimated number of veterans be interpreted with caution.”
Yet, many have made this a bumper-sticker to support agendas and show how much they “Support the Troops.” Never mind that the average age of the suicide victim in the report is 60 years old and that a more recent and comprehensive survey yielded that not quite one veteran commits suicide per day.
Obviously even one suicide is too many but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates for all young people have been increasing for over a decade though the military rate is slightly higher. Again, please provide any service needed to treat combat trauma, but maybe at some point, if we quit telling these young men that just because they have seen the elephant, that they are afflicted, then maybe the prophecy will not fulfill itself quite as readily.
Growing up, my friend’s dad epitomized the veteran in my mind. He was a burly, gruff construction worker who loved his sons. He was also a door-gunner in Vietnam though you would never know it. He spoke to my history class once and while speaking of friends lost and death seen, he broke down just a bit, overcome by memories. He quickly gathered himself, finished his presentation, and then went back to life.
I am proud at having served and if you feel led, by all means thank me for my service. If you desire to buy me a cup of coffee, I like Sulawesi from Starbucks. Just, for the love of God, don’t feel sorry for me. I am a veteran, not a victim.
Author - Founder
Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).
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