It’s a rare instance when I can’t find the words to express my thoughts. But this has been my problem for days as I reflect on the challenges our veterans are facing. How do you discuss the truth about military veterans when the nation might be struggling to trust us?
It saddens me to learn two horrific police shootings were the result of mentally unstable Army Veterans. I mourn for the loss of life in the Dallas and Louisiana law enforcement communities. Several officers killed had served in the military. These heinous executions did not need to happen.
When bad things happen at the result of our veterans, the military community takes a hit. We can be judged as a whole, by the actions of a few. It’s not fair but it happens. This applies to other people groups and communities as well. And it sucks.
We Need to Change the Story. Now!
Based on recent studies, civilians appreciate military veterans but they may see us as dangerous to our communities or work place.
A survey of more than 1,000 adults discovered that roughly 40 percent of them believed more than half the 2.8 million veterans who have served since 2001 have a mental health condition. A vast majority of employers see veterans as heroes but not as “strategic assets.” On top of the Veterans Administration problems and the 22 veteran suicides per day, we are branded as ticking time bombs or damaged goods.
Between the majority of bad press that veterans get in the media and the way some veterans behave, it’s no wonder why we have such a problem with veteran stereotypes. It’s time for change.
The Truth About Veterans
There’s no dispute that some veterans have a hard time adjusting to civilian life after their service is over. There’s no doubt that some veterans battle PTSD, TBI, anxiety, depression, and anger. We do have our set of problems and challenges. But we are not all lost causes or dangerous to the world around us.
The civilian world has a lot of misconceptions about people who have served in the military.
This is partly due to the media reporting the worst case scenarios about veterans instead of focusing on the positive stories. The other reason is because the military community does a poor job of educating civilians about military life. If we aren’t willing to open up about our experiences, then how can we expect civilians to understand us?
If you are a civilian, here are some truths about our veterans.
We don’t want to be called heroes.
While there are a small amount of service members and veterans who want to exploit the hero story, most of us don’t believe we are heroes or want to be considered one. We simply did what we were trained to do.
We don’t require a thank you.
It’s humbling and appreciative that people thank us for our service, but it’s not required or expected. In fact, what veterans really want is for people to ask us more about our service or to stand with us as we battle unemployment, health issues, transition challenges, or mental wellness needs.
We aren’t all damaged goods.
Anyone who signs up in the military has to be a little crazy, but that doesn’t mean we all suffer from mental or physical wounds. We don’t all have PTSD.
Besides, veterans who do have mental or physical wounds can do amazing things despite of their condition. Look at Staff Sergeant Travis Mills. The more we are told we are broke dicks, the less likelihood we will find peace or success.
We all didn’t experience combat.
Contrary to popular belief, most veterans have never experienced combat. This number will vary greatly depending on era of service, but traditionally the percentage of combat troops is less than 20% of the entire U.S. Armed Forces.
We aren’t all Navy SEALS or Special Ops.
America loves the special operations units like the SEALS, Rangers, and Green Berets. This is evidenced by the incredible number of books, movies, and media that celebrates these people. However, these people are a VERY SMALL percentage of the military.
It would be awesome if ALL military jobs were celebrated and appreciated. How about thanking the cooks, mechanics, supply personnel, lawyers, physicians, armorers, and other roles that ensure the U.S. Armed Forces continues to operate?
We all don’t have entitlement syndrome.
Despite some veterans and spouses believing they are entitled to free meals and discounts, most of us don’t expect it. We are certainly appreciative when they are offered and thank you for the generosity.
We want to continue to serve.
Serving our country and our communities is the lifeblood of who we are. Veterans are eager and willing to invest in new missions after their service is over.
We have great and relevant training.
Every military skill doesn’t always translate to the civilian world, but that doesn’t mean we are irrelevant. Veterans do have leadership abilities, training, and skills that are extremely valuable in the marketplace.
We do prefer sitting with our backs to the wall.
Some fun veteran stereotypes are true. We can sleep anywhere, we continue to use military jargon, we usually have a bug-out bag, and we like to sit with our backs to the wall at restaurants. We have quirks like anyone else.
There’s a lot of good in veterans.
It’s important to remember that almost everything you see or hear in the media about veterans is inaccurate stereotypes. Stereotypes can be harmful to any group. The truth about veterans is there is more good than bad. We just have to be willing to find those positive stories and celebrate them over the negative.
The Truth About Civilians
It’s important for me to wrap up by telling our military community that not all civilians are bad either. There are inaccurate stories being told to us about people who have never served in the military.
The truth is that many civilians really do care about our veterans.
There are people who sincerely appreciate their freedom or who want to thank veterans in meaningful ways. There are great folks in our communities who want to understand our experiences and lend a hand. The problem is that we have to let them in.
Veterans have to be willing to open up and share.
We have to trust people who haven’t served and let them into our world regardless of the outcome. Unless we do this, we’ll never be able to remove all of the negative stereotypes and generalizations about the military community.
Let’s Bring Change Together
We owe so much to our military for the sacrifices they have made to protect our country. We owe so much to the civilians who have supported our troops in a variety of ways. There is great in both sides and we can do so much more together to change the stories around our veterans.
Let’s start bringing change today. Follow me!