I recently read a post about veterans being uncomfortable when someone says “Thank you for your service”.
I get it.
Most people who server in the Military don’t do it for any recognition so while the thank you’s are definitely appreciated, it can be a little uncomfortable.
Anyway, it got me to thinking.
I’m a veteran, and yeah, it can be a little uncomfortable but I still appreciate the gesture when it happens; but it’s not about me.
Let me ask you a question. When you hear the word “Veteran” what image does it conjure up?
Do you see an image that stems from the Vietnam war, whether it’s a bronze statute, the memorial wall, or a photo or video image that pops up in your mind?
Is it someone from the Iraq or Afghanistan wars?
Here’s another one. What does the word Veteran mean to you, from a definition standpoint I mean?
Again, if you ask most people they’ll answer something like, “Someone who served and fought during a war”.
There’s nothing wrong with any of the above, but… well, they’re not the only ones.
Everyone who enlists signs a contract agreeing that if given the order to serve in combat or other hazardous situations that they will do so. This is the equivalent of the ‘putting their life on the line’ statement so often repeated across the internet.
Everyone signs up knowing this.
Not everyone goes to a combat zone during war.
Some are stationed around the globe and never go into the war zone. Others are stationed in the US and never leave.
All of these people serve during a time of war but they don’t fit the profile most people have of a Veteran.
Their roles, however, are no less important.
The man or woman who supplies the troops in theater, as it’s known, are vital to the success of the mission for those who are in the combat zone.
Equally important are those who work in the hospitals around the world and receive the casualties of war to help them recover.
The same can be said of all the men and women who are stationed in other parts of the world, perhaps helping to avoid a conflict there, or simply working on US Military installations but not in the combat zone. Are they any less of a Veteran because their name wasn’t called to go into the war?
And then, what about those who join during peace time?
They too, pledge to put their life on the line if called to do so, but what if they serve and their entire service the country is not at war?
I realize in this day and age where we seem to have been in conflict one place or another continually since 9/11 it’s hard to imagine but there are certainly times when we have not been at war and many men and women sign up for military service, doing everything the Military does but are not called upon to do so in combat. (The exception to this are the Special Forces who often go into harms way regardless of war status).
My point is that all military personnel, regardless of where or when they’re stationed, agree to put their life on the line. They sign up for it knowingly, but they don’t get to choose whether or not they are sent into harms way.
I’m not against Veteran’s day, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not just about me. It’s not just about those who served during a war.
And for those who did, it’s not just about those who were sent into combat.
Every branch of the Military is a self contained system, and that system only works when all the cogs in the wheel are turning. One cog breaks and the whole wheel stops.
So, why do we recognize some cogs more than others?
I’m proud to be a veteran.
I’m proud of my son who joined during wartime and is still on active duty, with his whole career so far having been during conflicts.
I’m also proud of everyone who joins the military, no matter when, where they serve, or what they do. Without all of them, it just doesn’t work.
So, this isn’t about me. It’s about everyone in the military.
Thank you, to all of you who served, are serving, and those who will serve in the future.
Veteran or not, we all owe you a debt that those who never put their life on the line, cannot understand.