Veterans Day – From A Veteran

I asked a veteran to write a piece for me, about what it means to be a young OIF veteran in today’s America.  I ask that this young man be treated with the respect that he deserves.  Thank you.


What does it mean to be a veteran?  For those who served in World War II, it meant that these men and women were the ones who defeated the Nazis in Germany and the Emperor’s military in Japan.  It also meant that those who returned home helped rebuild the country and have been called the Greatest Generation, proved that they were the best that the country could provide in a time of need.  In Korea, it meant that they fought the Chinese and North Korean communists to a standstill that continues to this day.

For the vets of Vietnam, it meant that for the length of their deployment, they stood tall in Hell.  However, the anti-war movement of the 1960s and 1970s, along with reported abuses, meant that veterans of this conflict were not held in high regard.  Some were even attacked and spat upon, even called “baby killer.”  As for the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, at least from my perspective — the regard in which we are held is mixed.

I can remember the first time I came home from Iraq in 2004. I remember almost running to the baggage claim just to see my mom and my girlfriend.  I ran into people who were either giving me a look of disapproval or those that gave me a thumbs up or even wanted a handshake.  For us, it is part of the job of wearing the uniform.

However, the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have come with their own set of rewards and consequences.  There are the reminders of friends who were killed in action during a patrol, convoy or an assault.  There is the memory of engagements lasting either a few minutes or hours on end.  There is the memory of Saddam Hussein being hauled out of the spider hole in Tikrit and the thought of “great we got him.  Can we go home now?” only to hear “Sorry guys, we’re staying another 3 months.”

After I hung up the uniform when I completed my service, did I think it was easy out in the real world?  I soon found out: it isn’t and that is the sad fact of it.

Tough realities – and some help

Most of us think that when we are done with serving our country, we are placed in high regard when it comes to getting jobs.  We tend to think “Hey I went through hell in Basic, I served in Iraq/Afghanistan, I have skills, I’m a good soldier, I am desirable to an employer” and we think that we can just walk into an interview and get the job that day.

Unfortunately, that’s just not going to happen due to circumstances like the lousy economy. If you don’t have a college education, all the experience in the world will not be able to land you a job.

However, it isn’t all doom and gloom.  We vets have a multitude of opportunities to benefit from our service.  We have the Department of Veterans Affairs who can help us with disability claims and education programs so that when we are done with school, we can appear more hire-able than the other person going for the same job.

They may not be perfect, but with persistence we can get answers, we can get those benefits we earned.  There are other groups that can help too.

However, there are some vets who need more help than us.  You might have seen them along the roads begging for money or food or work.

What does it mean to me to be a proud U.S. Army Veteran?

Remember this: we proved to ourselves that we are capable of doing more than we ever thought we could.  We volunteered, we served our country. We are the 1% of the country that stepped up to serve.


Related Stories:

Thank You For Your Service: A Military Spouse Reflects on Veterans Day

On Veterans Day, Franken Advocates for the Men and Women Who Served (Video)

Japanese Americans Honored for Bravery 70 Years Later


Photo credit: The National Guard


Lyndsay G.
Lyndsay G.6 years ago

I served in the Coast Guard in the 90's. I gave them 200%. I got injured on duty and was threatened with Courts Martial if i "rocked the boat" so I kept quiet.

Despite that I earned 4 personal decorations and earned additional qualifications. After being transfered to the reserves, I was injured on duty in my civilian job. The CG took me off ALL duty "put me on ice" did not tell me of my rights, so I lost at least 1 promotion, my insurance,...Finally got my Honorable Discharge after making enough noise.

2 years later my ex wife made up a pack of lies against me so the Coast Guard actually tried to Convict me of a Federal Crime I did not commit. Had to hire my own lawyer and was finally cleared even though my lawyer provided proof she lied the CG still tried to do me in for almost a year.

I've lost all my pride in what I did, and a lot of my dignity. Been trying to get some justice (NO I don't mean money) ever since.

Am I wasting my time?

Nicole P.
Nicole Sedkowski6 years ago

I respect the individual soldiers who did what they felt was right and who strived to protect innocents. I feel sad that the soldiers are spat on instead othe government who sent them to war. I hope all Vets who fought bravely and didn't abuse their power or torture innocents get a happy and fullfilling future in the end. War is terible, but as long as the ones in charge demand it, there will always be soldiers, whether through option or force. But soldiers who fought for the people, their country, justice, and the cilvillians of the conflicted country they were sent to deserve to be honored.

Perhaps if a few Vets got together and wrote a journal about their experiences it might help civillians to understand just a bit better, and maybe change a few oppinions in the process.

Of course this is just a suggestion.

Either way, I hope that those who fought bravely but took no joy in war will live to see a bright and peaceful future.

Christopher M.
Christopher M.6 years ago

Nothing against the vets at all, but it is Operation Iraqi Liberation, OIL. I am right behind Michael Klare on this one, who wrote Blood For Oil. Life as we know it requires vast quantities of cheap oil and guess where it is. Where the troops are.

Thinking maybe we could invest those resources in renewables or at least nuclear. Or at least have a 20 year plan to get started.

Mary Emmons
Mary Emmons6 years ago

WOW some interesting points made by all. I still want to Thank our vets for standing up for what they believe in. Not everyone has the courage or the stamina to do what they do. Do we always have to point fingers and call people names????

William Y.
William Y6 years ago

As one of those who was called "baby killer," I can say that the way American combat vets are treated is disgusting. Many who returned from the current crop of stupid wars, have been denied help since they were alleged to have had these problems, usually mental, before their service, which is insane since, if they had these problems, they wouldn't have been accepted into the military at all.

Thomas Baxter
Thomas Baxter6 years ago

Veterans Day 2011

“I choose to honor our veterans, not only on Veteran's Day, but daily, by supporting an end to military warfare to prevent further fighting and dying in needless wars."
Mayor Gayle McLaughlin

Don’t thank me for my service, I take no pride, satisfaction, or pleasure in my helping murder millions of people that never did anything to harm me or mine. Never threatened my country, who only wanted to overthrow the yoke of imperialism. Didn’t even attack a colony of ours we had conquered a half century before as the Japanese did. I only have shame, doubt, self hate and sorrow. There are some who resent or even hate Vietnamese, or as they were called incountry, Gooks, Slopes, Dinks, or VC for their resistance to us, the invaders. I bear the Vietnamese and all our past or current official enemies, the peoples of Nicaragua, el Salvador, Venezuela, Dominica, Cuba, Cambodia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Palestine, Pakistan, Korea, Lebanon, Okinawa, Somalia, Yemen, Panama, Dominica over the decades no ill will, but only sympathy for downrange of the most powerful military force in history.

I stopped going to Veterans Day things years ago. One big reason is the profuse thanking the military as responsible for our freedoms. When I came back from Vietnam, a year and a day Dr Martin Luther King was shot down under the watchful eye of the FBI, I did a lot of reading of America’s history of its two centuries of endless wars. I also studied the

Meghan D.
Meghan D6 years ago

Beautiful piece - thank you.

Lindy E.
Belinda E6 years ago

@Ernest R, I think we can safely assume that Thomas B is a rabid anti-war nut trying for irony and only coming across as wacko.

Having been a college student during the Vietnam war, I have to agree with some commenters that the wars we've been fighting lately - ever since Korea, in fact - do seem to have little connection with protecting our freedom, unless it's just by keeping in practice for the real thing (a cold-blooded way of looking at it). They seem to have a lot more to do with politics and Big Business. But that is not the fault of the men and women who failthfully serve.

Having a military that is committed to protecting us, and which takes its orders from a civilian government, is as critical to maintaining our freedom now as it was a hundred years ago. The shame goes to the political system that misuses that might.

Ernest R.
Ernest R6 years ago

@ Thomas B Ah, a proud American whose mass murders.kept Anmerica free. I think you are not beong ironic but really are a psycopath and proud of it. Because of people like you, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Haiti, Panama, Guatemala, Pakistan, Bahrain, Somalia, Yemen and Nicaragua have not invaded the United States and taken away our freedom.. Can you imagine what America would look like if all those countries ever got enough rowboats to attack the West Coast ? Seriously, are you trying to be ironic ? Nobody could be that wacko and still be outside.

Thomas Baxter
Thomas Baxter6 years ago

I'm proud my help murder millions of Vietnamese during my tour helped keep America free. Can anyone imagine what America would look like if we had had to fight the Vietnamese on the West Coast? Just as our attacks/bombing/wars on the side of justice, freedom and democracy in Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Haiti, Panama, Guatemala, Pakistan, Bahrain, Somalia, Yemen and Nicaragua has protected our freedom. America has always stood as a 'City of the Hill' a beacon of freedom, justice and liberty for the world as soon as our noble Christan forefathers ethnically cleansed the trespassing terrorist savages with hot lead and cold steel. All great nations have a history of massive bloodletting and who can deny America is a great nation?