I originally wrote this for my blog, but then decided that perhaps it's information that I can better encourage debate on here.
Yesterday, the local morning conservative talk show host brought up a question about the status of veterans. He said that words mean things and he's right. The issue was the Stolen Valor Act (which I disagree with, believe it or not) and whether veterans that never served in Vietnam, but served in the military during the Vietnam War, can be called “Vietnam Veterans.”
The host was trying to make the case that if someone serves in the military during a time of war, there is nothing wrong with calling themselves a “[insert campaign/war name] Veteran.” I wholeheartedly disagree. I see his point of view, but military personnel don't think this way.
For example, I was in the Army during Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq, but I'm only an Iraq Veteran. I never served in those other conflicts (well, I head to Afghanistan in a few weeks) and would NEVER call myself a Kosovo Veteran or a Bosnia Veteran. I would never call myself an Afghanistan Veteran before serving there!
The next point was that many veterans are beginning to use the term “Vietnam-Era or Desert Storm-Era Veteran.” I'm confused by this. My father served in the Navy (32 years before retiring) during the Vietnam War and has NEVER called himself a Vietnam-Era Veteran. He's a Veteran!
The status of “Veteran” is already – or should already be – an honorable title. I don't understand why some veterans seem to want to inflate their status by saying that they served during a particular war. The way I see it is that these people aren't satisfied with their service and are trying to puff themselves up.
For the veterans out there, this is what I'd like to know. I think it confuses civilians who have no clue about military service. They hear Vietnam Veteran or Iraq Veteran and the assumption is that this Soldier or Marine or whatever served IN combat!
The host thinks it's okay for veterans to just call themselves veterans of a particular war just by virtue of serving during a time of conflict. Now, I can see his point. To some degree, everyone that serves in the military during wartime is to some degree helping the effort. We still have a stateside mission of training and equipping forward deployed units, but it's a completely different job entirely. You can't be a veteran of war when you've never been in potential life-threatening danger. And I think that just the act of serving in and of itself is an honorable endeavor worthy of respect from Americans whether that honorable service lasted a month or 32 years!!
Not everyone gets to serve in combat. Sometimes it's by choice and sometimes it's just the cards that are dealt. Just ask my wife how frustrated I've been that I haven't deployed since I returned from the Iraq War in late 2003! While others have 3, 4, and 5 deployments, I've been resting on ONE! It drives me nuts, but I kept getting slotted in positions that weren't deployable.
When I got home from Iraq, I was PCS'd (moved for civilians out there) to Fort Irwin to head up the Task Force IED to train deploying troops on how to recognize, identify, and react to IEDs. The position was a non-deployable position that I was in for about two years. I was chosen for the position based on my experiences with them in Iraq. After that, I was transferred to a unit in D.C. with a very specialized mission. I did have a chance to deploy to an interrogation billet, but that jackwagon John McCain ruined my deployment when he made changes to the definition of an “interrogator” and I was immediately considered “unqualified” despite my extensive training and experience. This, of course, was a response to the Abu Ghraib situation and qualified interrogators must have gone through the military interrogation school. I went through a defense-contracted interrogation course that basically taught the same thing, but wasn't good enough even though I was a highly successful interrogator in Iraq, capturing 8 of the top 55 in the deck of cards! After that assignment, I was assigned as a First Sergeant at a strategic unit in Huntsville, AL – another non-deployable slot.
So, I couldn't help it for the past six years. When it was time to move on, I ensured I would get deployed and chose a unit I knew was slated to head to Afghanistan. I want to do my part and I don't feel comfortable personally resting on my one deployment while so many others have sacrificed so much more.
There are instances where that happens, but the jobs that I filled during the past six years were just as important. It was a vital piece of the overall mission that SOMEONE has to do and there is nothing dishonorable or wrong with that. Why would any veteran want to call themselves a Vietnam Veteran, Desert Storm Veteran, Iraq Veteran, or Afghanistan Veteran when they didn't actually fight in those wars unless they were trying to mislead people? Why do some of our veterans feel the need to identify themselves as an “era” veteran? Have we really diminished the service of our great Americans that much that the mere act of serving and being a “Veteran” is no longer enough?
I don't think so.