I am a Veteran, I served 8 years on active duty in the United States Navy. I’ve deployed twice, been to 5 countries, have over 600 days at sea, and I loved every minute of it (even the parts I hated I loved).
This Veterans day I want to address a few things with my fellow Vets as well as those who’ve never served.
1. You’re not a snowflake.
Since September 11 2001 our military has done just fine with hitting their recruitment numbers. Some men & women signed up to ‘get back’ at those who took 3,000 innocent American lives. Others signed up for the great benefits; and the final group, the one I belong to signed up because we felt a sense of duty to our country as well as knowing that we needed the military.
I was accepted to college, but I fucking hated school. I was unmotivated and had no idea what it was I wanted to do, so I joined the Navy knowing it would discipline me and I’d have a chance to become a man and do some awesome shit.
I separated from the Navy as an E6 as well as the Sailor of the year for my command in 2014. I can’t count the number of times that I have had military guys get in my face or challenge me online using their military service as some form of ‘trump card’ (no disrespect to our President-Elect).
My fellow Vets, just because someone doesn’t have the US Flag patch on their hat, or they aren’t wearing a piece of clothing which annotates their unit from a past life it does not mean they never served. It means they’ve closed that chapter of their life and don’t feel the need to share their service with the world.
Don’t say shit like, “I served so I deserve X” or “I was active duty so I have a more important opinion than you” as that shit is just barely less annoying than the entitlement that is shown by the youth of today.
You aren’t entitled to shit from people just because you fought for this country. From the VA? fuck yes as they owe you what was promised. I use their services and thus far I have no complaints as I’ve received everything they promised. If the VA is fucking you over, yeah, drop the war hero lines on them and get them to unfuck themselves.
But, when you aren’t getting what you want whether it be standard of service at a restaurant, the price of a product you want at discount, or in an online argument – don’t fucking bring your military service into the mix, it has no place and makes you look weak, if you have an argument then let your position stand on it’s own merit, don’t try to intimidate via ‘vet’ status.
If the topic of discussion does not directly correlate with your time in uniform, let it go.
I deployed; I missed my son’s first birthday, his first steps, and all sorts of doctors’ appointments and milestones in the beginning of his life. My wife took pictures & videos, she did all she could but it’s not the same as being there, but I digress…
I had a fresh reservist whose never deployed (He only had a National Defense Ribbon and I overheard his reserve buddies talking) tell me I should appreciate the sacrifice he made for this country when I told him he should let it go that the store didn’t have a military discount. I didn’t pull out my awards, higher rank, or my military stats as what would that have done? I just said it again – cool, calm, and collected, “Let it go.” and with a huff and a puff, he did.
You never know who you’re talking to, they may be a Veteran as well and it’s safe to assume that they are if they are challenging you in uniform.
Don’t be a dick, you aren’t special.
2. Get rid of hero complex
I was an engineer in the Navy. I worked all over my ship working on pumps, HP/LP lines, Cryogenics, and all sorts of miscellaneous machinery.
I never fired a weapon at any terrorists and the closest I came to being shot by an ‘bad guy’ was when an enemy submarine snuck through our defenses and popped up near my ship. We went to General Quarters and I ran off to my pump-room where I closed the hatch and I distinctly remember thinking, “So this is where it ends”.
I spent the next however long down their watches gauges waiting to get blown up.
I didn’t come home saying I was a war hero and I didn’t tell people I was some sort of Navy SEAL. I was an engineer and am fucking proud of that; we aren’t all Joe Operators, yet some guys cannot let go of that.
Some Veterans, years after serving, still talk about how they didn’t do enough or if they’re on the other side of the spectrum they embellish the shit out of their stories.
Don’t fuck around with Stolen Valor, you served your country – take pride in that. You have to have some honor in who you are and what you did. If you want to ‘prove’ yourself, do so here and now. Take charge of your life in this moment and carry that momentum forward. Do awesome things in this phase of your life and stop looking back wishing you did more and definitely stop spreading stories that aren’t true.
This is me, a brother in arms telling you that you did enough – now keep on doing.
3. Maintain Standards
Brothers & Sisters, this will be the shortest message of the bunch.
Get your ass back in shape.
The number of Veterans who are fat as fuck and weak as shit is too damn high. Use your old Semi-Annual Physical Fitness Tests as your bench mark to where you are at now compared to then. Sailors, run your 1.5 miles & check your time then do a max set of push-ups and sit ups in 2 minutes; Marines, run a damn CFT/PFT.
We still represent our communities, take pride in that. You are a Veteran of the United States Military, look the part.
1. Standards & Thresholds
One of the greatest things the Navy instilled in me was a limitless amount of self-confidence and energy. They made me believe that there was nothing I couldn’t do. It also set a new threshold for what I could endure.
The Navy set the bar as to what was difficult so high, that since leaving the service I have yet to be truly stressed, uncomfortable, angry, or scared. I had some wild moments in the Navy and nothing I’ve experienced in the civilian sector even comes close.
If you’ve never served you’ve never experienced the extreme stress that can be placed on the body and mind of a person while still having them operate efficiently.
Just because you haven’t served, it doesn’t mean you can’t train yourself to raise those bars in your life.
Do things that make you uncomfortable. Join an MMA gym instead of ‘Curves’. When you’ve been in a chokehold and fought to remain conscious, filling out paperwork at the DMV isn’t so hard.
Raise the bars in your life by experiencing some intentional discomfort. It will improve your threshold of performance in every area of your life.
2. Be the citizen we served for
You can ‘thank a Veteran‘ all you want, it makes us uncomfortable but I get it. What we would all appreciate, much more than a handshake would be for those who never served to act like better people. When I look at people parading around the streets with a noose around a balloon Donald Trump I ask myself what the fuck is the difference between us and those knocking on our door looking to wipe our country off the face of this planet.
Thank your military by being a quality person. Politeness and good deeds are contagious, if you raise your personal standard you allow others to do the same.
3. There is still a war going on
If you were never in the military, I doubt you think about the war at all. I think of it every day, many Veterans do.
Right now there is an 18 year old kid who is walking outside the wire for the first time. He’s scared shitless praying to whatever god he believes in that he comes back alive, with all of his limbs.
I’m writing this post from the comforts of my home; my wife and kids are safe, my life is not in danger, and my friends and family are safe. All of this is because there are others who are fighting on my behalf. They are taking the fight to our enemy’s doorstep.
To be honest, of the few guys I’ve kept in touch with who are still serving, there are only two who I know are currently down range and every day I’m hoping to not get that phone call. They’re motivated dudes who are both literally at the tip of America’s spear.
Remember these things when you tuck your kids into bed, when you make love to your wife, and when you think your day is too much to handle. Think of that 19 year old kid or better yet think of the two Airborne men who died a week ago. Those men were 30 & 34 years old – I’m 29, they were just older than me and now they are gone.
They are gone forever, leaving their family and friends behind, because like the warriors they fucking were they lived hard and died fighting because they believed in their mission and they believed in their country.
Honor them by living your life with ferocious passion and never taking a moment of it for granted.
To my fellow Veterans, Cheers.