The question in the subject line was honestly asked of me today:
Are you even a veteran?!
It is inappropriate to give the entire context of the conversation, but a fellow veteran made this statement–asked this question of me–quite condescendingly. At the tail end of an insanely busy week, it was the last question I expected/wanted to hear in my day. I understand it was a rhetorical question and he didn’t quite expect me to answer in fact that I am. (The anger/frustration/hurt in my voice was not concealed. At what point did our society give up on teaching and reinforcing good manners?! When did insolent behavior become so commonplace?! And is anyone else paying attention to how eager people are to act this way over the internet and on the phone?!)
I do not know this person well enough to understand how much his comments were part male privilege and/or veteran entitlement. Let’s give this person the “benefit” of the doubt and take male privilege off the table for a moment–let us assume he wasn’t making two digs at me, but just the one:
His veteran status is more important (in his eyes/mind) than my personhood, my assumed non-veteran status.
This issue infuriates me greatly. While I may crack jokes about Marines being better than Airmen, for example, I leave many of these comments in-house, with fellow veterans whose camaraderie I enjoy. Some will playfully chide in return that Marines are crazy, just look at the crap we put up with compared with our sister service branches. We do earn each other’s respect. I don’t put down my peers who did not deploy; the more I learn about my peer group the more I understand how luck/leadership/health/various other factors contributed to my ability to deploy and their inability to deploy. My infantry peers also respect me and don’t derogatorily called me a POG (person other than grunt).
Years ago, I made the natural assumption almost everyone who was in the military during my 4 years of active duty would equally deploy. This notion made sense to me. We were (and are) in a post-9/11 where terrorism occurs in expected and unexpected places. I expected everyone who served after 9/11 would serve overseas in places like Afghanistan and Iraq and it was a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ they would deploy. I am learning more now–as a veteran–military life and service experiences are more diverse than my naive expectations.
Veteran entitlement though is an issue that eats our veteran community from the inside out and ruins our collective relationship with our civilian communities and other veterans. I didn’t expect to come across this attitude. It runs counter to another veteran type I see–veterans who are placed in the most dangerous environments, who do the best with their resources, and care highly for their teams. Most veterans will fall along the spectrum from highly entitled to highly altruistic, just like their non civilian counterparts. Today was just my encounter with a highly entitled person who thought it was appropriate to bring me down and there are many more like him in the world.
This attitude is not how veterans should behave. I’m sorry for anyone who experiences this person on a daily basis or in a casual encounter like I did. No one should behave this way as part of their daily interactions. Veterans are trained to be our nation’s best and some, unfortunately, never (or rarely) take that message to heart.
My goal is to not act like this veteran namely because I know better. I am a Post-9/11 veteran. I am a Marine veteran. I am an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran. I earned my veteran status but I did not forget my status still comes with expectations. I am a representative of my service branch and I have an equal burden and responsibility to behave appropriately in public.