The term veteran is vague in a sense that the definition changes based on who you ask.
There is a widely accepted answer to this question that has spread like wildfire. “A Veteran is someone who in his life wrote a blank check made payable to the USA for an amount “up to and including their life.” Written by an unknown author.
As in all things, veterans have different points of view. A veteran is someone who has made a decision to serve this nation in capacities that will conflict every ounce of their core being.
When our paycheck is so low that we qualify for welfare while on active duty, we serve. When we don’t agree, we serve. When orders conflict with our own religious, moral, and ethical beliefs, we serve. Ask anyone who has had to kill someone. When told to actually press the button that drops the bombs that are going to kill everything within miles, we serve.
When we know that another deployment is going to rip our family apart, we serve. Even knowing that our children could be gone by the time we get back because our spouse just couldn’t take it anymore, we serve. When we know that for the rest of our lives, our families will never understand us, we serve. While we try to shield our families from the horrors of the world that we have seen, we serve.
Even while seeing how this country treated the generation before us when they returned from Vietnam, we volunteered to serve. When we know that these missions are going to haunt us for the rest of your lives, we serve. When our friends die in combat, and we question the need for these wars, we serve. When our friends commit suicide because they just couldn’t take it anymore, we serve.
If the president is black, white, democrat, or republican, we serve. That’s the price that this generation is paying, since we have been engaged in the longest war in the history of America. This generation didn’t have to be drafted, we volunteered. To serve.
So to answer my initial question; what is a veteran? I still don’t know what a veteran is, but I know one when I see one. A veteran can look at another and tell without saying a word. This is because when we look into the eyes of another warrior, we see the pain that is within us.
The original article was published on the front page of the Mississippi Link newspaper.
De’Keither is a retired Iraq war veteran. He is a world renowned speaker and advocate.
- Vet: Honor WWII survivors now, while they’re alive (sfgate.com)
- Are more veterans killing themselves today than after Vietnam? (slate.com)