As an Army veteran, there have always been a few things I find annoying in my interactions with non-veterans.
Sometimes it’s their choice in fashion, but most often it’s the questions I’m asked that make me wonder whether we’re from the same planet.
A few weeks ago as I was checking my ACES account, I came upon an email about SAC’s Veteran’s Day celebration. I opened it, interested in what our school would be doing on the day we, as a nation, choose to honor all veterans — dead and living.
I then read one of the events is “make your own dog tags,” and could not help laughing to myself. It has always baffled me that people who never served in the military wear dog tags as a fashion accessory.
Young children, I understand, wanting to wear them. But for adults who have never served to wear them, especially out of their shirt, I don’t understand. It’s like wearing a toe-tag for a corpse as a fashion item.
In my second week of basic combat training, I made the mistake of not properly wearing my dog tags. I’d just put my shirt on and had a tag remain visible because it was caught on my collar. Next thing I know, I am standing “at-ease” next to a wall with a drill sergeant strangling me with my own tags.
After nearly a minute of being berated with words that would make Chuck Norris cry, which was only made worse with my inability to answer him, he finally let me go, saying he wasn’t in the “killing mood.”
I fell to the ground gasping for breath with a clear understanding that the only time my tags are to be visible, unless I am changing, is when I am dead.
Another fashion I don’t get is wearing military-like clothing. It’s a uniform we wore daily with great pride and removed once our mission was over. It’s something we’d work in, we’d fight in and possibly die in. It’s not something we’d wear casually out and about.
So when I see people wearing military-like clothes, I find it as hilarious as seeing someone not in the medical field wearing scrubs or a lab coat out in public.
The uniform, as with the dog tags, are things we earned the right to wear.
Alas, the questions.
Here are some that are OK to ask:
“What branch were you in? What was your job? Where did you get stationed? What was your overall experience?”
I have no problem with those.
They don’t invade my privacy nor show a lack of consideration.
They also leave me with an opportunity to either share more of my experiences or keep my answers short and sweet to end the conversation.
More often, though, I am asked questions like these:
“Did you join because you didn’t know what you wanted to be in life? Were you not smart enough for college?”
I knew what I wanted to do in life, and enlist and serve my country was it.
“What’s it like to kill someone, seriously, what’s it like? How many people have you killed?”
First, not all veterans have been in engagements with the enemy. Second, why would someone think this is a good question?
“Why didn’t you join the (insert other branch) — they are better than the Army?”
Not all of us joined to do the same thing, and insulting any branch is not OK from a civilian. We veterans have an inter-branch rivalry, but we still take each other’s back in any fight. We have earned the right for the rivalry.
“Did you lose any friends in the war? What was it like to watch your buddies die?”
Just because I volunteered for the military doesn’t mean I am then instantly devoid of emotion. This is like asking you to relive the worst moments in your life for my curiosity.
“Is it like ‘Call of Duty’? What’s your kill ratio?”
A video game? You seriously think the military could possibly be like a video game? Oh yeah, I’ve been killed thousands of times. Good thing life is full of respawns.
“Have you ever been blown up? Do you have PTSD?”
Not every veteran has PTSD, and if I do, why would I want to talk to you about it?
“How brainwashed are you? How many anger issues do you have because of the Army?”
These are seriously loaded questions, implying I have to be psychologically damaged just from serving. I often find myself fighting the urge to throat-punch the asker.
“Do you know my friend Jodie McPogue?”
There are roughly 2.2 million people in the military — even if they are in the same branch that is still more than one in a million chance — so, no, I don’t know them.
I also like to make something up for the answer:
“Oh yeah, Pvt. Jodie McPogue! He’s the guy who wet the bed and always cried himself to sleep.”