What Kind of Veteran Are You?

Veterans with an American Flag
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What Kind of Veteran Are You?

I recently stumbled upon a question on Facebook, about how many veterans feel that they are looked at as less of a Veteran if they didn’t serve in combat. This question is a problem for me as I do feel like I’m not a real veteran or a real Marine because I never saw combat. I served from March 2nd, 1988, to June 20, 1998, and if you are not someone who follows history, this was towards the end of the Cold War, but the only real combat operation was the Gulf War (Operation Desert Shield/Storm). And if you are not schooled about the Gulf War, very few troops were called up and put into action.

It was also a time of drawdowns (reducing the number of troops) and base closures and re-alignments, “Base Realignment and Closure” (BRAC)  It kills me to think that only 25% of the citizens in the U.S. can qualify for active duty and that only 1% of the U.S. population serves in the U.S. Military, we need to even produce a way to make ourselves even more elite, by separating combat and non-combat veterans.

I was extremely interested to see that I’m not the only one who feels like they are a sub-par veteran because they did not serve in combat. But here is where the real problem is. Unless you are somehow special, you don’t have much choice in where the military sends you. I do want to point out that I’m highly likely harder on myself than on others about this. The sad part is that there are many veterans like me, who are pretty messed up in the head over this. It is a form of PTSD (and no we are not trying to get the VA to pay us for it), and like me, many have struggled with these feelings longer than they were on active duty.

It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself a “sub-par”, “second string” or “Second-class” veteran, the thing we all need to remember is that we all joined the team, and attended all the practices, but we never got called up for the “big game” (meaning we joined the military and never got to serve in combat). But we were ready, willing, and able to serve wherever needed. The military just thought that our job was important to the “team” or they would not have staffed it. We all signed on the same dotted line and raised our hands to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. We all agreed to give up everything up to and including our lives for our country, and we all fulfilled the terms of our contract with the United States. Sadly, one person’s sacrifice is less than someone else’s. If you talk to most Marines, we will tell you that we were not fortunate enough to serve in combat. All through boot camp and our time in the Marine Corps, we were “brainwashed” into thinking that combat is all we are made for.

Wounded Veteran
Wounded Veteran

The funny thing is it isn’t the civilians that ask if you were in combat, it is those veterans that were in combat, that have a chip on their shoulder and want to start a pissing contest about who served in combat. The civilians don’t care and don’t know any better. It seems that Veteran Service Officers (VSOs), Politicians, and combat vets are the only ones who care. The rest of us wish we got the opportunity to see combat and use the training and skills that we were taught.

So, for those of us who feel this way or for those of you who feel you are somehow superior because you were in combat, let me remind you of the following. It takes somewhere around 9-10 non-combat jobs/billets to support one combat job or billet, no job in the military is unimportant. How do I produce that number, you ask? Each combat billet will require food, water, uniforms, ammunition, and medical personnel, such as medics/corpsmen, nurses, doctors, and support staff, plus all associated equipment, intel, and wrench turners to get the job done. If every ablebody was in combat, then who fixes the equipment, and who gets the supplies and ammunition to the hands of those in combat? How about food and water, an army travels on its stomach, and if you say that you can eat MREs all the time, then someone still needs to purchase them and get them into the hands of those on the ground. Plus, if you eat MREs for an extended period, you start to get, well let’s say back up and not feeling very well. The U.S. military war machine is just that, a machine, and we are all cogs in that big machine, when a cog is missing, then the machine either stops or moves at a reduced speed.

We are all veterans, all have a mission, all obey orders and keep the military going, by doing our part. We all raised our hands and went through the training, but at the end of the day, someone must pull the trigger, and someone must stand watch. We had no control over the hand we were dealt, and we were all dealt different hands as no two veterans had the same experience.

Let me use a certain Air Force pilot, who got shot down by a SA-6 missile in Bosnia. During his preflight briefing, he along with the other pilots, should have been told about the SA-6 missile activity in that area as my buddy in the Corps was the one who was supposedly doing the briefing about this particular SAM (surface-to-air missile). Regardless of the mechanics or the intel, he and his F-16 were shot down.

He spent the next six days applying what he learned in his Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) training to survive. We sent in two CH-53 Sea Stallions with 51 Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines within the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, along with two Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra gunship helicopters,  two Marine Corps Harrier jump jets two Navy EA-6B Prowler (electronic warfare aircraft with giant signal jammers) and other Marine Corps and Navy aircraft into Bosnia to rescue him. He received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, and the Marines and Sailors, received a thank you, maybe. Regardless of the politics, I used this story in my daily teachings to young Intelligence Marines. Not complaining about how the Marine Corps intelligence was ignored, but instead of how we are all one big machine and all parts matter, period.

Marines to the rescue
Marines to the rescue

A veterans, we feel that we are still not worthy, as veteran organization like the VFW that alienate veterans, and why many veterans avoid organizations like the American Legion, as they just don’t feel like they belong and if and when they get the courage to attend one night, they end up sitting next between two combat veterans telling stories about war and how those that didn’t serve in combat don’t rate. In fact there are many veteran organizations that only serve combat veterans.

I can’t take credit for the following words, but they sum up my post perfectly. In my opinion as someone who did see active service, everyone who served honourably in any branch of service is a Veteran. The military is a team and a team does not succeed without coaches, water persons, strappers, administrators, reserves etc. Therefore EVERYONE contributes to the success of operations, even those not in theatre. You are all Veterans and be proud of it.

It is so bad that some veterans will tell people that they don’t deserve their thanks as they didn’t see combat. I can see where they are coming from, but let’s dissect that a little. I served 10 years, with two six-month unaccompanied deployments to Japan. I attended somewhere over two years of formal training, which were also all away from home. My last duty station, I was an instructor, and I was working 10-12 hour days 6-7 days a week, missing quality time with my family. I made sacrifices as did my family.

I have been out of the military for 25 years now and I still struggle when people tell me “Thank you for your service”. I usually just reply with “Thank you for your support” and then I quickly leave the area, to avoid further questions where they would eventually discover that I was just a POG and I didn’t really matter.

We all raised our right hand and repeated the following oath:

“I, ‘state your name’, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

This particular oath does not have an expiration date and we were never told that our oath is no longer valid.

Today, as a veteran, I take is as my personal crusade to ensure that every veteran is working through the VA disability process. Very few of us got out completely unscaved, but many of us don’t think that my bad knees or bad back are anything to complain about. I have bad knees, likely for carrying 80-100 pounds on my back and then humping just for the “fun” of it. I have bad feet for the same thing, plus wearing combat boots, which are basically very hard soled leather boots that are not very forgiving to say the least. In fact bad knees and feet are two of the most common issues. I also have a bad shoulder which is very likely for grabbing my alice pack or sea bag and slinging it up onto my shoulder to carry it. I have bad lungs for being exposed to a wide variety of chemicals to include working on a 8×20 foot conex box on the flightline, sucking in jet fuel fumes for three and a half years and I’m sure that crashed EA-6B that I got to stand watch over was safe to be around. The funny thing, is that my hearing is actually better than what it was when I joined. There is a very strong possibility that my Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia are caused by my time on active duty, but proving it is another thing. If I can give one piece of advice to all my fellow brothers and sisters who are on active duty currently, it would be to make sure that you go to medical and get your problems well documented. You fell down and smashed your face while on duty, don’t just brush it off, get it on record, you may need that Nexus records later in life. And for all my fellow veterans, if you haven’t already, start your VA disability claim today. It is free money that is owed to you that you are leaving on the table.

In the end, we are as Gunny Hartman said “You are nothing but unorganized, grabastic pieces of amphibian shit” … “you are all equally worthless”. Part 2 of this post is about gender equality in the military

Full Metal Jacket Gunny Hartman
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Average Joe

Welcome to the Average Joe Weekly blog. This is basically my place on the web where I can help spread some of the knowledge that I have accumulated over the years. I served 10+ years in the Marine Corps on Active Duty, but that was some 25 years ago.


  • Average Joe

    Welcome to the Average Joe Weekly blog. This is basically my place on the web where I can help spread some of the knowledge that I have accumulated over the years. I served 10+ years in the Marine Corps on Active Duty, but that was some 25 years ago.

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By Average Joe

Welcome to the Average Joe Weekly blog. This is basically my place on the web where I can help spread some of the knowledge that I have accumulated over the years. I served 10+ years in the Marine Corps on Active Duty, but that was some 25 years ago.

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