What does it mean to be a veteran?

Dwayne Donovan, Guest Writer


What does it mean to be a veteran? There are text book definitions and then there are definitions that are given by individuals who are asked. Take the time and ask a veteran and those who have not served in the military how they define what a veteran is. For myself, I know, I define a veteran differently than others. A veteran is one who has served in the armed forces of this nation. Many have seen the horrors of battlefields in foreign lands and the horror on our own US soil, while some of us have not. But there is one connection, whether an individual has been in a war zone or not, each one of us has recited the same oath upon enlistment. That same oath carried us through our careers in the military, and some even carry that oath with them into the civilian world. The oath was to protect this nation from all threats, both foreign and domestic. This oath also comes with what a lot of veterans refer to as a blank check for anything up to and including that individual’s life. That blank check is signed upon the completion of the recitation of the oath, and thousands have had to cash it with no hesitation.  

Each person who enters the military, no matter what branch, comes out as a different person than when they first had a drill instructor yelling in their faces. The military changes who we are, how we think, teaches us values, sacrifices, and gives us a sense of something that most will never truly understand; a sense of brotherhood and camaraderie. Each service member and veteran has their own stories. These stories cover things painful to that individual while others are stories that would make one laugh. If you ever get a chance to sit down and talk with a veteran, listen to the stories that changed that person’s life without hesitation or second thought. Listen to the details that veteran can give you about their story. Watch their emotions change as some stories bring out dark memories. The stories a veteran is willing to share can only begin to help you understand what it takes to have served. You won’t get the full understanding of what it actually takes without serving yourself.

When it comes to transition back into the civilian world, veterans do so with very little help from the government. This time of confusion, trying to readjust to a daily routine, understanding how civilians think and normally act, was once all laid out for us before it was taken away and became structured.

We veterans are just like most Americans with our wants and desires, we just bear some scars, some of which are hidden, and will never be understood by someone outside of the brotherhood. To me, a veteran is and always will be a brother or sister, and the sacrifices that they have made will never go unappreciated.

To show appreciation to a veteran or someone who is still serving in the armed forces offer to sit with them, listen to their stories and try to understand who they are. Remember to respect what they decided to tell you and what they don’t wish to share. Some may not wish to speak of their time in the military, while others would love nothing more than someone to listen. To all who have served or are currently serving and those who support veterans and service members, thank you for your sacrifices and service.

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