On Veterans and Veterans Day

It’s kind of nice having a day off towards the end of the week. It’s a way to get “two Fridays.”

I used to write a lot about veterans and Veterans Day. People seemed to enjoy it.

But then I joined up a second time and it gets kind of weird.

One of the things that have always perplexed me is the confusion as to what constitutes a veteran. I’ve met lots of people who think that because they have not deployed they don’t count.

If you’ve served, then you are a veteran.

Anyway, I’ve compiled some of the more interesting pieces I’ve written on veterans and Veterans Day below. These are mostly evergreen, despite often referencing something going on in the world at the time.

There’s a lot more than the below, and clicking through any one of them can take you down a veteran rabbit hole.

Hope you enjoy.


Cloud Strife: A Veteran Lost in the Twilight of Sentimentality and Nostalgia – At some point during the end of my re-enlistment I replayed Final Fantasy VII. It’s then that I realized that at the heart of the story is a veteran dealing with some serious trauma with a sprinkle of stolen valor. It’s always something I’ve wanted to write on more deeply because Cloud Strife is such a well-known figure. Maybe when the next chapter of the remake comes out…

The Special Responsibility of Veterans in the Social Media Era – More than anyone else, veterans are able to tell the story. It’s like a superpower. And with great power comes great responsibility.

The Post-9/11 Veteran and Middle East Studies – When people ask me what my major in college was and I tell them Middle East studies, they almost always follow up with “was it because you went to Iraq?”

The answer is yes. That is exactly why.

Veterans: When I ask you about things, can you not be a condescending dick about it? – Don’t get me started on coconut bundt cake.

Veterans Drifting to the Dark World of Conspiracies – The veteran community has a problem with losing our own down a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories that gets them in trouble.

Damn it feels good to be a veteran – Why? Because it often feels like you’re at the center of the world.

T.E. Lawrence on Veterans Day – My favorite quote when it comes to Veterans Day.

Jacob’s Ladder and the need for “serious talk” for veterans – Oof. This hurts.

On getting out – I’ve met few people who don’t have some twinge of regret for getting out of the service. Not universal, I know.

The Best Years of Our Lives – This is one of the more recent things I’ve written. I have no idea how I’ve missed this movie for all of these years, but it captures the feeling of coming home – the real feeling of coming home – better than anything else I’ve seen.

Enjoy these posts? Follow me on Twitter and sign up for the monthly newsletter.

Veterans Day 2013 Link Drop

017

Veterans Day is a good day when it comes to military writing. It is a great peg for folks in the sphere to say what they want to say and get it out there to someone who might not normally read military stuff.

Here are some of the more interesting pieces I’ve seen over the past couple of days. I know there are more out there that I haven’t got to. If you have a recommendation, add it to the comments and I’ll add it to the list below.

Reunion Clips of Soldiers and Their Loves Ones Have Become Just Another Form of Entertainment (The Daily Beast) – This is what I wrote for Veterans Day. It’s about the spectacle of viral-ready “reunion” videos that appear on the internet and on news programs, essentially as entertainment.

Help Veterans by Taking Them Off the Pedestal (The Atlantic) – A piece by Alex Horton on why over-idealizing veterans may do more harm than good.

On Military Service (Rhino Den) – I have a love/hate relationship with Ranger Up. Often, they post very reactionary or inflammatory essays – but it’s always had a “in the barracks” feel to it, which is probably good for people to see. Nick at Ranger Up often writes really, really good stuff, though. This is one of them.

The Vets We Reject and Ignore (The New York Times) – By Phillip Carter. A short Op-Ed about discharges in the military.

Retiring the Vietnam-Veteran Stereotype (The Atlantic) – By Sally Satel and Richard McNally. About the struggle veterans face during reintegration because of some of the old stereotypes out there fueled by Hollywood and the media.

And of course, every Veterans Day, someone writes a version of this piece: Stop thanking the troops for me: No, they don’t “protect our freedoms.” This year it was Justin Doolittle.

Enjoy these posts? Follow me on Twitter and sign up for the monthly newsletter.

Veterans Day

“Some of them had obeyed the instinct of lawlessness: some were hungry: others thirsted for glamour, the supposed colour of a military life: but, of them all, those only received satisfaction who had sought to degrade themselves, for to the peace-eye they were below humanity.”
-T.E. Lawrence

Enjoy these posts? Follow me on Twitter and sign up for the monthly newsletter.

Remembrance Day

This is an essay I wrote last year while I was in London.

I spent this past Sunday morning standing shoulder to shoulder with thousands of men and women of the armed forces, veterans, family members, and citizens to honor the service and sacrifice of those who had answered the call to arms in wars both past and present. These weren’t my armed forces, or my fellow citizens, though. I was standing in central London, where the British gather yearly on the Sunday nearest Armistice Day (Veterans Day in the US). I served alongside the British in Iraq, and this was an opportunity for me to honor their service as fellow warriors.

As the clock reached the eleventh hour, a cannon fired, accompanied by the first chime of the bell, shaking our bodies and minds into silent obedience, urging our hearts to remember with each successive toll those who will not come home. On cue, the slight drizzle turns into a steady rain. Under a dark London sky, the Royal family and nation’s leaders gather together for a few short moments to recognize and pay tribute to the men and women who have fought and died for the Union Jack. The Queen leads the ceremony by laying a wreath at the Cenotaph, a memorial originally meant to pay tribute to the British who died in the tragically labeled ‘War to end all Wars.’ Then, members of the Royal family lay wreaths, followed by the Prime Minister and other state officials.  When all the wreaths have been laid, veterans march to the cheer of their countrymen, render a smart salute upon passing the Cenotaph, and exit the parade ground, having captured for another moment the spirit of military service, but no closer to solving its meaning. The ceremony is both somber and appreciative, beginning with reflection and tears, and ending with catharsis, pride, and applause.

I’m not British, but this ceremony struck me more than any I have participated in back home. I’ve marched in the New York Veterans Day parade, whose main spectators are the families of those marching, November tourists, and people trying to cross the street.  Memorial Day is commemorated nationally with mattress sales. Here though, for one moment, people throughout the UK (including all the nation’s leaders) stop to honor those who have fought for them.

But it’s not just Remembrance Sunday that people “do something.”  From late October to mid-November, the Royal British Legion sells paper poppies to be worn on the lapels of men and women to show their support. This is the most well-known charity event in the UK, and you would be hard-pressed to find any public figure caught without wearing the small red flower (Harry Potter and company sported them for the release of Deathly Hallows). To me, this is more than a gesture. It is a sign that they actually care. It is a way for a person to not only demonstrate that they have donated money towards veterans, but to tell the world that their veterans matter.

It would be easy to dismiss the poppy as an empty symbol, like we often do with our yellow ribbons, which were slapped to the back of our cars at the turn of the millennium, and have since faded to white. Maybe some people who wear the poppy do it because it is the “right thing to do” but don’t actually care about veterans. Undoubtedly, this will be the case for some. To declare the entire gesture as empty demonstrates a low faith in humanity, though. I’d like to live in a world where people’s expressions can be genuine, so I take the view that what they wear is what they mean. And to be frank, when I see someone wearing a poppy it makes me feel like my service mattered – especially in a country heavily conflicted over its role in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Wearing the poppy is an acknowledgement that taking care of veterans is not a political statement, but a moral responsibility.

Remembrance Sunday is the Super Bowl of veterans’ commemorations. Veterans Day and Memorial day, rolled into one, where heads of state are duty-bound to participate and the country comes together to remember and show its appreciation. As a nation that has asked so much of so few, don’t we owe our veterans the same?

Enjoy these posts? Follow me on Twitter and sign up for the monthly newsletter.