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veteran problems

Dedicated to Jake H. Image via

If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of veteran problems.

The biggest veteran problems come when those who served say, “I didn’t sign up for this.”

What is the ‘this’ in “I didn’t sign up for this?”

The ‘this’ veterans talk about is the hard part for non-veterans to understand.

Even veterans of different eras disagree on the ‘this’ part of being veterans.

It’s time for some of that clarity to clear things up.

The war horses from WWII got called back to uniform for the Korea War, then listened while draft aged men during the Vietnam War complained in the Sixties.

“You don’t understand, son. This is what we do in America. We war on people who don’t get it. If you don’t get it, we war on you.”

Every war might be different, but every post-war ought to have more things in common. The trick is getting to the post-war sooner than later. How long have things dragged out in the last two wars?

If men and women ship out to a war zone and get back in one piece, they’ve earned the sort of respect all veterans deserve.

What they’ve earned: quality medical attention, informed counseling, help building a network of like minded people.

The like minded people part is a stumbling block. When people come from as diverse a nation as America, where do they find common ground?

Military training is that common ground.

The idea of showing up on time and ready to go, ready to do something you’ve planned on, or been surprised with, is common ground.

Working with the goal of stuffing ten pounds of potatoes into five pound bags and keeping everything normal and organized is hard to explain.

Once you process out of the service it’s not like you’re leaving that part of your life behind. With the All-volunteer Army leading the way you’ll find veterans the rest of your life, as well as too non-veterans who figure they could hack it if they had served.

Maybe they could, maybe they couldn’t. They’ll never know that truth, the veterans’ truth.

Most of them get a moist eye when they talk about the military because they’ve had family members in uniform.

Baby Boomers Know Veteran Problems

A grandpa or dad who served doesn’t give anyone a free pass on veteran status. You can’t ride those coattails, but you can show some appreciation.

For example, say you’re a former Army medic, not a Combat Medic, just a staff orderly according to the job description on some officer’s desk.

Instead of the path of least resistance, as in not volunteering for anything, avoiding extra duty, the young medic turns into a First Responder on an inner-city ambulance crew.

Instead of shirking duty when possible the young medic stands up every chance he’s got to go places he’s never been and do things he’s never done.

This sort of veteran goes against the Sgt. Rock stereotype, the blood and guts, hard charging hell for leather manly men we enjoy seeing in ourselves. We all capable of the impossible until we’re asked to do the impossible. Medics do it all day and all night.

Army medics are the guys picking up the fallen, the injured, the people who make decisions that cause more to fall, more to injury. They get them all. They pick up the broken pieces and try not to break anything else.

Circumstance puts people in places to succeed or fail. Whether they’re ready or not, they act based on training. It all comes back to military training and that five pound sack for ten pounds of spuds.

Some are trained to kill, some trained to heal. All are veterans who earn your respect.

To paraphrase JFK, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask how you can fit ten pounds of potatoes into a five pound bag and keep it clean and tidy.”

Most of us carry a load bigger than ten pounds of potatoes in a five pound bag, but we do our best to keep it cleaned up and presentable.

What is presentable? Ask someone who knows the smell of a sack of potatoes on a two week rot.


About David Gillaspie
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