My Humbling Transition to Civilian Life
By: Levi Newman
I was out to dinner with my wife the other night when I caught myself saying to the waiter, “But I’m a veteran!” It got me to thinking about how much I use that term in a negative manner.
I’ve been the guy that cursed out the young cashier at Best Buy because she asked for my ID when I bought an R-rated movie. “I’m a veteran,” I said, to excuse my behavior.
What an absolute fool, right? Just because we’re veterans doesn’t mean things always go my way.
Doing the Right Thing
When I was stationed at Fort Campbell in 2001, General Richard Cody once made a speech to my unit about doing the right thing, even when no one is watching. It was a speech that I’ve tried to live by every day.
Truth be told, I’ve let the general down. I’ve often talked about pride and how we should be proud of our service, but I’d taken that a step too far by turning that pride into a sense of entitlement. And while I’m proud of being a veteran (as we should be), I don’t deserve anything more than to what was promised to me when I signed the dotted line.
Because when it comes down to it, I wasn’t entitled to a few bucks off at a movie ticket. I was promised the opportunity to receive an education and the opportunity to buy a home with a loan from the VA, among a few other things. That’s about it.
It mentioned nothing about discounts at Home Depot. I didn’t know about VetTix, not to mention all the online shopping discounts.
I’ve been given what I earned – nothing more, nothing less. That’s humility.
Road Less Traveled
The fact remains that unless you were drafted into service, you are/were a volunteer. Draftees should, in my opinion, feel that they deserve something more. Not just benefits befitting their service, but a certain level of deference unattainable by your “average” veteran.
Volunteering, however, is something else entirely.
The reasoning behind it is simple — we agreed to that life. We knowingly signed our names of our own free will and chose to be sailor, a soldier, an airman, a marine or a coastie. And because I’d like to believe that service was a benefit to us and that our motives for joining were altruistic, I also believe that civilians, co-workers and the local grocer down the street owe us nothing.
Modesty Is a Lost Art
I’m not saying we shouldn’t enjoy discounts or free meals or a thoughtful thank you. Those are all great ways for people to say that our service is/was appreciated. I also think that it’s perfectly acceptable to take pride in the fact that you’re a die-hard, prideful, American veteran. Wave your flag, shout “Ooh-rah” in your gruffest voice and display that globe and anchor tattoo with pride.
You’ve earned all of those things.
What I’m saying is that civilians often don’t understand or embrace that same mentality. Most people will never know what those things mean to me or you, nor should they. Service is a brother and sisterhood unlike any other experience on earth.
Take the “thank yous” and enjoy the discounts. Just don’t be like me and throw the veteran card around like special service is an expectation. We live in a golden age where people are doing more for veterans now than they have since WWII. If you disagree and believe veterans are still forgotten, just ask Vietnam veterans.
It’s time veterans start setting the standard when it comes to modesty.