Who Cares about Vets?

11.11.10

Categorie: Kevin Knodell |
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by KEVIN KNODELL

“Who cares?”

They were talking about my friend, an Iraq War veteran who was wounded in the line of duty. They were talking about how they feel that he over-shares, and how they don’t want to hear about his “Army stories about getting shot.” I tried with limited success to explain that to some, getting shot is a significant life event, and for America’s warrior class, a very real one that has life long consequences.

As are Improvised Explosive Devices, one of the reasons that anyone who’s been in a car with a recent veteran will tell you that they HATE speed bumps. I tried to explain that while hearing about it is unpleasant, experiencing it was probably about a thousand times worse. I also tried to impart that though they know some of his experiences, there are a hundred more that he’d never dream of telling them. I know this because he told me some of these stories, and I know there’s more where they came from.

It’s been said more than once that there is a civil-military divide in this country. The establishment of our all volunteer military has resulted in one of the most professional and motivated military forces in recent history. However, the military, and those who serve, are more isolated from their fellow Americans than they’ve ever been. During the Vietnam War the draft made the conflict real to American families, but today’s wars are fought by professionals who are often removed from American society at large.

The average American is able to comfortably watch the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with the knowledge that their sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, husbands and wives will most likely not be affected. However, whether their neighbors appreciate it or not, the burdens borne by our warrior class and their families are very real.

America loves to support its troops. It says so on the bumper stickers. But what does it really mean to support our troops? This Veterans Day, I’m asking you to care. Please try to care about the fact that thousands of young men and women are deployed on your behalf. Please try to care that many of them will not return, and many who do return will be changed forever.

It doesn’t take a lot. If you know a veteran, thank them, treat them to lunch, do something. If not, just take a moment out of your day to think about it for just a second. But please, try to care.

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14 Responses to “Who Cares about Vets?”

  1. Jason Decker says:

    BRAVO! Fresh take on a reminder that we all need more than once a year.

  2. kanani says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. There is a huge gap in understanding between the Warrior class and a large portion of the population. Keep writing, keep sharing the stories about what you’ve seen and experienced.

  3. Great message and great timing! Keep ‘em coming, brother!

  4. Doug says:

    Thanks brother. The people need to be reminded of things like this.Also the simple things like speed bumps..didn’t think of that. Give us more data like that,so we can use it..please!

  5. Skip says:

    You nailed it. For many vets, the transition back to the “real world” is harder than the transition to the battlefield. People hear that you were in Iraq or Afghanistan, and ask “What was it like?”. Then they want a Twitter-length answer, when an encyclopedia-length answer would barely be an introduction. So you bury it. This is nothing new: I remember many WWII vets who would either talk about their experiences at great length or not at all. Mostly not at all. Why share experiences with those who have no way to understand it? They don’t want to hear those “Army stories about getting shot”.

  6. My father was a Second World War Two vet who fought for the Soviet Army on the Russian front. He never talked about the wounds or experiences that he suffered in the war with his kids, but when he was drunk and in the company of his war buddies …. he may have thought that we were not listening …. but we were.

    Years later I started to hear the same war stories and experiences, but this time it was from my own friends who had served (or are serving) in Iraq or Afghanistan. The war is different …. but the experience of war is always the same.

    As for my father …. he is gone but it is only now that I appreciate what he went through, and I would give everything to listen to his war stories again.

  7. Sarah says:

    “Please try to care about the fact that thousands of young men and women are deployed on your behalf. ”

    I have sympathy, but they aren’t over there on my behalf. They are there to make the world safe for capitalist extraction and empire projection. This war was started based on lies, remember?
    I want them all to come home. I don’t agree with war against these people that have real grievances against us, and we are creating more enemies every day.

    The “warrior class” says a lot. Bring them home, and don’t send anymore in my name.

    You – the “media class” could also do more to connect ordinary americans to the horrors of war by showing war porn like they did during Vietnam, -just so you understand that it’s not all about not having a draft. Reality pictures makes the public angry and stirs the anti-war left to protest for the end of combat. We depend on you for that, and frankly- you suck.

    And you should stop using jingoism for your arguments. You are duping new recruits with that language.

  8. Rob says:

    “But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other.”

    John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), “The Contest in America.” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, Volume 24, Issue 143, page 683-684. Harper & Bros., New York, April 1862.

  9. Kevin Knodell says:

    Sarah, they are deployed on your behalf, whether you agree with the war or not. This is a democracy, and a democratically elected government sent its military to war. If you don’t like the war, you should take that up with your elected officials, speak your mind, and use your vote.

    And I am not advocating that the draft return, only stating the simple fact that without it, people are more comfortably distant from the war. They don’t care when soldiers die because they don’t know any, and are more apt to be for a war when they stand to lose nothing.

    I personally can’t wait for the day when all my friends come home and are out of harms way. But I know that even when they do return, the war will be far from over: they will have to cope with their experiences and losses.

    And though a contributor on this blog I am not a member of the “media class”, I am a student who lives with a combat veteran, has lived with military people for the last three years, and has been constantly exposed to the cost of war, having myself had to cope with the loss of people I care about to both wars, and helping the healing process of my friends who lived.

  10. Brian Black says:

    It’s interesting to compare the difference between the usual British perception of American society, and the essence of many of the comments left by average American citizens on sites such as this.
    I watched a BBC tv program recently in which a commentator described America as a martial society, and spoke of the interlacing of American military and civil society – this is a common view in the UK but is at odds to the increasing disconnection apparent here. It’s a public disconnection that allows both for military expeditions without adequate political scrutiny, and the lack of support for necessary military planning.

  11. r says:

    “This war was started on lies” ??? Didn’t the people we are fighting claim responsibility for their attack? Or is that just more Bush propaganda. Since the President (who people like you think is the biggest moron ever) was so incompetent (in your opinion), just how was he able to orchestrate the destruction of the twin towers (complete with either fake planes being flown into the trade center buildings, or planted thousands of false witness’ testimonies coupled with live on-air video edited shots of the second plane crashing, the Pentagon, flight 93), and get the UN to back this war against these people? Let me guess, Bush propaganda? Right, we’re just killing happy little opium smoking sherpas who are completely innocent, and we are doing it for no other reason except “George Bush!” “George Bush this, George Bush that,” shut up already. Veterans do NOT need your support. They do NOT expect anything in return for what they do, and a vast majority do NOT share your “George Bush Lied” blathering knee jerk reaction to anything and everything they think is wrong with their lives.
    Now for your stupid comment about their “real” grievances with us. Their only “real” grievance with us was that we were in the country of two of their most holy cites. Yeah, we were. Saudi Arabia practically begged us to come save their butt from being taken next after Kuwait. We were their saving that country from a non-Muslim dictator who would probably replaced the Kaaba with a statue of himself. Whoops sorry for being on the opposite side of the freakin dessert from Mecha and Medina… and saving you all from being conquered!
    Sarah, basically I’m saying: when you graduate from high school and can participate in adult conversations, perhaps you should disengage from the liberal talking points and find some of your own. Veterans are not liberals, and they are not conservatives either. They fight for everyone to have an opinion and the ability to share it (it just happens to be my job to restrict the first amendment on people when necessary). Try showing some real respect next time m-kay. Are we all set then?

  12. Carrie says:

    The first time I met John Wilkinson, he was standing outside the post office next to a table with a white cloth, an empty chair and a yellow rose, among other things. John, 62, was with the town detachment of the veteran’s of foreign wars and he and a former commander were tabling on POW/MIA day. It was my third day as the only reporter at the weekly newspaper in town. John’s scraggly salt-and-pepper beard hung down to the collar of his neatly pressed, white collared button up, a quick smile not far from. While I took pictures of the table and its contents, John and his companion told me its story. I waited around the table for a half an hour, snapping photos of passersby asking questions about why the VFW was out today of all days. John and his friend answered their questions, told stories, and laughed with them. They turned down all donations that day, saying they were just trying to build awareness.
    This week I wrote a story about a motorist who died in a single car roll over on his way home from visiting his grandchildren. I was crushed when I realized it was the sweet, kind man who had so graciously welcomed me to town to two months earlier.
    I did not remember John’s face and story because he was a veteran, but because of the easy smile on his face and the life in his eyes, because of the kindness and laughter he shared with me that day.
    Too often we let the labels of society define how we treat an individual or a group of people. Yes, labels serve a purpose, but should not be used to pit us against each other, regardless of our beliefs.

  13. Sarah says:

    Sorry r, I said the war was based on Lies. The rest of what you said was building a straw man (complete with an imagined political ideology) and then knocking it down. No Afghanis were involved in bombing towers. Bin Laden was declared the culprit and Bush/Cheney demanded the Taliban hand him over, but refused to provide any proof as requested by the Taliban, (according to the tenets of Islam and their culture). They offered to turn him over to a neutral Islamic country. Bush/Cheney had their men on the ground with an answer already. No. And then the bombing started. This was before any recording by Bin-Laden taking any responsibility for anything. See they didn’t really know for sure who did it. Even some of the hijackers were found alive. I’m not a truther but these are the facts. http://www.lobelog.com/family-guy-skewers-neocons-bomb-iran-logic/

    ” They fight for everyone to have an opinion and the ability to share it (it just happens to be my job to restrict the first amendment on people when necessary).” Please.. Try to tighten up your arguments, r. this is idiocy. Afghanis or Iraqis are not harming my right to speak. Just a fellow American who calls himself r, apparently thinks it’s his job.

    Kevin, thanks for your thoughtful reply. You’re a blessing to your veteran friends. Perhaps they can tell these stories to potential recruits and discourage them from joining at least until our country is bankrupt, takes on monetarist policy and stops these wars.

  14. Michael says:

    Sarah, I loved it when you brought up the “Media Class” because it seems to me that you are simply regurgitating the same anti war rhetoric that is so pervasive with your ilk. I am a retired Army soldier and I have actually been in Iraq twice so my comments come from experience not armchair quarterbacking. When I was there last time, a young Kurdish lieutenant took me to see a mass grave sight. At that grave sight you could see where a bulldozer had pushed a huge line of dirt about 100 meters long to cover up the bodies of the men, women, and children that the regime had summarily executed simply for being Kurdish. I reached into the dirt and pulled out a clump of long black hair, obviously a young woman’s. I also pulled out a Onesie, you know an infant body suit that has snaps on it to facilitate changing diapers? It didn’t take a rock to fall on my head to see that the reason why I was there was not to “project the Empire” but to stop a brutal murdering regime. I wish I could have been there to save that young girl, that baby, and the 200 other people in that grave sight but I wasn’t. But I can tell you that there are children living in Iraq right now that are going to get the opportunity to grow up. Some of them will even grow up to make a difference in this world a positive difference. And do you know why? Because We were there. And we will be there to protect you and your baby when the time comes. Keep up the good fight Sarah you keep us honest.

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