Veterans Day is not just a day to have fun and show off my rare vintage headgear given to me by Catholic War Veterans of America. It’s a day on which to reflect! On what? Well, not so much about losses in the field. That is Memorial Day.

Instead, Veterans Day presents us with reflecting on the losses at home! The losses, the people tied to our military journey that we left and the ironic joys of warrior life. Veterans Day is a time to get critical about how warriors are treated by society. It’s about how fellow veterans treat each other as brothers and sisters.

Veterans Day is about living our lives at home. We are not physically over there in the barracks, on a distant flight line, on a ship or on a mission in some remote village 10,000 miles (about 16,000 kilometres) away. We must reflect on a new life at home.

Society views veterans in three classes: the ‘I Made It Vet,’ the ‘Rambo Crazy Vet,’ and the saddest one of all, the ‘Lazy Homeless Vet.’

The ‘I Made It Vet’

Navy seals trainingThe ‘I Made It Vet’ has groomed a great network in civilian life. What does that mean, you ask? The LinkedIn profile of this vet is hardcore and shows so much talent and promise. This vet probably has readjustment problems, but they remain hidden. They’re riding the wave of success! That is cool. But when that veteran uses his or her influence to limit another vet’s potential, well, that becomes a problem.

I once attended a conference about veterans, and this one Ken-doll-looking veteran was showing his book. He informed the audience that the target for employers should be veterans with higher NCO or Officer ranks, additionally dressed with Joint Command Green Beret or SEAL (NinJA, Space Marine or Star Trooper wouldn’t hurt) experience. God bless the elite.

Haha, I have always run in both worlds of the uncommon and the common. But to make such a statement and limit so many great veterans with hiring potential was a travesty to witness. These vets are attention whores and seek to be worshipped by society.

A few years ago, the Columbia University MilVets community experienced this nuttiness. There were some true ‘Blue Falcons’ (betrayers of fellow battle buddies). Sadly, there are limited resources for veterans in society. This inspires a certain group of veterans to pursue all of those resources, and the attention that is tied to them, for themselves.

The ‘Rambo Crazy Vet’

The ‘Rambo Crazy Vet’ is, in most cases, that veteran who will not allow themselves to be co-opted or stomped on by societal or cultural norms. This vet is criticized for wearing a military ball cap everywhere, or is the vet who has a firm voice and is clearly communicating a major malfunction at work, in romantic relationships or at family events.

As an example of one of these vets onscreen, the 1996 movie The War at Home with Martin Sheen, Kathy Bates and Emilio Estevez contains a family dinner scene with a Vietnam veteran and his parents. We have turned into a society that judges and does not forgive, sadly.

The ‘Lazy Homeless Vet’

Veteran lives echo what Sigmund Freud said about good health: love and work. Know that Freud had sons who served in war, aside from being a pioneering war trauma clinician himself. Freud knew about veteran readjustment.

By the way, right now, don’t ask me about love; just read my “Lost Convoy at Home” articles [Parts 1, 2, and 3].

So, let’s cover the wellness of work. Have I gotten a break in life for being a vet? I have gotten a few breaks since Iraq. But, know that every break demanded my soul on some level.  I never got just a break without some huge incentive for the one offering that break.

I wonder if I will ever get a break like those shown in movies. The vet returning home and getting the job because he served in a horrible war, and is being thanked for his service, is a delusion only seen on TV or in the movies. I think Mad Men showed a scene with this dynamic.

In all honesty, jobs for veterans are few.  The veteran unemployment rate needs to be examined closely. Even the present statistics show challenging unemployment issues with veterans. The category that is often overlooked, but is a true tragedy in both the U.S. and Canada, is the unemployment rate of ‘able’ disabled veterans.

Let me add that usually, many of the job offerings and job settings for vets are compromised on some level. While many employers enjoy parading around their veteran employees and the tax credits that come with them, they are unwilling to provide reasonable accommodations for veterans. This lack of accommodation will often drive a vet to walk out of or just reject a job.

The Washington Post wrote an informative article describing the challenges of veterans in so-called safe jobs for vets. I contacted one of the authors of the piece, Lisa Rein, and asked her about alternatives. She said to me, simply referring to vets with unjust workplace hardships, “Just transfer.”

My response was, “?????”

Veterans can end up homeless for many reasons. I have seen homeless vets end up in that situation because their G.I. Bill educational benefits were delayed for months. This is one event that has troubled many vets lately.

This inspires a number of vets to give up. They are drained from their military service, and would rather just give up and end up couch-surfing or on the streets. There are lazy people in the world, but most vets are proud and are out there trying to get jobs, advance in their jobs or attend school.

It’s harder to keep your spirits up when you are a young man and your body and mind are challenging you after a war. You still have the right stuff! It’s just harder to pull up. We adjust like we did in the war zone. Society expects such a neat adjustment for those returning home. Now, that is true insanity.

Many vets need employment to support their families and maintain their homes. Many veterans have issues after being in the military. Does that mean most veterans are not capable of functioning in society? No, most veterans just need some space to claim their lives back.

Society needs to negotiate with veterans and be open to ‘expanding the pie’ in daily life, without restricting the veteran to rigid social norms.  Some people call this empathy. I think we have a society that’s full of information, but little empathy.

Society uses this type of veteran to hide from responsibility. What responsibility? The responsibility of sending citizens to war and assisting them afterward. I never said ‘care,’ though some veterans are in need of care.

My dear brother has some words about veterans. These words help me understand some deep meanings related to being a veteran, and how society views me and my community. Bennett Tanton is a veteran who is a battle buddy here at home.

“A Vet’s Point of View” by Bennett Tanton

What a roller coaster we are on, with the recent depiction of veterans in the media. There are basically two conflicting forces colliding. First, the recent shooting in Ventura, California, by a Marine (and some say ex-Marine, but that is another story) gives us the crazy veteran narrative.

Then we turn to politics, where 17 veterans were voted into office. So, the 116th U.S. Congress, when it goes into session, will have at least 92 veterans with around half of those being post-9/11 era veterans. This is the opposing side of the crazy veteran narrative.

Sure, some of us have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Moral Injury, but that is not going to make 99 percent of veterans commit mass murder.

The crazy veteran narrative! The ‘broken veteran,’ damaged beyond repair, set to just snap at any minute. This is the stuff of Hollywood! Sure, some of us have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Moral Injury, but that is not going to make 99 percent of veterans commit mass murder. There are always outliers in every population.

This is an issue with education, fixing the communication line between civilians and veterans. We, as veterans, need to focus on the good instead of the negative. We must write positive stories about our experiences and talk about how the adversity of serving has made us not only stronger personally, but better members of our communities.

This is the narrative we need to foster, because it’s the truth. Many veterans experience adversity after serving, and we have bad memories, since traumatic things happen in war. Mental health care does have limitations; it’s a two-way street, and like everything else, we must put our work in to get better. We will never forget what has happened to us, our friends and those we have lost, nor should we. These are the things that have made us who we are today.

Don’t fall into the competitive victimization game. Rise above it and fight for what you believe in, along with the care you deserve, but do it with dignity and character instead of hate, disdain and entitlement.

Bennett is a former Reconnaissance Marine and U.S. Army Infantryman. He holds a BA in Security Management and is a graduate of the 2014 Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with disabilities (EBV) at Syracuse University. Bennett is the vice-president of Battle Sight Technologies and an Employment Retention Advisor for 5 Paragraph. He is an author, contributor and adviser for various publications, companies and organizations. Bennett is a Certified Peer Support Specialist, and has dedicated his life to helping veterans navigate the system and aiding them in adding value to their communities.

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