The Task & Purpose Civilian-To-Veteran Lingo Translator

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U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Sean Martin

After months surrounded by fellow service members, returning to the civilian world can be tough. Who are these strange, informal creatures? What's the deal with their strange habits? And when they ask me questions about my military service, what are they really asking me? 


To that end, we've put together the Task & Purpose Civilian-To-Veteran Lingo Translator, a brief cheat sheet to help you make sense of all the awkward questions that well-meaning civilians may lob at your during your time at home. 

What did you do in the military?

Translation: Did you ever kill anyone?

Did you ever kill anyone?

Translation: Please say yes.

Did you ever, like, go anywhere?

Translation: Did you deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan?

Did you see combat?

Translation: I still want to know if you killed someone.

What was it like coming home?

Translation: Please tell me you don’t have PTSD.

It must've been pretty crazy over there.

Translation: You definitely have PTSD

What are you doing now?

Translation: I don’t care and will forget immediately

Thank you for your service

Translation: Thank you for your service! Wait, did I sound too earnest? Or did I sound sarcastic? Oh God, please don’t blast me on your podcast.

My cousin is a Special Forces green beret

Translation: My cousin went to the Army recruiting station once and I have no idea whether he actually ended up enlisting.

I thought about enlisting.

Translation: Then I got high.

I work for a startup/media company/non-profit/any civilian job

Translation: I read Facebook and take BuzzFeed quizzes while I try to avoid doing as much work as possible.

Is ‘Top Gun’ accurate?

Translation: I think this movie is about the Air Force.

I loved the opening sequence of ‘Saving Private Ryan.’

Translation: This conversation is going nowhere.

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