This Veterans Day Marks The End Of An Era

Gen. Raymond T. Odierno accompanies Hon. Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City, and other city officials during the Veterans Day Parade in New York City, New York Nov. 11, 2011.
Photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade

“Thank you for your service.”

It’s a line that today’s veterans have become accustomed to and to which some awkwardly struggle to find a response. It is a well-intentioned expression of gratitude that many in our nation extend to the small percentage of a generation that spent the last 13 years fighting what seemed to be never-ending wars. It is a manifestation of collective societal guilt over how its last generation of veterans was treated. It is an attempt to connect with a section of the American population that is, more than ever, divided from the rest of society due to its small size and isolated installations.

This Nov. 11 will mark the last Veterans Day with combat troops deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. With the world seemingly on fire, it seems naive to think that we will not find ourselves in conflict again in the not-so-distant future. But for those of us who spent our formative years in Iraq and Afghanistan, our wars are ending.

As the wars that marked the post-9/11 era come to a close and we enter a new phase of uncertainty, it’s very possible that the overwhelming support Americans have shown their troops and veterans for the past 13 years will start to wane. Americans, as a people, have a short attention span. Tens of thousands of young Americans remain in Afghanistan today, yet they are a footnote to “more pressing” issues such as Ebola, ISIS, Ukraine, and so on. It is possible to see an America in the next few years where the yellow ribbon magnets come off cars, the beer commercials stop celebrating homecomings, and our troops aren’t recognized at sporting events to mass applause. That’s okay by me. We all volunteered, and most of us serve because we love our fellow soldiers, sailors, Marines, and Airmen and we love our country — not because we expect gratitude.

So what do we, America’s newest veterans, do now?

First, we must let the American population know what happened. The reliance on an all-volunteer military has meant that, while many of us deployed again and again, the majority of Americans have no connection to their veterans. The wars themselves have only briefly caught the public’s attention — short stints of media focus before the rest of the country goes back to whatever else it was doing. For most Americans, Iraq and Afghanistan are what they experienced on CNN or “Lone Survivor.” This is one of the consequences of having an all-volunteer force. If we even want to bridge the growing civil-military divide, veterans must connect with their communities. This serves many purposes, but most importantly, it helps dispel the dangerous myth that all veterans are ticking time bombs riddled with post-traumatic stress. Sharing your stories also helps validate our sacrifices. Taking the time to talk to a civilian about your experience in Mosul or Helmand, or about your friend who was killed, forces us as a nation to put faces to the cost of these wars. As Americans, we must know the price of war if we are to avoid it in the future.

Second, we need to do a better job connecting with other generations of veterans. Just as there exists a civil-military divide,there is also a generational divide between millennial and previous-era veterans. Although our circumstances are certainly different, as a community, we all need to stand in solidarity. There is much to be learned from those who fought almost a lifetime ago, and in turn, if they listen to our stories, we will likely find there is not that much difference between us. Seeking to be active participants in veterans organizations and events in our communities is a good start. We can all learn much from one another.

Third, we must look at ourselves. We are not better than the rest of America because we raised our hands to volunteer in a time of war. Yet, I often see and hear veterans decry those who did not choose to serve or express that they are somehow “better” than the rest of America. Belittling those who decided to go another route is counterproductive and further exacerbates the division between the military, veterans, and society. Yes, what we did was well intentioned, and even noble in many cases, but that does not make us better than those who did not serve. We must look to find ways to connect with society, not build up walls.

Lastly, but most importantly, we must take care of our families, our friends, and ourselves. If we don’t do this, no one else will. While connecting with society is crucial, we have to be our own best allies. We are the ones who know best what makes us tick. With 22 veterans taking their own lives each day, something must change in how we look after one another. Get involved with a veterans organization or volunteer in your community. Call your battle buddy you haven’t heard from in years to find out how things are going. Ask the tough questions when a friend puts up a Facebook post that might signal things are spiraling out of control. Reach out to those who we went through hell with. The act of caring and connecting can make all the difference in the world.

This past weekend, I visited the grave of a friend and classmate of mine for the first time since he was killed in Afghanistan in 2008. Words cannot describe the enormity of sorrow I initially felt kneeling besides his tombstone, but then, after a few minutes, I cleared my eyes and focused on what he sacrificed that I still have — my life. Moving forward, helping each other out in times of need, and making sure that our sacrifices were not in vain by sharing our stories is a critical aspect of being in what some have called “the next greatest generation.”

As we reflect on Veterans Day, let’s be thankful for the majority of Americans who support what we did and try to find ways to understand it. Let’s help dispel the damning myths of PTSD and the narrative of the “crazed vet.” Let’s make our nation stronger as we go forward.

The next time someone stops you and thanks you for your service, this simple reply is all you have to say:

“Thank you for your support.”

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Vaughan Dill/Released)

The three sailors whose lives were cut short by a gunman at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, on Friday "showed exceptional heroism and bravery in the face of evil," said base commander Navy Capt. Tim Kinsella.

Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, and Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters were killed in the shooting, the Navy has announced.

Read More Show Less

This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. – Gen. David Berger, the US Marine Corps commandant, suggested the concerns surrounding a service members' use of questionable Chinese-owned apps like TikTok should be directed against the military's leadership, rather than the individual troops.

Speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California, on Saturday morning, Berger said the younger generation of troops had a "clearer view" of the technology "than most people give them credit for."

"That said, I'd give us a 'C-minus' or a 'D' in educating the force on the threat of even technology," Berger said. "Because they view it as two pieces of gear, 'I don't see what the big deal is.'"

Read More Show Less

WASHINGTON/SEOUL (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un risks losing "everything" if he resumes hostility and his country must denuclearize, after the North said it had carried out a "successful test of great significance."

"Kim Jong Un is too smart and has far too much to lose, everything actually, if he acts in a hostile way. He signed a strong Denuclearization Agreement with me in Singapore," Trump said on Twitter, referring to his first summit with Kim in Singapore in 2018.

"He does not want to void his special relationship with the President of the United States or interfere with the U.S. Presidential Election in November," he said.

Read More Show Less

The Pentagon has a credibility problem that is the result of the White House's scorched earth policy against any criticism. As a result, all statements from senior leaders are suspect.

We're beyond the point of defense officials being unable to say for certain whether a dog is a good boy or girl. Now we're at the point where the Pentagon has spent three days trying to knock down a Wall Street Journal story about possible deployments to the Middle East, and they've failed to persuade either the press or Congress.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that the United States was considering deploying up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to thwart any potential Iranian attacks. The story made clear that President Trump could ultimately decide to send a smaller number of service members, but defense officials have become fixated on the number 14,000 as if it were the only option on the table.

Read More Show Less
Pearl Harbor survivor Lauren Bruner attends the dual interment of fellow USS Arizona survivors John D. Anderson, boatswain's mate 2nd class, and Clarendon R. Hetrick, seaman 1st class, at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, as part of the 75th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy/Petty Officer 2nd Class Somers Steelman)

Just before 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning 78 years ago, Lauren Bruner was preparing for church services and a date that would follow with a girl he'd met outside his Navy base.

The 21-year-old sailor was stationed as a fire controlman aboard the U.S. battleship USS Arizona, overseeing the vessel's .50-caliber guns.

Then alarms rang out. A Japanese plane had bombed the ship in a surprise attack.

It took only nine minutes for the Arizona to sink after the first bomb hit. Bruner was struck by gunfire while trying to flee the inferno that consumed the ship, the second-to-last man to escape the explosion that killed 1,177, including his best friend; 335 survived.

More than 70% of Bruner's body was burned. He was hospitalized for weeks.

Now, nearly eight decades after that fateful day, Bruner's ashes will be delivered to the sea that cradled his fallen comrades, stored in an urn inside the battleship's wreckage.

Read More Show Less