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Veterans are More than just Heroes

Updated: Sep 9, 2020

Having served 14 years in the military, I've had an opportunity to witness heroes being awarded for uncommon valor and for operating outside of the call of duty. We often look at our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines as someone who has served selflessly, with unmatched devotion and dedication to service. However, we often forget the human side that often compartmentalizes their own problems so that others do not think less of them. This ultimately results in an emotional download of sorts that may lead to domestic abuse, drugs, alcoholism or even suicide.

You may wonder why anyone should be so selfish as not to share their emotions, but until you have served in their respective branch of the military and performed the same job in the same conditions as they have, you will never fully understand their need to lock things away. For many, it starts as early as basic training. As a young adult, you enter a world that is nothing like anything most people have ever experienced. For me it began with my arrival to Basic Training dressed in civilian clothes and being called a rainbow due to the array of colors that each of us were wearing as we walked off the bus. That kind Drill Instructor that your recruiter told you about was out of the office for some reason and you now had a father figure that felt he should better resemble Gunnery Sergeant Highway as he taught you the basics of military service and pushed you beyond anything you ever expected you were capable of doing. With that, I learned to push emotion aside and never let your battle buddies see you cry, hear you whimper or complain about a little pain.

Imagine if it were you. The move from Basic Training to your technical training school is much like moving from high school to college. Graduation comes and you transfer to your first real duty station. Transferring from a stateside assignment to the battle field is a different matter altogether. You've found purpose and you want to be the best you can be at whatever your do. After all, it could mean the difference between life and death of your team. However, fear runs rampant within you as you work to get familiar with your surroundings, identify who is hostile and who is not, ensure your gear is clean and in perfect working condition, only to realize you haven't even left the Forward Operating Base yet. This is your safe haven, where you come to let it all out after a patrol or some other mission. This is where you share your secrets with your buddies and learn a few of theirs. This is also where you as a new recruit will shed tears for those you know and maybe even those you have loved who have fallen. You will take part in numerous excursions and see things that most only see play out in Hollywood movies