Vets are vets. Period.

| November 25, 2012

My war, the first war against Saddam Hussein, was probably the easiest war to have taken part in, but mostly because we’d spent fifteen years training for it. I remarked at the time that it was exactly like a Table VIII run at Graffenwoer without the trees. We didn’t have to kick doors in or any of that stuff that the folks in the recent war had to do, well, except that COB6 and his platoon briefly did some door-kicking in Iraq a few days before the ground war portion began. But all we had to do was drive and shoot the occasional Iraqi BTR-50, BMP or T55 which popped up like targets on the range.

But I write all of that to segue into this NBC article sent to us by one of the folks at The Duffel Blog about the dick-measuring some veterans are doing comparing their service in combat to others. Personally, I think the article was written to divide us, but I think it’s off-base.

It is, quite likely, a tradition that hearkens back to the Civil War or possibly the Revolutionary War, according to some ex-service members. But many post-9/11 veterans who have chatted with older veterans revealed the sentiment they’ve often heard carry the same note: “We just came home, put our heads down and got to work — without any whining.”

Buried, not so subtly, in that message is that the current crop is a tad less tough and lot more needy. Some of that cultural gap may have to do with how aging veterans were taught not to talk about combat stress whereas today’s military members are constantly urged to open up about any symptoms of anxiety they’re feeling. It’s a battle of Macho circa 1945 or 1970 versus Macho 2012.

I recognize that veterans of previous wars had it tougher than I did. I got to call my son on his birthday, that was probably not something previous war vets would have had the chance to do. But then, this generation emailed home often, however, I recognize that was more a function of the technology than the nature of war. In any case, folks were trying to kill us. I huddled with my troops in our Bradley during an Iraqi artillery barrage for a night. It wasn’t like sitting through an NVA mortar attack, or a Taliban rocket attack for days, but I share the feeling and experience with those who have.

Many of the casualties of my war were friendly fire, but they are no less casualties than anyone else in any other war. My battalion had the highest casualty rate of any other infantry unit in that war, but that’s because both sides were shooting at us since we led the whole rest of the Army into Iraq and then Kuwait.

After my war, I sought solace with those who shared my experiences. first with those with whom I served, and later, when our unit was broken up, in the books of Civil War veterans. That’s when I learned that many of our experiences are shared across generations. Despite the nature of our wars, and although my war could be measured in hours rather than years, much of what I experienced was experienced a hundred years before.

I’m pretty sure that Civil War veterans poked fun at the Spanish-American War veterans for their brief skirmishes which won the war in Cuba. But war is war.

I made a trip to the Yorktown battlefield when I was at school at Fort Monroe once. It amazed me that the whole US Army was crammed into an area the today a single infantry platoon could defend today. Huge siege cannons were pointed at the British lines a mere 25 meters away. The horror of all of that must have been great. I stood on Redoubts 9 and 10 that American Rangers had seized at night on October 14, 1781, and even two hundred years later they still looked imposing without a single gun pointed at the opposing lines.

I know the Vietnam veterans had trouble joining the American legion and VFW during their war because of the dick-measuring that went on between generations of veterans. But we can all understand how inappropriate that was. In fact much credit can be given to Vietnam veterans for the way the current crop of veterans have been treated at home. Because they wanted to insure that what happened to them wouldn’t happen to this generation. Large numbers of Vietnam veterans reached across the generations to offer a hand up, so this article is way off base by looking at a few incidents instead of looking at the entire picture.

We’re all veterans, we all answered the call when so many other Americans never even considered it. We all share that moment.

Category: Veterans Issues

Comments (97)

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  1. Martinjmpr says:

    @47: Yes, exactly. There is a difference between saying “all service is honorable, no matter when you served or what you did” and “all veterans are the same.” I think some here assumed that Jonn was trying to say the latter when in fact it’s apparent he was saying the former.

    Also, remember that conflict = news, and a reporter knows that if he can construct an imaginary conflict or inflate and minor conflict into something more sinister, it’s more likely to get him published (see also: Hollywood, which loves to do the same thing with regard to many topics – take a small, minor disagreement and spin it into something huge for purposes of “drama.”)

    Finally, those who were at Fort Bragg in the mid to late 1990’s may remember a local cartoonist, who was also an active duty soldier, named Mark Baker, who wrote a brilliant comic strip called “Private Murphy’s Law.” For a while there were even cards in the PX with Private Murphy cartoons on them. I had the honor of serving with Mark (believe it or not, he was an MI guy) and I remember when he started doing his cartoons during Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti in 1994-95.

    Anyway, there was a Private Murphy’s Law cartoon that was perfect, I don’t think I can find it on the internet, but it consisted of a bunch of veterans sitting around a bar comparing how tough they had it. The first guy says “ah, you young guys have it easy, riding around in helicopters or armored vehicles. In my day, the only transportation we had was our boots!

    So then the second one says “Ha! Back in my day, we didn’t even have boots, we had to march through the snow and over the rocks in our bare feet!

    And then the third guy exclaims “WHAT? You had FEET?

  2. 2-17 Air Cav says:

    I read the article that prompted this topic and I did not find it to be unifying but divisive. And when someone tries that game, the best response is, “Screw you. We are all Veterans, whatever our branch, job, or assignment.” Among ourselves, without non-Veterans present, the picture is as other have well described. I don’t think this matter is anymore difficult or meaningful than that.

  3. The Dude says:

    I think what Dave O is saying is people should respect others service which generally doesn’t occur on here especially when they have a different political view point..

    If you’re somebody like NHSparky and Old Trooper who have never seen a second of combat you shouldn’t be speaking about it like you’re some kind of expert and always calling for it the second some controversey develops overseas..

    Well said Dave O.

  4. IRON MIKE says:

    @1: The fact of the matter is You Ain’t Grunt*, You Ain’t Shit.

    Sorry if you don’t like it, butthorn, but that’s the breaks.

    *unless you’re a medic serving with grunts, or any type of SF.

  5. Thunderstixx says:

    And the circular firing squad continues operation as per usual…

    So said Lt. Dyke…..

    Or somebody like him…..

    Take it easy guys, we are all on the same page here and are all fighting our own battles.

    I have been working with homeless and addicted Veterans for over 20 years and not one of them is more concerned with my MOS than how we can work together to get them and keep them sober.

    We have bigger fish to fry gentlemen… (And I use the word Gentlemen loosely so as not to offend all of us enlisted…)

    Have a great week guys. I love TAH and read it at least once a day !!!

    Thanks, Thunder

  6. Twist says:

    Our service is different, but that is what makes our Military stronger. A door kicker can’t do his job without the ammunition handler getting that grunt ammo. Likewise Civil Affairs can’t do their job unless they got the trigger pullers pulling security. Just because somebody didn’t have the “sexy” jobs don’t mean their service is any less honorable. Last time I checked we all wear the same uniform of our branch.

  7. Twist says:

    @56, I will talk some good hearted smack with other MOS’s and branches, but that post has to be one of the most idiotic statements I have seen in a long time.

    Twist/11B40/19 years service/OIF veteran.

  8. NHSparky says:

    Dude–of which VFW Post are you a member?

    Thanks for playing. So really, you don’t want to be calling someone’s service out. You especially. Again, you’re already in the Wittgenfeld category of douchiness. Not a worthy goal to which you want to aspire, trust me.

  9. NHSparky says:

    Twist–confused–calling out your own post or just fat-fingered the keys? I know those scars on your knuckles make numbers hard to punch once you recognize them…(I keed, I keed!!!)

  10. Twist says:

    Yep, my fingers are fat from all the knuckle dragging I’ve done throughout my carrer.:)

    I was replying to #54

  11. The Dude says:

    Not currently a VFW member at the minute but I have been a member of post 335 and 2140..

    Just because you’re an auxillary member there doesn’t mean anything.. Do you have a Combat Action Ribbon? John Kerry does and you insult his service all the time..

  12. NHSparky says:

    Nope, no CAR. SSBN Deterrent Patrol and Expeditionary Medal.

    Trust me, if we’d ever been shot at while I was on either one of my boats it’s because someone fucked up very, very badly.

    And the whole world would have known it. They call us the “Silent Service” for a reason, Dude.

  13. Hondo says:

    “The Dude”: best I can tell from looking over VFW’s eligibility criteria, pretty much all that’s required is documentation that you qualified for one of the following:

    (1) a combat-specific badge/ribbon/medal (CAR/CAB/CIB/CMB/CAM)
    (2) a campaign/expeditionary medal
    (3) receipt of either hostile fire or imminent danger pay
    (4) SSBN deterrent patrol badge

    Plus probably one or more items I missed.

    Getting shot at isn’t a requirement.

  14. The Dude says:

    well congrats Sparky you made the team.. The only point I was trying to make is that this article is curious coming from a bunch of people who regularly insult and question other veterans combat records just because of their politics so I am not really buying Lilyea and others attempt for a kumbaya moment because this time next week you guys will be bashing some veterans organization because they supported the presidednt in some capacity..

  15. NHSparky says:

    No Dude, not just because of their politics. The problem I have with Kerry and the late Murtha is the same problem I have with former Rep. Cunningham–they took otherwise honorable service and pissed all over their brothers/sisters with their actions of either corruption, lying, or just general d-bagness.

    See how that works, Dude? I’m not afraid to call out those on my side of the political aisle if it makes the group look bad. OTOH, Democrats take their criminals and make them their leaders.

  16. NHSparky says:

    And as far as IAVA/Vote Vets/et al go, again, you’ll find that my issue with them is in fact because they’re not honest about who/what they are, and never have been.

    This is why I’m a member of the VFW and AmLegion, and pretty much nobody else.

  17. OWB says:

    I’m in the VFW and I never was shot at! (In the military, that is.) Nor was I a “knuckle dragger,” if I correctly interpret the meaning of the term. Neither makes me any better or worse than anyone else who served honorably. If you showed up and did the job, you are AOK by me. Well, until you insult the honorable service of others.

    But, there are always some who derive their self-worth only in comparison to others. Kind of what the idiots who play the divide and conquer game are counting on.

  18. IRON MIKE says:

    I love how these assclowns go after IAVA, which happens to be a four star charity according to Charity Navigator, while promoting Soldier’s Angels which is a piss poor one star POS, and allegedly is nothing more than some nepotistic slush fund.

    Hey butthorn, come talk to me about silent service once you’ve walked 10 klicks maintaining absolute noise and light discipline to hit Mahmood’s house at 0330.

  19. David says:

    @OWB – I believe last time I checked it depended on your dates of service as well. Being a stateside paperpusher during Vietnam makes you eligible;other than specific service sites like Panama, service during the ’80s is mostly ineligible. (Not to mention that anyone post-draft was a volunteer, and most one-termers during VN and earlier had to be dragged in kicking and screaming.)

  20. Hondo says:

    David: I think you may be confusing the American Legion’s and VFW’s membership criteria. The American Legion bases eligibility on having served on active duty during defined periods:

    In contrast, the VFW requires that one qualify for receipt of a qualifying badge/campaign/expeditionary medal, or for receipt of hostile fire/imminent danger pay, to be eligible for VFW membership. (See link in comment 63.)

  21. ron says:

    i was a remf in vietnam, 69-70. the only ribbons i have are the ones you get for showing up. i am not a combat vet, but i have been mortared a few times. it’s not the same as a real grunt, by any stretch of the imagination. that being said, i did the job i was assigned the best i could, got my honorable and got out when my tour was up. grunts back then rode us remfs hard, and some still do to this day, over 40 years later. i have zero use for media folks due to the way they treated us back then, but i still wish my own guys from 40 years ago would just let it go. i’ve never tried to steal your well earned honor and awards, and by the way, when i tried to join the vfw, i was turned down flat. i was still a canadian citizen then, and they only admitted americans. i have my citizenship now, but i will never join a group like that. as the old joke goes among many vietnam vets ” we were winning when i left “.

  22. Twist says:

    Oh yeah, when I was deployed we had to walk 20 miles, uphill, both ways, with no boots, and in knee deep snow on missions.

  23. NHSparky says:

    Twist–YOU HAD FEET???

  24. NHSparky says:

    And yeah, Mike–I’ll go after any VSO who leans politically to one side or the other who claims not to be such. Look at their BS “report card” and recommendations for a group that claims to be non-partisan.

    It’s been pointed out here as well, Mike. I do the same to Vets for Freedom when they claim to be non-partisan.

    If IAVA/Reickhoff said, “Fuck it, we’re left-leaning, so what?” I’d have no problem with it. The fact that they do and claim otherwise (mostly to keep their 501(c)3 status) is where my ass gets chapped.

  25. Elric says:

    Dude, Iron Mike….maybe you can form your own assholes club. Maybe somewhere else. The sad thing is, I think you believe your own BS. By your definition at various points in my 23 years I was either a hero or zero by your standards. Funny, I thought all of those very different jobs as honorable service. If you served, you’re a veteran. That is a fairly simple concept that apparently 90%+ of the folks posting here seem to understand. You both have issues that apparently involve low self-esteem. Related behaviors include belittling others, inflated self-importance, and general douchieness. Your lack of respect for others’ service is just a reflection of your own character, or lack thereof. As for calling Jonn out, it is clear that you either don’t read this blog regularly or have some other agenda. He is clearly more concerned with those who falsely claim service than degrading other’s honorable service. I’d say come meet me face-to-face but I doubt you’re willing to come to Iraq.

  26. Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

    I never felt my service was worthy of discussion, I did not take any benefits and paid for my own education and financed my home with a regular non-VA mortgage. Because I never served in any conflict, and served only a single enlistment it never occurs to me to consider myself as anything other than a guy who served his nation honorably for a brief time but is not necessarily a veteran as I have no 20 year military career or hostile fire experiences.

    Those of you that put in the time, or endured time in hostile environments have that right to be called veteran and to share that with each other, infighting over whose service was “better” or more important seems counterproductive at best. I think keeping the dialogue defined on your terms as Jonn does in this article serves all of you far better than letting some jack4ss reporter define it for you.

  27. Elric says:

    #77- You’re wrong. You are a veteran, like it or not. Thanks for serving.

  28. RandomNCO says:

    #77, it wasn’t your choice to not ever be in a conflict or a war. But you raised your hand and did your time and WOULD have went if called upon. That is what being a veteran is all about. Be proud of it. Just because there are people who have done a little more than you ever did, does not discredit your own service. My dad served both the AF and the Army in the 80s and never “did” anything, but I’m proud of him and his service.

  29. Twist says:

    @77, I agree with Elric. You did something that 99% of your population cannot/will not do. This grunt knows you are a veteran that deserves the same respect for your service that the rest of us recieve regardless of MOS or time of service. Thank you for your service.

  30. martinjmpr says:

    @78: What he said. If you raised your right hand and served, you are a veteran and ought to be proud of your service whether you kicked in doors in the Helmand Province or stacked crates of C-rats at Fort Dix in the 1950’s.

    As long as you aren’t claiming honors to which you aren’t entitled, I see nothing wrong with stating the plain fact that you are a “veteran” in both the legal sense (as in, entitled to certain benefits that are reserved for veterans) as well as in a colloquial sense (that we consider people to be “veterans” if they have served in the armed forces, whether the participated in combat or not.)

    I write occasionally for another blog and the blog owner (a life long civilian) once referred to me as a “combat veteran.” I immediately emailed him and corrected him, as I never actually participated in any “combat” in any direct sense (we took a little small-arms fire in Haiti in 1994 and I think someone fired a rocket at our base in Afghanistan in 2003, but that’s it as far as exposure to hostile fire and I’ve never fired a shot in anger.)

    I do refer to myself as a “War veteran” since I served in both the OIF and OEF theaters of operations and wore a right-sleeve patch on my BDU jacket until I retired in 2005.

    But these differences are insignificant compared to the difference between those who raised their right and and served and those who didn’t.

  31. MCPO NYC USN (Ret.) says:

    What the frig is going on here? I served 32 years and have been a retired Vet just more than one year. Never in my wildest dreams would I ever compare one’s honorable service with another. Each warrior, branch, time, and circumstance add to the collective greatness of our military. To subtract any of the aforementioned or attempt to diminish the contributions of any would only devalue our great military.

    BLUF: Vets are Vets. Period!

    BTW, I kinda sorta respect some of, but not all of, the opinions shared above, in one way or another, on alternate third Tuesdays of odd months that experience irregular high tides associated with global warming.

  32. Nik says:


    “The fact of the matter is You Ain’t Grunt*, You Ain’t Shit.”

    LOL. Just plain LOL.

  33. David says:

    Hondo – essentially you confirmed what I said – note that even American Legion excludes active service 75-82. Not knocking either organization, was responding (and actually the post I referred to specifically cited the VFW.) As a peacetime Euro-remf who never had anything more threatening than a nuke aimed at him, I understand. I might have, as Jonn says, “signed the check”… but no one (other than some strassenbahn drivers) ever seriously tried to cash it.

  34. RandomNCO says:

    #83 Hopefully you don’t think all of us grunts feel that way. We may talk smack, sure, but we realize that support units are doing just that…supporting us. I’d be pissed if I didn’t get my pay on time, didn’t get my food on time, didn’t get my water or ammo on time, and didn’t have that close air support in time when needed…

    …thanks to all the non-Infantry types out there.

  35. Nik says:


    Naw. I don’t think that. I’m just amused by the few who do.

    And as an IT professional, I coined the phrase “You can’t have shit without IT”.

  36. NHSparky says:

    I look at it this way–in a lot of Navy NEC’s we get to play up front and support type roles over the course of a career–case in point being on two boats and a tender. Most of the repair/support jobs are filled by guys in between boat tours.

    Would that all the branches had that kind of flexibility or could rotate people between just to give everyone a greater appreciation for what the “other guy” does. Sure cuts down on that “shore duty pukes” mentality a bit.

  37. Hondo says:

    David: not really. Some people will qualify under each organization’s criteria that do not qualify for membership in the other organization.

    An example: A person who served from June 1976 to June 1982 and who can document 60+ days service in El Salvador in 1981/1982 – and thus eligibility for the AFEM – is eligible for VFW membership (see the link in comment 63). However, per the American Legion website (comment 70), this same individual is not eligible for American Legion membership because they did not serve during a qualifying period.

    Conversely, a guy/gal who served exclusively in CONUS from Jan 1981 – Jan 1984 is eligible for American Legion membership based on service during their “Lebanon/Grenada” period. However, that individual would not be eligible for VFW membership, as they would not possess the requisite campaign/expeditionary medal/badge.

    In short: different organizations, different rules for membership – with completely different criteria. One (American Legion) requires service on active duty anywhere worldwide during defined calendar periods in order to join. The other (VFW) requires documentation of service in a combat zone/eligibility for a campaign or expeditionary medal/eligibility for a specified badge in order to join.

  38. NHSparky says:

    Hondo–true that. My eligibility for AmLegion is based on the fact I was on AD in 1989 (Urgent Fury) and 1990-91 (Desert Shield/Storm) despite having never been anywhere near Panama or Iraq.

  39. The Dude says:

    and there is a difference between veterans are you going to tell me that somebody who won a silver star is the same as John Bolton or George W. Bush? I suppose to this blog there wouldn’t be.

  40. 68W58 says:

    You win it? It’s a contest? An award is worth what the approval authority thinks it’s worth-nothing more and nothing less. To a large extent whether or not one receives an award depends on variables like opportunity, the talent of the individual writing the citation and how the one shop manages the paperwork. Good for Kerry for getting a hero badge, but as soon as he accused his fellows of horrendous crimes he dishonored himself. He could have criticized the war without slandering thousands of honorable men, but he made a different decision based almost entirely on trying to gain political credit at the expense of those men. Lots of men who showed admirable heroism in combat threw away whatever credit they had built up with foolishness later on.

  41. Rochambeau says:

    @88 Hondo,

    I think that the veteran population would better be served by an organization that accepted anyone who was honorably discharged. The criteria for both the VFW and AL create divisiveness. I say this as an individual who qualifies for either. There are going to be more ’75-’82 gaps in the future and with only 0.5% of the U.S. population qualifying for membership in the last 11 years either of these organizations will have difficulty surviving. I’m 42 years old and I’m one of the younger members at my post.

  42. Yat Yas 1833 says:

    A vet is a vet is a vet. You have an honorable discharge? You’re a vet! War time, peace time, same same. Some of us were ready to go but were never called, others were called. We trained hard very day ad if the call had come, we’d of been ready.

  43. Hondo says:

    The Dude: 68W58 hits the nail on the head. Kerry’s service in Vietnam and his actions there should be presumed honorable until conclusively proven otherwise (the evidence made public to date that Kerry “gamed the system” regarding his Vietnam decorations is somewhat persuasive but IMO not yet conclusive). However, Kerry’s actions after his discharge – specifically, his false accusations and outright lies, and his post-service “Blue Falconing” of his brothers-in-arms – render the individual IMO worthy of contempt.

    Now: if you want to talk military decorations and the possible abuse of same, we can do that. Let’s start with LBJ’s Silver Star from World War II. (smile)

  44. NHSparky says:

    Hondo–Thanks for beating me to the punch re: LBJ’s Silver Star.

    Talk about cheapening of an award.

  45. Ex-PH2 says:

    This is a bit of Chicago news:

    The painting of Willie Gillis: Package From Home is one of 11 Willie Gillis paintings done by Norman Rockwell.

  46. Nik says:

    Y’know…I was having a hard time articulating this yesterday, but here goes. Please forgive any foibles or missteps. It truly is not my intention to offend anyone with this post. Others maybe, but not this one.

    I’m with VOV. I don’t consider my service to be on the same level as those who are in harm’s way. I went in, did what I was told where I was told to do it, I got out. Nothing at all special about it, except maybe to a computer scientist, and even at that they would likely be bored. It’s not the same. I don’t even try to pretend it is.

    All that said, I’ll be damned before I let someone look down on me because we weren’t at war when I was in. I’ll be damned before I let someone look down at me because the USMC sent me to Computer Science School instead of Infantry.