Another View on Displaying Your Vet Status

| September 2, 2013

Yesterday, Jonn posted an article about yet another wannabee that apparently had an entire phony Marine career depicted in decals on the back window of his pickup. Numerous commenters noted that they display little to absolutely nothing on their vehicles or persons with some going so far as to express some degree of contempt for those who do. I’d like to offer a bit of a different perspective on the topic.

My tour in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne was in ’65-’66. Back stateside, I spent six months with the 82d Airborne and then left the Army to go back to West Texas, get married and return to college on the newly-extended G.I. Bill. Anti-military bias on campus in those days was ran very high and while I didn’t advertise my service with decals or bumper stickers, I didn’t try to hide it either, frequently getting into heated arguments and almost coming to blows with know-nothing little squirts who vociferously opposed the war and despised our military.

Upon obtaining my degree, I went to work selling pharmaceuticals and because of my military background I soon was promoted into government sales. At that point, I learned quickly that it was good for business to make my clients aware that I had been one of them, could speak their language and understood their limitations in making procurement decisions. To that end, I usually wore a miniature set of jump wings or a miniature division patch as a tie tack or lapel pin. Did I take advantage? Of course I did, but then, when you think about it, not nearly to the extent of using my service to obtain a government job, a perfectly legitimate resume enhancer.

It was sometime in the early ‘80’s that I began wearing military ball caps when at leisure and putting service connected décor on my vehicles and I did it for a specific reason. I was sick and damned tired of hearing the liberal media depict all Vietnam veterans as drug addicted losers and dropouts who couldn’t cut it in mainstream America. Damn it all, I was a Vietnam veteran and while I might have taken a toke now and then I wasn’t a damned drug addicted loser. I’d worked hard to get a degree and a good job which enabled me to buy a nice home, nice cars and even an ill-advised sailboat; I was a Vietnam veteran who was an American success story and tired of being constantly and wrongly maligned. And there were millions of others out there just like me. So by damned, it was time to wear the colors proudly, and I have done so ever since with 101st, and 82d patches and jump wings caps on my head and veterans’ license plates and frames on my vehicles. Do I flaunt it? Bet your ass, troop, but for what I see as damned good reason.

And if you think those attitudes towards Vietnam vets don’t continue to exist, you’re dead wrong. Just a five years ago, forty years on, while sitting at a table at the country club, a woman across from me asked the folks at the table, “Oh, did any of you see that poor Vietnam veteran outside the supermarket this afternoon; the one with the sign, who was begging for money?” A couple of others nodded or murmured that they had and she then said, “They’re all like that, you know, just a bunch of pathetic drug addicts who never got over losing.” I’d seen the guy as well and he wasn’t nearly old enough to have served in Vietnam but because he was scruffy, long-haired and wearing a filthy old field jacket, he fit the media-created image that this woman and tens of millions like her believed accurate. Looking across the table, I fixed her with a hard stare and said, “I’m a Vietnam veteran sitting here in your damned country club; you think I’m a pathetic loser?” That shut her smug mouth and presumably taught her a lesson.

Another thought: All you veterans of our recent wars should give thought to letting your fellow citizens know that you are among them, a part of the fabric of their daily lives. It is all too easy for the American people to forget that there are those of you out there risking it all on their behalf with your families making the accompanying sacrifices. Sure, the TV commercials for wounded veterans appeals to your fellow citizens’ patriotism and generosity, but they also need to know that those who defend them also walk among them and work and play beside them. Screw being invisible and anonymous, allow your presence and contribution to be recognized. Most Americans truly respect your service and are pleased to know that you are just like them, so make them happy to know you are there in their communities, warriors now neighbors, solid anchors to the safety and viability of the environment where their children are being nurtured.

Look, if you’ve been there, you know that real heroes don’t brag. Those who have fought and had the honor to fight with those warriors who achieved that true hero status, in our eyes, not those of clueless civilians in the media, but honestly judged heroes by their fellow warriors, know that post-battle, the brave don’t boast of their accomplishments. My MoH roommate at Ft. Bragg threatened to kick my ass if I didn’t knock off the questions about how he’d earned the award. I believed him fully capable and shut it down. So, the point is, don’t look at it as bragging but rather as a show of solidarity with your former comrades in arms and a demonstration of pride in your honorable service.

And you’ll never believe how many conversations your military ball cap will lead to that go something like this, ”Uh, yeah, I wanted to join up, but…”

Category: Veterans Issues

Comments (66)

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  1. Joe Williams says:

    PS,if goes as well. I have to put a Army decal(with pride) My Grandson is a Combat Medic. Joe

  2. ARoberts says:

    I have a 1CAV decal and an Army Aviation decal on the back window of my truck. Those are the only stickers it has on it now that the post decal expired and my state doesnt require inspection stickers or registration stickers on the window. I do have an OIF hat which is so ratty now its almost time for it to be retired.

  3. MM says:

    I have a US Army Retired sticker on the back window of my truck and Disabled Hoosier Veteran plates, I guess that says enough.

  4. From Fort Defiance says:

    Okay, this is a sincere comment/question…. I served with the U.S. Army as an enlisted Infantry soldier in the mid-nineties. Am I a “peacetime” veteran, non-combat veteran, just a former service member, or something else? Is former U.S. Army Infantry soldier also a correct statement/title for something like LinkedIn? Please let me know so I don’t write the wrong thing down on my profiles and get laughed at, scorned, and/or tar-and-feather at some future date. Any suggestions, comments, critiques, and/or AARs are welcomed….

  5. CWO5USMC says:

    I display three small stickers on the back of my pickup’s camper top…..a Desert Storm/Shield, Afg and Iraq versions of the “I Served”….. so if you’re on or around Camp Pendleton a and see an old black Ford Ranger, follow me to work and have a cup of coffee……my treat.

  6. baldilocks says:

    Vet plates. Keeps police away. And the NRA banner in the back window keeps tailgaters away.

  7. Just an Old Dog says:

    @54, Its factual, I would just make sure you put down your dates of service. For Example Experience: U.S. Army Non-commissioned Officer, Infantry Unit 1982-1986.

  8. From Fort Defiance says:

    @57, thank you Just an Old Dog for teaching this not-so young pup not stray too far. I’ll work on building my profile based on your example.

  9. streetsweeper says:

    @ #58: Be sure to state in the profile you don’t give a royal rats ass whether you were in combat or not, now that we’ve got people running around in our ranks trying to create different levels of service. Fuck ’em…

  10. From Fort Defiance says:

    @59: StreetSweeper, your comment makes a lot of sense regarding veterans are veterans regardless of combat, peacetime, or on alert. Yeah, I know what you mean (and feel) about “people … in our ranks trying to create different levels of service.” I like your style and I wish there was more people like you running the show… The world has gone too PC even for folks like me.

  11. PintoNag says:

    I look at it this way: if others can run around with “Coexist” and “Honk for Gay Rights” stickers on their cars, I can run around with an American Flag and and a “308” sticker on mine. Anybody wants to ask — I’ll be glad to discuss it with them.

  12. martinjmpr says:

    One of the few benefits of being a gray-area retiree (a/k/a retiree without the pay) is that I do get to fly “National Guard” license plates on my 4runner.

    I’m kind of with PT on the whole “showing the flag” thing. People need to know that veterans are all around them, we’re not some stupid caricature of a violent, mentally unstable loser that they see on the latest episode of “Law and Order.” For that reason I also display OIF and OEF stickers. And I display my senior jump wings because I had to bust my ass to earn them!

  13. Green Thumb says:

    I have never even heard of these clowns.

  14. David says:

    DAV license plate frame and a sticker next to my registration on the windshield… fyi, cut no ice with the trooper who tagged me for 77 in a 60 a few years back.

  15. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    @70. Troopers can be tough. ALWAYS know when your state graduates a new class of them and, for at least 6(preferably 12)months thereafter, drive like a 90 year-old nun. Also, learn when shift-change is. 20 minutes either side is usually okay for letting loose.

  16. BK says:

    I put a “US Paratrooper” and infantry sticker on my back window in hopes that people would either realize they tailgate at their peril, or perhaps think about the kind of respect conveyed a veteran.

    Then, in either case, I can feel good about punching them in the throat after they rear end me.