Veterans: What We Are All Owed on the 4th of July

Updated: July 4, 2015


By Havoc13

I get it, you’re a veteran. You’re proud of that, and you want everyone around you to know it. You have the t-shirts, the hats, and the bumper stickers to prove it. Your Facebook profile sports a picture of you in uniform. You might even have a sign in your yard announcing to the world that you’re a vet. I get it, because I’m a veteran too.

And because we are both veterans, I want to ask you for two things. The first is to ask if I can shake your hand and say thank you for standing with me and all of the rest of our brothers and sisters in arms as part of that .01% of Americans who have what it takes to serve in the military and preserve our country and our way of life through the profession of arms. I’m immensely proud of that, and I’m glad you are, too.

The second thing I want to ask you is to just turn it down a notch.

If you’re saying or doing something to constantly remind the rest of America that we are better than they are, or that they owe us something, you are wrong. If you’re reinforcing negative stereotypes about us, particularly that we’re all broken, mentally unstable, or otherwise victims of our time in the service, you’re not helping. And if you’re using claims of service-related disabilities to excuse your shortcomings or behavior, you’re not doing yourself or the rest of us any favors.

anythingAs a veteran, there are certain things we are entitled to based upon our military service. We’re entitled to the benefits we earned, we’re entitled to the gratitude of those who want to give it, and we’re entitled to bear the honor (and responsibility) of being called “veteran” for the rest of our lives. But while we are “entitled” to certain things from the government, the American people as a whole don’t “owe” us a damn thing. And we need to stop acting like they do.

The cops and judges don’t owe it to you to cut you a break when you make a bad life decision, especially if that decision is related to something that’s not allowed in the service either. And they definitely don’t owe you a break if you keep making that decision over and over again. If you are being honest with yourself, you know your fellow veterans would be even harder on you for representing the rest of us that way.

Your classmates and online friends don’t owe it to you to defer to your judgment over theirs every time there is a political disagreement. I hate to break it to you, but just because you served overseas does not make you a geo-political expert of any sort. Welcome a good debate, and be the consummate professional even if the other person is not.

People you meet in bars don’t owe you free drinks or their phone numbers because you’re a veteran. Sally may be impressed that you served, but she also might be impressed by the guy with the Harvard Law degree sitting down the bar from you. Danny might think it’s cool you did some time downrange, but he spent the last four years in South Sudan with the Peace Corps, and he didn’t even get to carry a gun. Sometimes you’re not the coolest kid on the block. Deal with it.

Businesses don’t owe you discounts. I love going to Home Depot and getting that 10% discount when picking up supplies for my next doomed-to-failure DIY project, and I appreciate that they offer it – but I certainly don’t hold it against a business who doesn’t do the same.

lawnYour neighbors don’t owe it to you to fundamentally alter their lifestyle around your needs and preferences, even on New Year’s or the 4th of July. After living the rough and tumble lifestyle of a service member, do you really want to be treated with kid gloves for the rest of your life? I don’t. I would rather go next door, grab a beer, teach little kids how to blow stuff up (safely!), and enjoy our exceptional American lifestyle. After all, isn’t that why we put on a uniform in the first place?

In short don’t confuse what we are all “entitled” to by custom, contract, and law with what we are “owed.” In or out of uniform, veteran or not, we are all Americans and we are all in this thing together. We need to stop stiff-arming the American people and start extending our hand in friendship. And we start that by ceasing to think that they owe us for our service to them.





  1. leftoftheboom

    July 5, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    I sat on the tailgate of a truck and waited for the fireworks yesterday. The folks in the truck next to me were full of fun and enthusiasm with three precocious grandchildren. The grandfather had a pair of glow-light glasses on with a flag motif. I noticed that he had his glasses on upside down and asked jokingly if he was “in distress” since the flag motif of the glasses upside down. His son and daughter-in-law laughed and he quickly righted his flag. We all shared a good chuckle.

    I found out then, that he was a veteran who had been in the 82nd Airborne, his son, served proudly as a Marine. Standing beside me was a generation of service proudly followed by the next. Without the humor of the moment, I might have never known because they did not announce themselves and I did not either. We wore our colors proudly but we did not shout it to those around us.

    I know why I served and what I accomplished and I am proud. I am not particularly humble but I don’t feel the need to highlight my existence to the world. I don’t decorate my car, post signs, or emphasize my position so the world knows me.

    Hubris is dangerous to freedom. We can ask for, even demand, the benefits owed to us because they were part of the bargain we set against our lives and well-being, but to ask for one thing more than what is required, we stop being the guarantors of liberty, and become the oppressors of it. To those who are willing to give, freely, I accept with gratitude. But no one owes me, or any veteran, even thanks. Thanks are nice to receive, discounts, etc. but to demand them is, in my opinion, wrong.

  2. Just another Dirt Bag

    July 7, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    Honestly, who acts like that?

    Absolutely zero OIF/OEF vets I know walk around as if they’re owed something. Nobody I know or even met asks for a military discount without their over-bearing “dependapotamus” demanding it loudly behind them at the checkout counter or wherever.

    I’ve known several guys and know of several more who hate fireworks (personally, some people a block away from my house found some rolls that sound just like a PK, not that it unnerves me or anything). However, I’ve only heard about this anti-fireworks issue though the media.

    I would be very cautious when applying the “nobody owes you” ethos to the legal world and the courts.

    The “Vet Courts” and prosecutorial deferment programs are a complex issue: so complex that I’m conducting a research project on it over the summer. BLUF: I don’t like them but for reasons unrelated to the “nobody owes vets special treatment” position. The truth is that a lot of DAs OVER-CHARGE vets and SMs hoping to capitalize on a Yuppy jury’s fears of maniac vets preying on their dear little children (usually to force a plea). I recently found out a guy I was deployed with is doing serious time for something he might have gotten probation and mandatory treatment at the most for if he had stayed in the civilian world (I found out about this while doing research for another case). DAs in skeezy base towns like to pad their conviction/plea rates on Joes like this. Notice I didn’t’ even bring up assault and or violent crimes? See the DF episode on that.

    “Nobody owes vets/SMs special treatment” is pretty much how baby-mamas and EXs’ lawyers start the opening statement of their motion to modify divorce decrees and custody orders while the dads (and increasingly now MOMs) are deployed.

    “Nobody owes vets/SMs special treatment” allows employers to openly violate USERRA, creating a dearth of over-qualified cashiers at Target and Aldi who were engineers before they were mobed/deployed and lost their civilian jobs. Employers are now bold enough now that they routinely schedule Guardsmen and Reservists to work during drill weekends that the employer was notified about a year in advance. Vets pref. points for hiring all went to the 90s Army guys who all stampeded for the door sometime around 2002.

    Oh and those benefits, enacted generations ago by wiser congressmen? The ones that actually went in the “owed” column as opposed to the “not owed” column? Don’t get too attached to those.

    The only “Great Americans” I’ve ever heard demand “homage” for their veteran status are all over 40, got out sometime before 9/11, served sometime between ’77-’95, and do not have KLMs, not that there is anything wrong with that.

    All of us around just reaching/just past 30? Hey, we’re just happy to be here.

    The truth is, everybody in society want to renegotiate the social contract, But without the original social contract, nobody owes anybody anything and everything is up for grabs to those who can use violence or the threat of violence to take it…something combat vets already know.

    • Havoc13

      July 7, 2014 at 4:33 pm

      Judging from the responses to this article both here in the Den and on the other sites where it has been published, you’re in the minority if you say you’ve never seen any vets acting in the way we described in our article. That’s OK; all of our experiences are different but I think enough people have seen enough of what we described enough times for us to consider the “you owe me” mentality some veterans have to be a real thing.

      As far as your other arguments, it sounds like a bunch of anecdotal evidence rather than anything solid. You said you’re doing a summer research project about Vet Courts? We’re interested in reading it. Because right now this is what we see coming out of veterans’ courts: http://rhinoden.rangerup.com/ptsd-drama-is-not-trauma/

      If you want to send the writeup of your project to us when you’re done, we’re glad to give you confidential feedback. If you feel strongly enough about it, and if your work is good enough, we’ll see if we can get it published on one or more of the sites that features our work. We always welcome spirited counterpoints to our work.

      Here is our email address, up to you how you want to take it from here: [email protected]

      • just another dirt bag

        July 8, 2014 at 12:51 pm

        Thank you for the offer. When finished and approved by my supervising prof, it will be long and it will be academic. Part of it covers historical reintegration challenges (spoiler: Continental Army veterans got the epic shaft), part covers the Vet Specialty Courts and part covers defense/representation of veterans in criminal courts.

        Yes, I thought the same thing about the specialty courts when I first heard about them two years ago. The truth is that they are not what prosecutors and state DOJ officials hold them out to be. They really are just a repackaging of plea options available to civilians in most cases. It’s a gimmick in many jurisdictions.

        I think it’s a inaccurate to call it “anecdotal”. Family court exploitation of deployments to screw the service member are directing calls to to amend SCRA However, there are many ways in which combat veterans get the short end of the stick in the legal world. This is not just “I got a DUI, it’s because of PTSD”, even if a lot of the case I’ve seen and clients I personally talked to were trying to pull that. The effects of TBI are real. A human brain needs a non-damgaged hippocampus to function properly. Damaged-hippocampus = deadlined brain.

        If it’s anecdotal, it’s because it’s people I know and situations I have to deal with. But the SCRA not covering child custody proceedings and the issues it causes are very well known. Additionally, successive federal court decisions have made USERRA so unenforceable that it actually makes CNN when a vet wins a case.

        “perception is reality” got it. I might be in the minority, and I probably need to get out more. If the rest of us are out rampaging across the country terrorizing local towns like German Friekorps in 1919, then I have not seen it.

        Like brother Ken, said below, we’re not owed (but we don’t expect) anything.

        At the end of the day, the safety brief (which will be my last) I’ll give my Soldiers after AT in a month will sound pretty much the same as the article.

  3. Ken

    July 8, 2014 at 8:58 am

    I think that we as veterans must stick together to responsibly remind others of the sacrifices that are required to maintain our way of life.
    It is also important to be vigilant and constructive in our approach to dissuade politicians and public opinion from the erosion of current benefits.
    Abuse of our position as veterans or apathy to a healthy level of awareness of needs that our veterans have are things that we must not allow to occur.
    We are not owed (nor do many of us expect) anything, but there are those who have needs that came from their choice to defend the Constitution (our Constitution) which must be addressed.
    We now have a responsibility to maintain an honorable reflection of what it is that our fallen and wounded sisters and brothers sacrifices through their (and our) love for our families, friends and our country.

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