What does a veteran possess that others may not?
I am proud to have served my country as a military officer, but I received way more than I gave. As you walk through a crowded venue veterans are all around you. They are no different looking dressed in civilian clothes than you are. Inside lies the difference though.
It is an interesting journey becoming a soldier, aviator or seal. The unknown at first creates huge anxiety as one wonders if the stories about basic training and titanic drill instructors are true. Yes they are. This is where the veteran’s personality is morphed into a standardized model. That first week in basic tells the tale. One thing about basic training is that all people are treated equally- at least for the next 3 months.
The point of basic training is to take a wide variety of raw civilians from different walks of life and train them as a single unit. Teamwork and respect for authority is the staple of basic training. You are hazed, brow beaten, and pushed to see if you will not be a danger to your fellow soldiers in combat. It is the only way in a peace time setting to simulate the pressures of combat without the use of deadly force.
As the time passes, and it passes slowly, pressure to survive is gradually replaced by the fundamentals of camaraderie, leadership and dedication to a cause. That cause is graduating and moving to your duty assignment. By your last week in basic training or officer training (all the same) the appreciation for the grand scheme of things becomes apparent. Upon self-reflection a transformation has occurred in a relatively short period. And, if you make it through you become a ready and willing leader and teammate. I cannot really express how different I became after 90 days in officer training and the feeling I felt for my fellow soon-to-be officers.
How did I get more than I gave? This is the funny part. The people and experiences I gained and the responsibility I was given at such a young age, upon reflection, is nothing short of amazing. The missions, the friendships, the stress, the parties, the families and the confidence gained were unforgettable. The phrase –“I went in as a boy and came out a man” is absolutely true.
Veterans during their military careers live all over the world going places on a moment’s notice not giving two thoughts to the inconveniences and hardships ahead. The sense of purpose and focus is sharp and enduring. And, when that soldier, aviator or seal returns to civilian life they carry that focus with them in whatever they do. In Israel all young men and women are required to serve their country for a certain number of years in either the military or another related government position- and who can blame them. But, the service to country creates focus and a loyal dedication to one’s own country over the rest of their lives.
Not all veterans may agree exactly with my appreciation of military training, but the ones that are my friends are thankful, as I am, for the intangibles one is rewarded for service to their country. I will not lie, in my company; I naturally favor veterans over non-vets because I know of that little but important difference they bring to the job.
As a vet, I look back on the huge difference the military made on my life and how much easier it has made my world. We salute vets every day and that is a good thing. But I hope this post in some small way has made it more apparent why we should. And if your son or daughter tells you he or she is going into the military, don’t be afraid. The reward far outweighs the risk. Let them go, because the person you get back will be unbelievable.