There are approximately 19.6 million military veterans in the United States. The U.S. population is over 319 million. That means there are about 300 million people in this fine country of ours who do not have even a remote idea of what serving in the military is like. Is it any wonder why there are people who have no idea what Memorial Day is for? The veteran population of this country is less than 1 percent – our voice is small but it should be much louder. We cannot afford to have it washed out in the white noise.
Is it any wonder why companies don’t like to hire veterans? When we are represented to the mass population it usually isn’t in the most favorable light. Often we get lumped into a large category of PTSD and TBI sufferers who do not understand what “normal” life is all about. We can be viewed as too intense or out of touch and everything in between. In short, this isn’t fair.
Military veterans are diverse and have an incredible amount to offer. The problem is we often don’t know how to express this. What is routine for us can be fascinating for others. Why else would Hollywood spend millions making war movies look realistic and gruesome if we weren’t fascinated with it? War sells. Unfortunately, films like Zero Dark Thirty do not make people in the military, CIA, or Department of State look like good and trustworthy people. And as much as I hate to say it – that is how a large part of this country connects to us – through these movies.
Even the poster child for veterans coming home and trying to help turn around the lives of his peers affected by PTSD was murdered by one of the very people he was trying to help. “But, Nick” you say, “my family and friends back home know all about what I do and what our lives are really like.” Yes, that’s great. But more people are going to go see the film based on the book Chris Kyle wrote and think that his extraordinary life is the norm for those of us who wore a uniform. And even though you may be perfectly normal and well adjusted, the millions of people who will see this movie and know of the military solely through Hollywood may not exactly look at you the same way your family and friends do.
So why should we write? Well for starters, like I already said, it helps give us a voice. The more the general populace knows about us, what we went through, and how despite the fact that some of us have done some truly remarkable things, we are all still human. Some of us are paving the way. But there are so many more of you who have so much to offer.
While not all of us will be the next Turner or Klay – I, for one, consider myself a poor man’s Hank Moody – we all still have a voice. We have a voice that should tell the world we are alive and we are here, not that we are damaged or broken. The more veterans we have who are sharing their lives with the world the more understanding we will achieve. Finally all those pretty yellow ribbons on the backs of people’s cars may actually mean something.
So write. Write anything. Make it nonfiction and give us the real truth, make it a novel if you want to take some creative liberties, write under a pseudonym like Matt Bissonnette did if you want to protect yourself. But write. Write anything.
Veterans have done some things few people in this country have ever done or ever dreamed to do. Isn’t it time the people of this country knew the whole truth? Maybe then they’d understand and appreciate Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day for more than a day off from work.