Be aware of what you say, support veterans in ways that aren’t superficial

September 26, 2016

Kyle Guthrie

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     In the midst of a heated argument a few weeks ago, another college student told me to, “be a good soldier and kill myself.”

     As a veteran, I realized that this student didn’t fully understand what he was saying, or how severe the situation he used as a punchline was.

     The conversations a lot of people have about war, the military, and veterans can be ignorant. I know this is an innocent notion; sometimes people are uncomfortable talking to veterans without bringing up war.

     But these common discussions need to be brought up differently or not at all.

     Just talking about our favorite books, fun video games, interesting movies and life in general is better than digging up ghosts of my past that I have no interest in revisiting.

     I appreciate your support, but I left my demons in those hellholes years ago.

     There are many people who genuinely support the troops, and we appreciate your love and dedication, but most the time I hear the phrase “I support the troops,” it’s followed by a brutal anti-military comment.

     If you feel like bashing my service, by all means, go for it. I’m a big boy, I can take criticism, but don’t try to validate your attack with an argument that you believe shields you from any rebuttal.

     To add insult to injury, most “support” is forwarding a pro-military meme on Facebook.

     Unless you have volunteered at your local Veterans of Foreign Wars, spent time organizing events at the local American Legion or put together care-packages, then you haven’t supported the troops.

     As for 22 veteran suicides happening daily, please don’t bring it up in casual conversation.

     The fact that so many of my brothers and sisters are killing themselves everyday because they are not getting the care they deserve is not a topic that is open for discussion with anyone other than veterans.

     Don’t take it personally; it’s a sensitive topic that is typically off-limits between veterans unless we are working on a way to fix it.

     I’ve attended more funerals for fallen comrades than I’ve attended weddings, bar mitzvahs, block parties and birthdays combined.

     I ask that you kindly refrain from using it as a punchline in a joke or an insult.

     Finally, if you didn’t serve in the military, then you obviously didn’t serve and you don’t understand what it’s like to go to war.

     People’s “war stories” range from what they have heard from their relatives who served in the military down to descriptions of levels from the video game “Call of Duty.”

     No, Iraq is not like “Call of Duty,” “Black Hawk Down,” “The Hurt Locker” or any other film you’ve seen, so please don’t make comparisons between the two.

     Veterans are just like everyone else; they just chose a different career.

     If you really want some advice for how to get along with veterans, drop the assumptions and just talk to us like people.