11 November 2015

Sherpa's Rules of Engagement for Veterans Day

Meme courtesy of the Internet
Call it a safety briefing, or some half-baked Sherpatudes, or just some friendly advice ... Here are few truths and truisms to keep in mind this November 11th. Take what you can use, leave the rest:
  1. Crossing the civil-military divide means meeting people halfway. Free appetizers and utterances of "thank you for your service" represent, in most cases, sincere and heartfelt attempts by civilians to bridge that gap. Don't make them work too hard. Don't put obstacles in their way. At least they're trying.

  2. You're a veteran now. Be civil.

  3. Remember how we were once supposed to win "hearts and minds" in someone else's country? Veterans day is about the hearts and minds of your fellow citizens. Don't screw it up.

  4. Have a response plan. What are you going to say when someone says, "Thank you for your service"? Be gracious. Be polite. Be concise. One of my go-to phrases? "It was an honor to serve."

  5. If someone calls you a "hero," let it go unremarked. Yes, you may not feel like a hero. You may, like other veterans, reserve that particular term for those who have been formally recognized for valor, or for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Being someone's hero isn't about you, however. It's about the other person. Everyone has their own war; everyone chooses their own heroes.

  6. There is no such thing as a free lunch. If someone—an individual or a business—picks up your tab, make sure you still tip your waiter or waitress. Thank them for their service.

  7. "All you can eat" doesn't mean you should.

  8. Don't be pedantic. Yes, Veterans Day is technically for celebrating those who have served in the U.S. military. Memorial Day is about remembering those who have died in military service to their country. And Armed Forces Day is about celebrating those who currently serve. You don't have to put your inner drill sergeant on display, however, every time someone doesn't say something in exactly the right way.

  9. "Pedantic" means "precise, exact, perfectionist, punctilious, meticulous, fussy, fastidious, finicky, dogmatic, purist, literalist, literalistic, formalist, casuistic, sophistic, captious, hair-splitting, quibbling, nitpicking, persnickety." Don't be that guy.

  10. You know who's "pedantic," by the way? The freaking Taliban.

  11. There is no apostrophe in "Veterans Day," but you don't need to get all grammar Nazi about punctuation. If you fought to protect the First Amendment, you also fought for someone's right to express themselves' incorrectly.

  12. Know that there are different definitions of "veteran," by state law, federal agency, and organizational custom. In active-duty military culture, a "veteran" is often thought of as someone who is no longer in uniformed service. I've heard current service members argue up and down that they are not "veterans." In the National Guard and Reserve, however, a "veteran" may be legally defined as someone who has deployed overseas for a period longer than 6 months. Yes, they get a DD-214. (Former guard and reserve members who have retired from the military, usually after 20 or more years of service, are also labeled veterans, regardless of overseas deployment.)

  13. Don't ask to see someone's DD-214.

  14. Don't ask to see someone's military ID.

  15. Basically, don't be a dick.

  16. Veteran Outrage Syndrome is real. Know the signs, in yourself and in others.

  17. Don't be anti-social on social media.

  18. If you suspect that someone is wearing a uniform in public inappropriately, perhaps to collect on the offer of a free hero sandwich or falafel, take a knee and a deep breath and a big swig of water. Count to ten. If you still feel the need to make a citizen's correction, do so discretely and without making a scene. Don't threaten to call the police. Don't make physical contact. Don't engage in verbal abuse, public shaming, or witch-burning. You're better than that. We're all better than that. If we're not, the terrorists win.

  19. Most important: Perform your buddy checks and maintenance before, during, and after Veterans Day operations. Not all who wander are lost. Not all who served are broken. But it never hurts to ask if someone is doing OK.


  1. Not wishing to be pedantic, but most folks feel that my 24 years (15 of which were as a full-time readiness tech) in the Texas Army National Guard during the Cold War qualifies me as a veteran. If not, no biggie. I know what I accomplished for my country. I require validation from no one.

    1. You are correct. National Guard and Reserve retirees are also properly labelled as veterans. I have included a parenthetical clarification in No. 12, above.

      I, too, am a 20+ year National Guard retiree.


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