April 27, 2009

Societal Norms Implore Expected Public Behavior: Implications for Veterans & Soldiers

I cross posted my last article over at A Soldier's Perspective (a totally different site that I contribute on combat PTSD) and recieved this comment:
I'm generally not a stupid guy, so I've never done anything like that kid. I'm not trying to condone it either.

But I wonder; with military gear/paraphernalia so much in style amongst civilians these days(at least here in NYC), isn't there a legitimate question whether the wearer earned the badges or not? Keep in mind that civilians can't tell between a real one and a copy.

How do you guys feel about the fashion trend in general?
My response:
...I personally do not have anything against people wearing military style clothing.

I would say that yes, there is a legitimate question as to whether the wearer earned a badge, ribbon, etc.

I quote myself;

"If you see a person in public with military clothes on, a hat or something that signifies that they were in the military. Do yourself a favor and do not ask him or her about medals, badges, or any insignia they may have displayed right away, especially in a negative way. Tell them welcome home, and then gauge their reaction and if they want to talk to you they may open up some. But, do not take this as an invitation to ask personal information. Our military experiences have an extremely sacred and personal compartment in our minds and hearts that we place them in. Many of us do not even tell our wives, family or friends about what we did or saw."

Men or women who have been in combat generally do not want to talk about their experiences. To them it is a deeply personal part of their lives that they do not wish to share, especially someone they do not know. Combat and killing another human being is the most intimate act one can have with another human. Probably more so than making love to your significant other. Do you talk openly to someone you do not know if they ask you do you have sex with them? Obviously no, the question is taboo.

A societal norm is expected behavior when out in public, and talking about your sex life is generally looked down on in polite company, and especially rude to ask when in passing company. The same holds true to asking someone, probably more so, if they earned their decorations or if they killed anyone.

My message here is that it is rude and insensitive to the soldier or veteran to ask them if they earned their military decorations. Many of us combat veterans have an extremely difficult issue with trusting anyone, even loved ones who we fully felt fidelity before combat.

The answer to your question is that your question would better be left unsaid. If you truly want to talk to a veteran or soldier about their experiences, broach the subject in an empathetic way. First tell them "welcome home" this will probably bring their guard down somewhat. When we come home many of us feel as though we have returned to a foreign land, as though we do not belong anymore.

If you come upon someone you feel as though they may not own the right to wear military decorations. Consider this, we have young soldiers and veterans who are 18 and 19 that have been on multiple tours and have seen more combat than most other wars, including WWII.

Upwards of 90-94% of our troops in Iraq have been shot at, seen someone killed or have been in a combat situation. 68% have actually engaged the enemy where only 40% of the people who actually have the job description of combat arms or killing. In this war we have women fighting and killing the enemy, over 100 women have been killed in combat.

So, when you doubt if someone is old enough or "looks" as though they did not earn their awards. I would suggest to ask yourself these questions pondered here


  1. Thank-you for your service. I grieve for you that battle with what happened in the war. You fought for us, our freedom and paid high price- thank-you. I have a son in Marine, probably Nov. he will go to Afganastan- he is in the motor T- driver. I am saddened that America isn't giving our vets what is due them.

    Linda in IN, Air Force Vet. 72-76, proud Marine Mom

  2. Thank you Lynda for you service and for your enduring strength and belief in our fighting forces.

    May god bless your sons safe return.


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