Bill Hoffrage recently asked, “Who is a veteran?” He then denied being a veteran in spite of four years of service in the U.S. Air Force. He denied being a veteran because he did not serve in harm’s way.
Sir, you are a veteran. You deserve our nation’s respect for having served. I’m glad that you were not in harms way. And based on your denial, I strongly believe that you and my late father could have been friends. He served in the U. S. Army for nearly a quarter of a century, retiring as a Sgt. Major. He didn’t deny being a veteran but he didn’t talk about it either. He refused to answer my questions about his service, his scars, and his mutilated legs.
Dad could have been one of the service members featured in Tom Brokaw’s “The Greatest Generation” books. I learned after dad’s death that he fought at the Battle of the Bulge and at Remagen, helping hold the last bridge across the Rhine River so that a second bridge could be built to allow Allied tanks to roar into Germany. He fought in Korea. He was training troops to fight in Vietnam when he retired. Like you, sir, he didn’t brag about his service as a veteran.
“Who is a veteran?” is an easy question. The tougher question to answer deals with using that status to promote one’s self when running for public office. We have three candidates running for district attorney who are veterans. We have a veteran running for judge. We also have a judicial candidate who, while not a veteran, served our country for nearly twenty years as a federal law enforcement officer.
Personally, I think it’s okay to mention one’s prior service. It’s part of the resume. But given my father’s example, I find it disgusting if and when any candidate for public office exagerates his/her previous service. I don’t think that there is an award for veteran of the year. Those of you who served understand that that service was a team effort. If my dad were living, he would say that the heroes with whom he served are buried under white crosses in foreign countries.
Thank you, Mr. Hoffrage.
— Charles Wieland,