By Joe Barton – Student Reporter
This Monday we celebrated Veterans’ Day. To many it means a day off, a good sale, or a free meal. For veterans, this day means a lot depending on their experiences in the military.
Every veteran is different, and so are the reasons why he or she joined. Some are active, or retired, or discharged. As a veteran myself I must admit I have my own view on the holiday, and what it means to be a veteran, but I was interested in learning what my old military friends think about the holiday.
I reached out to my mentor and friend, Sergeant First Class (SFC) Stephen H. Martin. He’s been with the US Army for 20 years and is still active. He is currently a Combative Master Trainer – he oversees the training of the US Army fighting system.
I asked, what does Veterans day mean to you?
Martin said, “I would say it means to recognize and give respect to all Americans, past and present, that served and were willing to put their lives at risk for freedom, their fellow countrymen and to preserve to the American way of life.”
Not all Vets share the same view on the holiday. I reached out to my other brother in arms and fellow pro-wrestler, Stephen Keith.
I asked him, so how many years of service do you have and what branch? Also do you have any awards or accolades you want to mention?
Keith said, “I’m 44, 8 years active duty Army. I have a bunch of awards and service medals, but I don’t recall most of them. Sometimes I look at my DD 214 if I need to put them on a resume, but I never really put that much stock in it. I left that part of my life behind a long time ago.”
When I asked him, what does Veterans day mean to you, he had a lot of feedback.
Keith said, “I’m glad you asked. I’ve thought about this quite a bit. I do appreciate the sentiment. It’s nice to hear, but the way we glorify “veterans” in our society in my opinion, is flimsy and contrived. We all signed up knowing what was involved. We signed a contract and fulfilled our end of said contract. That’s it. We got what we wanted out of it. This romantic idea that veterans fought for the freedom of our countrymen is a farce. There hasn’t been an actual threat to U.S. Sovereignty since WWII. There aren’t very many people even left on the planet that actually fought for the freedom of this nation.”
He also said, “Most people did it for the benefits like college money, or to get out of the bad situation they were in at the time. That’s the harsh reality of it. It’s also a contrived notion that somehow if you’re a veteran, you are a virtuous, good human. It’s nice to hear, ‘Happy Veteran’s Day’, but like most things in American society, it’s pretty fake and weightless.”
With every interview I conducted I thought about my own evolution of meaning with this holiday. My last interview helped give me some closure on the matter. I talked to Specialist (SPC) Trenton Skrine of the US Army, a soldier of two years who is still growing in his own right.
I asked him, what is the reason behind your service?
Skrine said, “I mean, my service is due to the respect I have for my father. He’s hitting his twenty-year mark and I felt like the army gave our family a life. While we have different career paths, I have never been closer to my father since my enlistment.”
He also weighed in on what it means to be a veteran to him, saying, “While I’m not a veteran myself because I haven’t been deployed, I’ve done some time and I can’t deny that this shit has changed me. I was never a fan of the military, but without it I would have never met my wife, and I would probably have been dead or in jail, so I guess I picked the best option.”
So, I asked, does the holiday have a different meaning for you now?
Skrine said, “I mean yeah, I guess. It’s more for my fellow soldiers and those who served before me.”
Over the years Veteran’s Day has meant more to me. When I was a young Private, the day meant finding the least busy free fast food give-a-way spot. After my first deployment and losing some good friends, it became more about being thankful for the ones who are still around.
Now, after being out for two years, I have mixed feelings of anger and fond memories. The anger comes from the open disrespect I see from the current Presidential Administration and the numerous Vets who get to be honored when they shouldn’t be.
However, I can’t let that anger ruin the memories of the men and women I served with who were indeed the very best of America. Ironically, many of them were not born American but sacrificed more than any US-borne person I know.