If you want to truly thank a veteran ...
Veterans Day honors those — living and dead — who raised their hand and took an oath to support and defend this great country.
We owe them a tremendous debt, especially today, given the never-ending cycle of war and the increasingly high operational tempo of the units involved.
If our war-fighters aren’t actually deployed, they’re training to redeploy, again and again. The cycle never ends.
Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to meet a soldier with more than a dozen combat deployments and too many Purple Hearts. (One is too many.)
That’s why, for me, Veterans Day has always been somewhat bittersweet.
We should celebrate veterans every day, and we should offer them more than just parades, flag waving and thank-yous.
If you want to help our veterans and honor the sacrifices they have made, hire them.
This isn’t charity. In fact, it’s the opposite. The skills a veteran brings to the workplace far exceed those of a typical civilian jobseeker, especially when it comes to leadership.
The military doesn’t teach management. It teaches leadership.
You can’t manage a fire team of 19-year-olds up a godforsaken hill in Afghanistan, while under fire with wounded in tow. You have to lead them, from the front, by personal example. That’s why the motto of the infantry has always been “Follow me.”
Typical workplace stressors like deadlines, heavy workloads and long hours won’t faze someone who is accustomed to the rigors of military life. Today’s service members are used to it. In fact, they thrive on stress. Some seek it out.
Conditions that would cause a civilian to run screaming from the workplace most veterans would find laughable. They’re unflappable because they were forged in the crucible of self-sacrifice and mission first.
They’re much more mature. Even the young ones who can’t legally buy a bottle of beer in the states have experience far beyond their years — real world stuff — life and death stuff.
There are scores of other attributes a vet can bring to the workplace if they’re only given a chance: honor, discipline, motivation, teamwork, technical skills and experience, loyalty — the list is long.
While it’s true that some veterans have baggage — as do some civilians — for the most part, this too has been overblown.
Today, there is no typical veteran. Everyone’s military experience was different. Everyone’s war was unique. Veterans have never been a homogeneous group.
The vast majority of our military men and women never had to engage the enemy in combat. For some of those who did, this can understandably take a toll.
For others — the special operations guys — combat is the reason they joined the military. It’s not a concept that’s easy to understand, especially for civilians.
My point is this, regardless of what you have heard, veterans are not delicate flowers.
They don’t need to be pitied, and they certainly don’t need to be coddled.
They need to be hired.
President Lincoln said it best: “Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country’s cause. Honor, also, to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves, as he best can, the same cause.”
The best way to thank a veteran for their service is by offering them a job.
Contact topics editor Lee Williams, an Army veteran, at firstname.lastname@example.org