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If you’re a veteran, stop thinking that Veterans Day is all about you

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service members salute while national anthem plays

Veterans Day came out of a need to recognize the veterans who fought in the meat grinder of World War I. After such a long and brutal war, Armistice Day was created, which eventually became Veterans Day. In the United States, it’s celebrated on November 11. As we all know, they really created Veterans Day and placed it on the 11th to give the other branches something to feel good about after the November 10 Marine Corps Birthday. Har har, I kid, but there is a lot to be said about Veterans Day. 

As a veteran, I’m part of that culture for better or worse. I enjoyed my service and wouldn’t change much, but I would change the attitude of some veterans. There are two parts of what I see as modern veteran culture that I don’t really like. I think it’s something we should work to address, shame, and hopefully change. 

I guess I’m treating Veterans Day as my personal Festivus, but it’s out of love. I want veteran culture to be a force for good: I want the act of service to extend and veterans to earn and try to maintain a place on the pedestal society has built for us. 

The entitled veteran 

There seems to be a sense of entitlement from a lot of veterans, regardless of the time they served. They really want the day to be about them as if it were a birthday. They want to be celebrated and thanked, and Lord forbid if you want to use the day to hit up some Veterans Day sales. There is a crazy idea that Veterans Day needs to be a holiday during which we all stop and thank vets for their service. 

That needs to stop. If someone thanks you, accept it graciously. We should be humble about service and celebrate the achievements of the armed forces as a whole. We should look with pride at the things the Armed Services have done and continue to do. For example, one of the great things about Marine Corps boot camp is the concentrated cult-like effort to stomp out individuality and transform a bunch of 17- and 18-year-olds into a team. 

Marine Corps boot camp graduation ceremony
U.S. Marines with Company G, 2d Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, return guidons to their drill instructors at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif., April 29, 2016. The drill instructors retrieved the guidons from the company honor graduates, prior to their dismissal from recruit training. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Robert G. Gavaldon/Released)

If you’re a veteran, stop thinking that Veterans Day is all about you. Instead, take the opportunity to celebrate other veterans. Celebrate family and friends who served. Celebrate the Marines of the 24th MEU who held the airport in Kabul and had to switch from being the world’s foremost fighting force into caring and nurturing after the population of Kabul. 

Celebrate the few veterans we have left from World War II and the Korean War; cherish their stories and experiences and the sacrifices they made for you. If you can, make sure the Vietnam veterans get the appreciation they might not have felt when they got home. When I got off the bus at Camp Lejeune after my deployment to Afghanistan, it was a Vietnam vet who greeted me with a beer and a handshake. Celebrate those men and women still serving.

Related: Still in Saigon: How a Vietnam War song can speak to all veterans 

The gatekeeper 

The other type of veteran I see piling into the Veterans Day pasta salad is the gatekeeper. It’s the guy or gal who thinks their service was the only acceptable service. Therefore, they are the only veteran to matter, and in fact, they are the Alpha Veteran. They think that they deserve Veterans Day and you don’t. 

You’ll find these guys and gals on social media, commenting on people who change their Facebook profile picture to one from their time in service. These Alpha vets will compare themselves to you in a way in which they are always superior: This can be infantry versus everyone else, or maybe veterans who’ve deployed versus those who haven’t, or veterans with combat experience versus those who didn’t get combat experience. 

But in the wise words of a Jedi Master, “There is always a bigger fish.” 

From left, Forrest Guth, Clancy Lyall and Amos “Buck” Taylor, WWII veterans and members of Easy Company as featured in the TV series “Band of Brothers,” pose for photos and sign autographs for troops during a week-long visit to the Middle East, Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, September 2008. (Photo by Lt. Col. Carol McClelland/1st Theater Sustainment Command)

These people are plain silly, and if they self-identify as such, take it as a cue to get rid of them – you don’t need that negativity in your life. It often seems like these people may have peaked during their service to their country and haven’t moved on from that just yet. People like this aren’t much different than a high school football player who could “throw a football clear over that mountain.”

No one gets to tell you the value of your service. 

Have some fun 

I plan to spend Veterans Day drinking water from all the beer I will have drunk the night before for the Marine Corps birthday. Imma have fun with it, and so should you. Ignore the haters, and don’t imbibe on entitlement….and I’ll see you at Applebees. 

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Travis Pike

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record-setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines, and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.