Why I'm A Vet Serving Other Vets
I recently joined the American Legion. And found that they have a mantra, really a mission: "Vets Serving Vets". I became active and my wife asked why I'm doing this.
The short answer is that it feels good.
The longer answer is:
To be honest, I'm not really sure why I joined the American Legion. Maybe it had something to do with what I did when I was a lot younger. Maybe it was because I thought I might find others who had had similar experiences. I really don't remember. I had a few friends who were members and they urged me to join. So I did.
Socially, when we get together we trade stories about our experiences and brag about our branch of service (the Army, of course, comes first followed by, in no particular order Navy, Marines, Coast Guard or Air Force). I'm Army. But no matter what branch we were in we all marched (which is walking together in formation to a certain rhythm), we spit shined our shoes and boots, we polished our brass, we dressed alike (and as we were told), we exercised (its called PT and we did it at a time of day when its still dark...there's a reason they call it "0 dark hundred"…and in the winter it's dark AND cold.), we went on those long, painful, seemingly endless runs to nowhere (again in formation and again to a specific cadence), we learned to obey orders (without too much complaining); we learned to do what we were told and to do it quickly; we learned to say "Yes, Sir!", "No Sir!" and "No Excuse, Sir!" while standing uncomfortably at attention; we learned discipline and respect for authority and we learned how to work as a team. We may not have liked everyone we worked with but we did what we were told. We did all these things and a lot more and we did them together and eventually we learned to act together. And when we learned to do that we became a UNIT.
And in doing all these things we came to form a bond with those serving together with us. And in doing all these things we also formed a bond with those who came before us, with those who came after us and with those yet to serve. The experience was unique to each of us, common to all of us and it was a life altering experience for most of us.
So, now, when we come together and trade stories and boast and brag and pretend to insult each other we are in truth displaying this bond; the connection we all have; this is a connection which transcends dates of service and rank and branch and especially which transcends generations. The people who serve today are my brothers and sisters; so too are the people who have served and the people who will serve: we are all family. It is an unbroken chain which extends back to the beginning of the US Military.
And it's this bond which creates our desire to serve. We are Veterans serving Veterans. Together, we observe Memorial Day and Independence Day and Veterans Day and Flag Day with celebrations and parades and ceremonies. We note December 7th and June 6th and 9/11 mostly quietly and with reverence. Places like Flanders Field and Bastogne and Iwo Jima and Tarawa and Korea and Vietnam and Mogadishu and Iraq and Afghanistan and many others are meaningful. These are all Holidays and dates and places to commemorate those who served with us and especially those who are no longer here with us.
We served the country then and today we still serve, in a different way; by serving Vets. Today our service is much different than it was during our time on active duty, however long or brief. Length of active duty service, branch, rank...that doesn't matter. When we served before we showed our prowess and strength and power; today we show our caring and concern and feeling for those who have sacrificed and those who sacrifice just as we did. And the reward for our service today is far greater than it ever was; today when we serve we get back far more than we give. Today when we serve we reap the reward of giving back; the feeling inside that we've done something worthwhile and good. We are Vets serving Vets and that feels good.
It just plain feels good.
- Post member Steve Cole