Hello everyone. I'm going to take a break from my usual scheduled program of addressing fear mongering (or at least, that's been the recent theme), and instead I'm going to write about Veterans, since today is Veteran's Day.
My life is full of Veterans. I'm married to a Marine, my brother is in the Air Force. I'm hugely proud of both of them, and will brag all day about it if you give me the chance. My uncle was in the Air National Guard, and if you go back a bit further my grandfather was in the Army Air Corps in World War II. We have veterans in every generation, including the current one.
Outside of family relationships, I'm in the unique position to have the bulk of people I associate with be either current or former military. Most of my coworkers have been or are military, and many of my friends as well. This is a pretty unique position in the United States today. It turns out, roughly around 1% of the current population is actively serving, and 13% overall have ever served. If you live in the south you're more likely to have spent ample time around active military.
I remember growing up not knowing many active military. I knew of one Marine, a fireman in my town. Being from the Midwest, most people went Army or Air Force. I knew a handful of other veterans, but in classic Midwest fashion, they didn't talk about it a lot. My grandfather passed when I was 14, so I didn't get to talk to him much about his service. I was always avidly interested in military history, even as a very little girl. I was fascinated by strategy and tactics, though I grew up in a very liberal college town. It's what I gravitated to, and still do. I always had a very strong respect for the military (as do the rest of my family), but not a lot of one on one interaction.
After graduating from high school, I immediately went to Chicago to get my art degree at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. As you can imagine, there weren't a ton of veterans in that environment, although I did have the pleasure of making one former sailor's acquaintance, a friendship which I still treasure. My interest in military history, strategy, and tactics never waned, and in a surprise to no one, I became a defense contractor after graduating. I moved to North Carolina for a job, and have been in the defense/contracting world ever since.
Since making that move, the last 10 years have been filled with experiences with veterans. I got married to one, of course. But I've spent much of that time working with military personnel in tough environments. Frequently I was the only female on my team, and might go days without seeing another female in a professional capacity. So what did I learn?
This is how I'd characterize my experiences, for those who don't know. The military people I have had the pleasure of working with have come from across the US. They have been male and female, gone to military academies or enlisted straight out of high school. They have been Native American, White, Latino, Black, Middle Eastern and Philippino, and that's just a smattering. Jewish, Atheist, Christian, Asatru, and Muslim. Some enlisted after 9/11, some before, and some since while we've been at war. And they are even more varied than I've been able to describe.
But they've had more in common than they have had differences. With very few exceptions, the people I've known to wear uniforms to defend this country have been absolutely some of the best people I've ever known. They know how to work hard; they know how to work hard on a project that they don't believe is a good idea. They work with people who they don't agree with, or necessarily like. They have a fierce and true love of this country. They are opinionated, and brave. They are selfless, and when complimented on their service, seem to feel as though they don't deserve the praise, it's just what they're supposed to do. They don't give up, they will tell you what they think with unvarnished opinion, and they keep their feet solidly on the ground. They talk a lot more about "Honor" than any other group I know of, and they try their best to uphold it. They have a high personal moral code, for themselves and their brothers and sisters.
They may not always agree with reasons that they are going to war, but they understand that they signed up for it, and it's their job. But even if they disagree, they stay because if the threat comes to our shores, they want to be first to defend us.
In all my time working with veterans, the only time I ever had anyone "sexually harass" me, or give me a hard time for being female, was a male contractor who had never served in the military (though he'd be quick to tell you that he ALMOST did). Beyond that, everyone I have worked with has just assumed I was there to do my best and do my job, and treated me like a comrade. The workplace was full of off-color humor, good natured complaining and teasing, and people who wouldn't hesitate to tell you if you were fucking it up. And that is the best way to work, as far as I'm concerned.
If I were to hire someone for a position tomorrow, and one of the applicants was a veteran, I would likely hire them on the spot. Because I've seen veterans in tough times and easy times, and I think they are made of the best things about America. Acceptance, tolerance, good humor, and a sardonic grin. God bless our veterans, and God bless America. I am honored to spend so much time in your company, and I raise my glass to you.