What Is It Like to Be a Veteran?
What is it like to be a veteran? Ask my grandfather.
He’ll tell you the veteran is a young man preparing for war. It’s training to be a turret gunner in a TBM-1 torpedo bomber. It’s living in a ship and steaming across the world without knowing your mission. It’s bonding with your crew and then honoring your pilot by giving your children his name. It’s keeping a diary for your grandchildren to read 60 years later. It’s training for years and years to fly a single combat mission over the Philippines only to have your gun jam. It’s feeling an inexpressible relief when the war ends.
What is like to be a veteran? Ask my father.
He’ll tell you it’s about flying attack helicopters to support the infantry on the ground. It’s going to work before the sun is up in returning home long after it has set. It’s about making plans for your life and changing them at the drop of a hat. It’s about leading Marines and fighting for what is right. It’s about discipline, fitness, resilience, and an unwavering commitment to the principles that keep our country free.
What is like to be a veteran? Ask my mother.
She’ll tell you it’s living a life of sacrifice. It’s making a home wherever you are and then leaving it. It’s raising children alone. It’s double duty–triple duty and no easy day. It’s a life of adjustment, separation, reunion, reintegration, and readjustment. It is a life of joy and pain, fulfillment and frustration. It’s putting part of life on hold and holding on for the ride ahead.
What is it like to be a veteran? If you ask me, I’ll tell you it’s about choosing a life of service which is both an honor and a privilege. The veteran is a diplomat and a warrior. They must choose between life and death without the luxury of time or certainty, and they must live with what’s left. It is a burden and a blessing. It’s about receiving thanks and support wherever you go and still feeling unworthy.
What is it like to be a veteran? Ask my wife. She’ll tell you it’s about being proud to be an American. It’s about standing up to make a commitment and defend our way of life. It’s about opportunity and hardship. It’s about worry and uncertainty. It’s about the unknown and the uncomfortable.
We will all tell you, it’s about being proud to serve.
About Jason B. Ladd
Jason is an author, speaker, Marine, and father of seven. He has flown the F/A-18 Hornet as a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) Instructor Pilot and the F-16 as an Instructor Pilot. His award-winning book One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview has been optioned for film adaptation. He is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency.