Katniss Everdeen, Thank You For Your Service, Ben Adams, Overthinking It, December 15, 2014
The individual experience of a veteran is as diverse and varied as any other institution with millions of members – prior to serving, those who served in the military come from all walks of life and backgrounds. During service, the experience of each service member varies widely, from a desk job in Washington DC to driving a warship through the Pacific to humping a rucksack and a rifle through the Taliban-controlled mountains of Afghanistan. And after leaving the military, veterans can be seen in all facets of society, making art, starting businesses, Overthinking things, etc.
But it is far too easy to leave this individuality behind and force the modern American* combat veteran into one of two competing narratives: the Courageous Hero or the Downtrodden and Broken Victim. In the Hero story, the veteran was born waving an American flag, traveling stoically across the sea to do battle with a distant enemy and returning home unbowed and unbroken; in the Victim story, the veteran was exploited by forces beyond his control, forced into the desert, subjected to unthinkable tragedy, and is now a hollow shell, subject to either crippling depression or psychotic breaks.
As with Katniss, veteran stories of heroism and victimization aren’t necessarily wrong. To be sure, many veterans have in fact accomplished any number of heroic deeds, sacrificing themselves for their fellow soldiers and civilians caught in the crossfire. And to be sure, many veterans have in fact been victimized by combat, coming home either not at all, or with wounds both physical and mental.
But in the stories we tell ourselves, the actual living, breathing, veteran frequently becomes just a stand-in for an undifferentiated mass of Veterans.
Gun nuts’ racial duplicity: How Ferguson and Garner undermined their Second Amendment crusade, Amanda Gailey, Salon, December 15, 2014 Continue reading