Because of their training, their experiences, and their worldview, veterans tend to be a breed apart. There are many things that veterans know that the rest of American doesn’t, but here are five things veterans know to get the conversation started:
1) How to use the metric system… and the 24-hour clock
Does anyone understand why we still use the outdated imperial system of weights and measures, when there’s something WAY better? Even the people who came up with the imperial system, the Brits, don’t use it anymore. And even if they did still use it, didn’t we fight a whole big Revolution against them so they couldn’t be the boss of us anymore?
Veterans, scientists, engineers, and immigrants are probably the only people in America who can easily relate to the metric system. The military uses the metric system for things that really matter, like planning for airstrikes, conducting land navigation, and determining how much beer you can legally bring back from your Iraq-to-CONUS redeployment stopover in Germany. But even the military still relies on the imperial system for arbitrary measurements, like the distance selected for measuring physical fitness evaluations. I guess “two miles” doesn’t sound as far as 3,219 meters.
Then there’s the 24-hour clock. “I get it in 7!” Um, is that AM or PM? “I get in at 1900.” Brilliant, see you tomorrow night. It is completely unnecessary, in a 24-hour day, to arbitrarily go from 1 to 12 twice a day when you can just count up from zero.
2) What it’s like to live with “socialized” medicine
Universal coverage sounds great . . . until you have to live with it. Remove the profit incentive and take away accountability, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. While the unit-level medical personnel, or “Docs,” are almost universally loved by those in uniform, I can sum up the experiences that many veterans have with the system as a whole with this: “Here’s your handful of Motrin . . . now take a knee, face out, and drink water. Oh, and change your running shoes.”
Then there is dealing with the VA, where people were literally dying while waiting for an appointment. Still don’t think there will be “death lists” with universal, single-payer government health care? The VA is “Example A.” And did you know that it’s almost impossible to sue Army doctors for malpractice? The military’s health care system is great . . . if you can get seen, if they’ll pay for necessary treatments, and — oh yeah — if the care provider doesn’t screw it up. This does not bode well for “ObamaCare.”
3) How to get along with just about anyone
In addition to being a ticket into the American middle class (at least for career military types), the military is the only real remnant of the “melting pot” left in America. The military takes people from every corner of the US — as well as from foreign countries — and jams them all together in a way that no other experience can. And — oh yeah — it forces people to get along. The nuances of military life shatter stereotypes, break down barriers, and expose people to cultures, attitudes, and peoples in a way that few other experiences can. Whether it’s the people in their squad, the local nationals just outside the wire, friendly military forces, or other government and non-governmental agencies, veterans can usually find a way to work with people to get things done. A lot of America could learn from their example.
4) What is actually in the Constitution
While many Americans might only pay lip service to the Constitution, very few of them think about what it really means. Interestingly, American officers are one of the only military officers in the world who swear an oath not to an individual leader or to a political entity, but to an incorporating idea: the US Constitution. While both officers and enlisted members of the US military (and other government officials as well) are sworn first and foremost to support and defend the Constitution, enlisted members also swear to obey the orders of the President and the officers appointed over them, whereas that verbiage is deliberately omitted from the oath that the officers themselves take. Since all members of the military are sworn to defend the Constitution, obligated to follow Constitutional orders, and specifically enjoined to not obey those orders illegal under our Constitution, it naturally follows that they take the time to actually learn what is in the Constitution.
5) That there is genuine evil in the world
A lot of people navigate the world in deliberate ignorance of the evil that surrounds them. Veterans know it’s out there because they have seen it . . . and shot it in the face. They believe in the adage that “the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing,” because they’ve seen it happen. They are willing to go to great lengths to make sure that evil can’t touch something that they love.
Originally published in December of 2014.