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‘You either went to war or you didn’t’ — How deployments divide the vet community

daftandbarmy

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Something that is a common experience with all militaries, everwhere, and will likely become even more divisive internally now that various overseas commitments are drying up....


There is an unspoken caste system among veterans. The people who wind up in these castes have no choice about which group they end up in. It’s all a matter of luck and geopolitics.

You either went to war or you didn’t.

I’m in the never-went camp, and I don’t know how I feel about it. There are days where I get a flash of regret because I don’t share that experience with those who, like me, raised their teenage hands to promise to die for someone else’s reasons, but who actually faced the consequences of that promise. Regret isn’t the word for the feeling. Regret means there was something good to be had that you didn’t get a chance to experience. I know that there are bonds formed in combat that can’t be duplicated and those must be good, but a lot of other terrible shit happens, too.


It’s more than regret. Different and more complicated, a confusing swell of emotions—like watching those early black-and-white movies, the ones with street scenes where people and horses weave and jostle past one another. Aimlessly, but with purpose. It’s something close to cowardice, but that’s not it, either, because I was ready to go where I was told to go and do very hard things. Belligerent ennui? A bridesmaid’s lament? The chill of being an outsider in a club that I was already a member of?

 

Colin Parkinson

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One reason I didn't get veteran plates and such. I didn't have to go to war and didn't get any UN tours. On the bright side I don't have any thing to really get nightmares about. I prefer to save that stuff for anyone that went on a tour where getting shot or blown up was a reality.
 

FJAG

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After 44 years of service, much of which was during the Cold War, and doing a number of domestic operations in Canada (one of which had me carrying loaded weapons in the streets of Montreal) I have no problem calling myself a veteran. I still don't have veteran plates either but that has more to do with having to go to the Legion in Ontario to have some civvy certify that I've served.

That said, it's clear that there is a gulf of difference between me and those who served "outside the wire" and even many of those who had tamer deployments or roles in foreign lands.

It's a complicated feeling and that football analogy does touch on it.

🍻
 

Jarnhamar

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Agree with the theory of the article. In practice I think it's broken down even further.

Canada in Afghanistan for example:
  • Were you on an earlier battle tour or later close down tour.
  • Were you based out of KAF or at a FOB.
  • FOB or COP for most of your tour.
  • If you were based out of KAF did you leave the wire or no.
  • Were you at a FOB that saw a lot of action or was it quiet.
  • Did you leave the FOB or were you inside the whole time.
  • Were you in an HQ or platoon, and so on.
 

mariomike

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Reminds me of something William Manchester wrote.
In World War II, 16 million Americans entered the armed forces. Of these, fewer than a million saw action. Logistically, it took 19 men to back up one man in combat. All who wore uniforms are called veterans, but more than 90 percent of them are as uninformed about the killing zones as those on the home front.
He was a sergeant in the 29th Marines. They lost more than 80 percent of the men who landed on Okinawa on April 1, 1945.
 

Haggis

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I still don't have veteran plates either but that has more to do with having to go to the Legion in Ontario to have some civvy certify that I've served.
That is the primary reason why I don't have an Ontario veteran's licence plate.
That said, it's clear that there is a gulf of difference between me and those who served "outside the wire" and even many of those who had tamer deployments or roles in foreign lands.
There are many who did things without leaving Canada that were more dangerous, challenging and daring than an overseas deployment.
 

Fishbone Jones

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I've always had one mantra. I've used it many times against the prima donna's who think a tour makes them superior. It was typically used when I heard people whine about Cold War soldiers. It now serves me as well for discussing with our modern bone heads.
Those who stood and waited also served.
 

Kilted

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Some people act like not having a tour puts you in a sub-human category. Of course, the people pushing this don't have tours themselves.
 

Colin Parkinson

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Part of the problem is some Cold War types (CWTs) feel lessened by the Afghan Vets, who had a much different war and lost friends and comrades. Some CWT's even think Afghanistan is not a "real war", that's utterly stupid, it was a very real war. US CWTs should be proud we stood ready for a the most horrific war in history that never happened, for some it was very real and cost lives, but for most of us it was a real but distant threat. Thankfully the majority of our opponents had the same desire to live as we did.
You can be proud to be a CWTs and be proud of the Afghan Vets at the same time. But this is their time to boast, mourn, laugh and cry. One they will be in the background of a new generation facing a new threat.
 

ArmyRick

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I had a Afghan vet tell me my three tours in the former Yugo were nothing and just childs play (or words to that effect)

23 CAF soldiers who died there might disagree.

We should STOP the hiearchy BS. Its nonsense and really immature.

"You weren't on my battleschool course"
"You weren't on my reconnaissance course"
"You weren't in 2 Commando"
"You weren't in Somalia"
"You were on my ISCC"
"My 6B (3B now) was harder than yours"
"Our tour was tougher than..."

Blah, blah, freaking blah. Enough. Vets stand together already. It reminds me of that old Dr Seuss video The Sneetches (who got stars on their belly and who didn't)

I have a friend I served with, Bjarne (3VP than 1RCR), who finally got his first tour as a sergeant and then only a few months in, lost three limbs and nearly his life in Afghanistan. Some of you may know him. Whats happen to you on tour is NOT up to any of us. The fact that we all swore and oath and willingness to serve is the most important factor.

PULL together and enough of the divisive BS.
 

Fishbone Jones

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On Athena roto 0, I had the DSM of the RCR do exactly that. I had a question at one of our lectures about our points for deploying. They knocked back the amount for Europe. He came flying over to me and gave me shit. Something about me being in Lahr while him and his Commando buddies went to Africa during the early 70's. We were deploying in 2003. 30 years after the fact and he still felt the need to shore up his miserable existence. In typical fashion with these guys, I tuned out and wondered what I was going to do for lunch.
 

T700

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This issue has been going on since the beginning of time.
Four Yorkshire Men of Monty Python is the best demonstration.
“We had it tough…”
I’ve met people with a chest full of tours that were totally incompetent but somehow managed to fill a void. Oxygen theives

A true professional doesn’t need to boast.

I asked my Grandfather how he was awarded the DFC.
“Because I made it…” was his reply
Tail gunner and mid upper gunner 405 Squadron.
 

mariomike

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I asked my Grandfather how he was awarded the DFC.
“Because I made it…” was his reply
Tail gunner and mid upper gunner 405 Squadron.
Your grandfather sounds pretty modest.

Over a million Canadians served in the WW2. Only about 4,000 were awarded a DFC
 

Remius

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Your grandfather sounds pretty modest.

Over a million Canadians served in the WW2. Only about 4,000 were awarded a DFC
My great grandfather was awarded a DCM in WW1. By all accounts it may have been “hand out a bunch of these” and he won the lottery I guess. Or so the family says lol. A lot of those guys were modest.
 

Eaglelord17

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Part of the problem is some Cold War types (CWTs) feel lessened by the Afghan Vets, who had a much different war and lost friends and comrades. Some CWT's even think Afghanistan is not a "real war", that's utterly stupid, it was a very real war. US CWTs should be proud we stood ready for a the most horrific war in history that never happened, for some it was very real and cost lives, but for most of us it was a real but distant threat. Thankfully the majority of our opponents had the same desire to live as we did.
You can be proud to be a CWTs and be proud of the Afghan Vets at the same time. But this is their time to boast, mourn, laugh and cry. One they will be in the background of a new generation facing a new threat.
I suspect the CWT issues relate to also how they were treated by the WWII vets (and even the Korea vets who were also treated poorly by the WWII vets), as they did plenty to make them feel unappreciated and worthless. 'Your a CF retiree, not a veteran', 'We signed up because we were needed and left after we weren't, you were just government funded welfare', etc.

Overall the whole arguing over who is more important is stupid. As long as someone isn't claiming to be something they are not, who really cares?
 

Colin Parkinson

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I suspect the CWT issues relate to also how they were treated by the WWII vets (and even the Korea vets who were also treated poorly by the WWII vets), as they did plenty to make them feel unappreciated and worthless. 'Your a CF retiree, not a veteran', 'We signed up because we were needed and left after we weren't, you were just government funded welfare', etc.

Overall the whole arguing over who is more important is stupid. As long as someone isn't claiming to be something they are not, who really cares?
Who needs enemies with friends like these.
 

Brad Sallows

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"To the dogface out on patrol, his platoon command post, with its machine-gun emplacement, is rear echelon and home and the safest place in the world.
The gunner in the platoon CP is itching to get the hell out of there and back to the safety of company headquarters, where the topkick is equally anxious to find an excuse to visit Battalion.
The radio Operators in Battalion like to go after extra tubes at Regimental supply, even though Regimental seldom stocks tubes, and the guys who work at field desks in Regimental hate the guts of those rear echelon bastards in Division. Division feels that way about Corps, Corps about Army, Army about Base Section, and, so help me Hannah, Base Section feels that way about soldiers in the States." - Bill Mauldin, "Up Front"

Not quite the same thing, but the same kind of sentiment.
 
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