Posted on Nov 11, 2014
SSG Ralph Innes
I often have ideas that hit me while driving down the road that I feel needs to be put on paper. I wrote this a couple years ago and figured I would share.


Webster’s Dictionary defines a Veteran as “a former member of the armed forces”. Though that definition might be accurate, it is far too vanilla to accurately define a Veteran. It is my opinion that a Veteran can only be accurately defined by another Veteran. One cannot give an all encompassing description, but a Veteran can vividly detail his or her mental portrait of the term.

I haven’t ever written a dictionary, and admittedly seldom use one, but my idea of a Veteran cannot be defined in seven words such as used by Mr. Webster. In my opinion, to accurately define and/or describe a Veteran, one must look at the mental and physical makeup of the person. The mere proposition that donning a uniform makes a person a Veteran, though true in theory, fails to give justice as to what it takes day in and day out to live up to the reputation and respect that comes with the title.

Most Veterans voluntarily walked into a recruiter’s office and enlisted into the service. The mere fact of volunteering to join a service is praiseworthy in and of itself, but that first step is just the beginning. By volunteering to join, the person has also agreed to accept the training required to learn a new profession. The person has agreed to accept any duty location around the world based on the needs of the particular service. The person has agreed to work 24/7 without any overtime, extra personal days or comp time. The person has agreed to accept a higher standard of work and personal rules and regulations than most other civilian employee. Most importantly, the person has agreed to put him or herself in harm’s way to protect our way of life against all enemies, foreign or domestic.

I agree that a person volunteering for military service shouldn’t complain about all of the above mentioned requirements. They knew what they were getting into when they signed on the proverbial dotted line. However, there is a group of men in our country’s history that didn’t volunteer to join, but were rather drafted into the service. One should stop and think about this concept. A young man that has no intention, desire, drive, fortitude or heart to be in the service is now pulled off the streets by our government and told he must join the service and fight. I personally could not imagine what that would have felt like, and I could see how there could have been problems with individuals like that in uniform.

What I find even more compelling, though, is that the vast majority of these guys did what needed to be done. They did all of those things that the volunteer soldier did. They might not have wanted to, but they did. Sure, they might have done it because they wanted to make it home, but that is human nature. They also did it because their buddy on their right and left depended on it. The sacrifices they made are unquestionable and should never be taken for granted or forgotten.

Regardless if the person volunteered or was drafted, it should be pointed out that these men and women have held a job that could result in death. We have cemeteries across this country and in foreign lands filled with those that paid the ultimate sacrifice. A sacrifice made not for a large paycheck every month, a big house, or hand-tailored suits, but rather for a way of life for those striving for those materialistic desires. A Veteran carries on doing his or her job for a meager wage, sometimes less than desirable meals, and living quarters that would be best described in the civilian world as low-income. The Veteran does this usually only asking for nothing more than a little support from the people back at home. While a civilian employee might ask for a bonus, business car, or pay raise, the Veteran is thrilled to receive a care package with some candy bars, tobacco, and a letter from a loved one sprayed with his or her favorite perfume or cologne.

To those back at home, a Veteran can be a mother or father, brother or sister, son or daughter. But in their minds, a Veteran is a Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine. The only distinction, other than experience, between the brand new private out of Basic Training and a Commanding General is a 2 inch by 2 inch rank on the front of their uniform. They may have different specific duties, but they are on the same overall mission. Their ultimate goal is the same.

When a civilian leaves a job or retires, they are referred to as a retired banker, former lawyer, etc. However, someone much smarter than I realized those terms are not sufficient for service members. They realized service members deserve their own label to signify and honor their commitment. I know a few paragraphs do not do justice in attempting to define the term Veteran. I could continue to write to describe what a Veteran goes through that makes them what they are, but if you are not a Veteran it is hard to totally understand. It is analogous to a woman attempting to describe child birth to a man. Nevertheless, one of these days when I am cold, wet, tired and hungry, I might continue this essay; for I work better under those conditions, because I am a Veteran.

Ralph L. Innes
“Airborne All The Way”
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Responses: 1
SCPO Intelligence Specialist
Well said SSG Ralph Innes!
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