Dear Abby: As Veterans Day approaches, may I share a few guidelines that can be helpful when interacting with veterans or service members?
1. It is never OK to ask a veteran if he or she has killed someone or to joke about it. If we have, we can’t even talk about it with our spouses, much less a stranger.
2. When you thank us for our service or pay for our meal, it is really appreciated. We also appreciate packages and notes.
3. Please don’t tell us that wars are a waste of dollars or lives or were fought for oil. What we hear is that, in your opinion, our best friend died for nothing. We know many people disagree with war, but it’s better to keep your opinions to yourself.
4. Many of us now have PTSD. If you see us acting anxious or moving away from crowds, turning our backs to the wall or fidgeting, simple kindness or a little distraction will be appreciated. Talk to us about something interesting and give us some breathing room.
5. Please remember that 15 percent of those who serve in the military are women, and some have been in combat. It’s better to ask, “Are you a veteran?” rather than, “Was your husband a soldier?”
6. As with any person who has a disability, please do not stare at us. We can be sensitive about our scars or injuries and would prefer not to be asked to relive a difficult experience by being quizzed about what happened. Please also understand that war injuries today are very different than in the past and are often not visible. It is not OK to tell someone they “don’t look disabled” or appear to need help. Those of us with disabilities appreciate light conversation and assistance if we look like we are in need. It was my pleasure to serve our country.
– Amanda C., U.S. Army Disabled Veteran
Dear Amanda C.: Thank you for your service. And thank you, too, for your helpful suggestions, which are sure to be appreciated not only by civilians, but also by active and retired members of our military.
Readers, as the war in Afghanistan winds down, many thousands of service members are returning home and entering the job market.
Please, if possible, honor their courage, dedication and sacrifice by doing your part and providing them with employment.
Considering what they have done for us, it is the least we can do to show our appreciation.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.