On Civilian Guilt


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Photo by Bill Murphy Jr.  Used with permission from Stars and Stripes. © 2011 Stars and Stripes

I have four really good friends. Well, three of them would say we’re good friends, and the fourth would claim that he’s my sort of boss. But we’re friends, whether he likes it or not.

I love being around them. We sit next to each other at least nine hours every work day. We eat lunch together. They tease me incessantly for my monthly jet setting. We laugh. A lot. But we work really hard too.

Sometimes I have this nagging feeling that, somehow, the stories I tell them are completely ridiculous. In their defense, most of things I say are ridiculous. I tell them about college, my foibles of law school and the messy interim between school and when I started at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

I feel guilty recounting these stories to them.  Mostly because I know (and have read) that at those exact moments when I was wearing candy necklaces in my favorite bar, worrying that my boyfriend was partying too hard with his fraternity brothers, my Veteran friends were in a remote place that I couldn’t conceive, then or now. They served our country and were willing to sacrifice their lives for something that I was taking for granted in Pittsburgh. Frankly, it makes me feel awful. But I can’t exactly look them in the face and say, “Your service makes me feel guilty – but I’m so thankful for it.  And it makes me want to cry and scream and hug you all at the same time.”

My civilian guilt is sometimes debilitating.

Part of my guilt is my own inaction at a watershed moment in our nation’s history. Everyone remembers where they were on September 11. It’s disappointing that I can vividly remember only a few things; I was sitting in my University’s student Union eating a bag of Cheetos waiting for my Tuesday morning theater class. Then the memories start to get hazy. I vaguely remember going to church. I remember crying hysterically over the loss of life. And I remember feeling exposed and scared.

After that, I know that we went to war but other than waiting in extra long lines at security checkpoints in airports, my life didn’t change at all.

I think about my grandparents on my mom’s side – Grammy and PapPap – who were younger than I am now during the Second World War. PapPap was a bombardier. I remember their stories about what life was like during the war. It was not an easy time. People were rationing, saving food, taking on new jobs, and every single American was involved. But somehow I missed the memo that we are at war and should probably do something about it. I mean granted, I was 19 years old and could barely keep my checking account above -$3.00, but I literally did nothing.

Then, I started working with Veterans. These are people whose stories touch me; everything becomes so real. And I am so thankful for their service and sacrifices. But I worry that I will end up feeling more guilty, that my flippant stories will overshadow my gratitude. As I conjure stories of spending my 21st birthday in a cute outfit surrounded by my best friends, I feel guilty. I know Alex spent his 22nd birthday in a place called Diyala, dodging sniper rounds and looking for buried, daisy-chained IEDs. I feel guilty when I know the worst thing that happened to me was the decision about whether or not to take the LSATs. The worst thing that happened to him was watching his friends and coworkers suffer emotionally and physically, worrying about his life and the lives of his comrades. I feel guilty that I never had to worry about that.

I’m not ashamed of the things I was doing while Alex, Kate and Josh were in Iraq and Brandon in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite knowing that we all strive to do what we’re good at (NO ONE in the United States that wants me defending them from anything, especially terrorists) I still feel guilty. I become more ashamed that I did so little while they were out doing so much, and then my shame becomes guilt and then guilt becomes worry that my guilt is overshadowing my gratitude. It’s a vicious cycle.

The pit in my stomach, despite quiet encouragement and supreme understanding and patience from my four favorite Vets, does not go away. So, I turn inward, and act outwardly in an attempt to selflessly convey my gratitude for their service and in turn repay even a small part of the favor. I try to work tirelessly and intelligently to provide solutions to some of the most serious problems facing Veterans. I’m committed to interacting with Vets online, providing information and access to make their lives easier. And I try to be a good civilian. I try to be respectful and understanding and convey my gratitude in selfless and serious ways.

My life after 9/11 did not change. Sure, the lines are longer when I travel and I can’t bring my make up on the plane anymore, but my safety and sanity was restored almost instantly thanks to jobs that my friends did willingly. And the jobs that Vets before them did. All before the New Media team Veterans meet me for lunch every day and suffer through my silly stories of blissfully ignorant revelry.

Author

Lauren Bailey

Comments

  1. Anita Clark    

    I never served, but as the wife of a 22-year Air Force vet, I lived and breathed every exhilarating, saddening, and scary moment my husband endured…sometimes from far, far, away. The best way to connect if you don’t/can’t join yourself is to volunteer your services to one of the many organizations that help vets and their families. Good blog, enjoyed the read.

  2. pulse pressure    

    If it really bothers you, you can enlist in the Army Reserve.

  3. Hilary    

    Lauren, thanks for this piece. I think your sense of guilt is fairly common. A lot of people go through life with “What ifs” – what if I had experienced that, what if I had tried this? And military service is a big source of “What ifs,” especially in war time. My advice to you going forward is to try not to leave too many of the important “what ifs” unfulfilled. Take a lesson I learned from the military. Make your choices, and then move forward. Don’t make a habit of second guessing yourself. You have one life to live. Live it well.

    Also, do not feel completely at fault. I really believe that not enough was asked of the civilian population while we were waging these wars. Instead of war bonds and rationing, we had tax cuts and pleas from top officials to go shopping. This was short sighted. 9/11 would have been a real opportunity to get Americans involved in civic service, to call on young people to serve in some capacity (even if it was just doing volunteer clerical work at the local police department in the summer.) It would have even been a good time to institute rationing – of fuel. Cutting our use of foreign oil would have sent a clear message that the Middle East status quo and our reliance on it for our own security was no longer acceptable. Some form of “war bond” could have helped defray some of the costs of these wars. Instead, we have turned the burgeoning deficit into a huge political battle, now that our post 9/11 sense of shared unity has long since faded.

    But that’s just another series of “what ifs” isn’t it? We can’t dwell on it now. I just wanted to say that your sense of nagging guilt is due somewhat to larger societal issues. It’s not just you.

    And finally, as everyone else has pointed out, you are doing your part now. So do it well. You serve the people who served. And that is something to be proud of.

  4. Paul Roy Jr    

    It’s interesting to see, or read rather, the views of someone who is young and never served. I honestly hope that there are a great many more American’s who have some minor guilt for not doing anything, but don’t beat your self up over it.

    We chose to sacrifice possibly everything for millions of people we don’t know, and now if the American population could just show that they understand that the freedoms they take for granted are theirs to take for granted because others have sacrificed in their place. You stepped up and took on an active role in many veteran’s lives, and for that you should be proud. The service is not for everyone, but there are many ways to serve the country without enlisting in the military. How about voting? Voting is one of the more unappreciated rights, in my opinion. People have the right to vote for elected officials, and therefore voice their say in government. Sadly, so many people don’t take advantage of this right so many have fought for.

    Keep your chin up, and don’t feel bad about not doing anything initially. You are making a difference now, and that’s what matters. I wish I could have written for the VA, but I help advocate for veterans in a different way now that I am home. Veteran Awareness Coalition was designed to help support and guide veterans through all the processes after returning home. That is my new lease on life, and I hope that many veterans can benefit from the online community and civilians can get a better understanding of what issues veterans face returning from post 9/11 conflicts.

    Thank you,

    Paul F Roy Jr.
    http://www.vetawarenesscoalition.com

  5. John C. Carracher, Psy.D.    

    IMHO, its about daily sacrificing oneself for the greater good (whether or not that “good” deserves it 🙂 ).

    Then there are those who feel it is “all about them” … self-sacrifice is for “suckers and losers” … not for the entitled/elite.

    It is painful for those to make the sacrifice … it should also be that “those that call the shots” need to personallhy feel the consequences of the decisions made …

    Sacrifice is about “going though the generous event”; it is not about sitting back in comfort and dispatch others to do the sacrificing for them.

    Those that feel the guilt of not doing enough will feel guilty; those who sit back and talk “a good game” SHOULD FEEL GUILTY.

  6. Dan Goff    

    Help our deployed military now by helping out with a 110% voluntary organization http://www.anysoldier.com

  7. FJ    

    What is going on in that photo?? LOL

  8. Scott    

    Nicely written Lauren. As a veteran I appreciate the service you are providing now. Brandon nailed it on the head that you have done more for veterans with what you are doing now then most will ever know. Not only are you doing a great service for those who have served, but the job you all are doing is also helping other VA employees be able to do a better job. Your team is bringing things to light and helping improve the way our agency is run. For several years folks working at VA have complained about many things and I believe now that some of those issues are brought to light, they will improve. Once again, I thank you for your service. VA employees fall into two categories, those who have served in uniform and those who serve without the uniform. You should not feel anything negative about serving, just because you did not get issued a uniform.

  9. Tom Caldwell    

    Seems true I know alot of my friends don’t know how to talk to me today because of service not just in Wartime but Cold War Also. The Main thing is what you can do for your country here. Like taking an active part in the things Servicemembers fight for. Voting, Serving not just veterans but mankind as well. I am a vet and try to work with civilians and vets alike. Although my life has dramatically changed since those days in the Crack of the Middle East. Drive on hold head high and live the life that so many fought for because it is folks like you back home that make me proud to serve.

  10. Jason Kahl    

    or you could take the “Rosie the Riveter” approach…

  11. Jason Kahl    

    To relieve any guilt I suggest that you adopt a family who’s husband or mother is deployed make sure the kids have birthday presents and Holidays are even more important that when the impact of being gone is the greatest. Enlist yourself as the 1st Civilian Military Family Support Brigade as a CMFSB member your charged with Defending of those who are Defending of YOU! Knowing that their family is being taken care of lets Soldiers doing the job FOCUS on THAT JOB!

  12. Craig Newmark    

    Hey, I’m really proud of you guys! /Craig

    1. Lauren Bailey    

      Craig as always thank you so much! Your support is so appreciated!

  13. Bill MeLater    

    It is in your admission where you fail yourself. It is in your action where you reclaim your dignity.

  14. Tim Scarbrough    

    Lauren,

    Thank you for your admission, candor, and compassion. As a disabled OIF veteran and retired Army Officer I recognize that you were in a place similar to many civilians. You were living and doing what you could to support yourself to get yourself to a point of stability in the career of your choice. For the record, in direct opposition to some commenting on your article, I do not hold you in low regard for where you were when many of us deployed nor do I do so now in your position with the VA.

    When the draft ended (when I was a child,) military service took on an added level of honor as that every officer, NCO, and lower enlisted person had to volunteer in order to serve; we took the same oath. Service became what you made of it-you met the standard and did the best you could-whether active or reserve. For many who had already volunteered in the past, the ranks of those entering honored military service by choice made the ranks much better places than in previous decades.
    After 911, when I was assigned with others to different duties in the rear to support forward efforts in OEF, I felt guilty that I was not forward, serving my utmost. 6 years later I did my time in Baghdad and other areas in Iraq.
    This was not a bad thing for me-I had volunteered many years before I deployed. We all still volunteer to serve and make the ultimate sacrifice (if needed)….and we really know what we are getting into.
    After I left Iraq and retired from active service to raise my 4 kids, I began to feel survivor’s guilt as that I continued to read casualty reports, and news as well as attend local honor ceremonies to remember my fallen brothers and sisters. To this day I still wonder why I came home instead of being taken out by a rocket, IED, or other enemy attack. Do I feel guilty?…..yeah. But I have a new reason to serve.

    I am serving again as a veteran employment representative and assist veterans from all walks of life. I am proud that I can provide support and connections to veterans old and young to help them live better and longer through viable employment.

    Back to the guilt….many of us wonder the same thing…why did I come home? Some of us can’t quantify an answer…but I can.
    My children need a father, my wife needs a husband, and in my current capacity there are veterans who need help…..I don’t have time now for guilt, I am serving others with honor.
    Lauren …you are serving as well in your capacity. Despite never serving in uniform, never forget what wearing the uniform means to us veterans and our families. Most of us will acknowledge this and say ‘thank you.’

    Please continue doing your job and return each day to serve another veteran in-need.

    1. Christopher Pilgrim    

      Tim,
      Thanks for hitting the nail on the head.

      I am an active duty Marine, and struggle constantly with the fact that while I have the daily comforts of life in garrison, my brothers are fighting a war against a committed enemy. I have been to Iraq and back. Now I’m stationed with a non-deployable unit, and have to serve here until I get the chance to rejoin the operating forces.

      Lauren,
      Don’t let the naysayers get you down. Military service is NOT for everyone. Maybe what you perceive as guilt is just an overwhelming sense of gratitude that the US could continue “normal” life while fighting a war, unlike some wars of the past.

      If you feel that the VA work isn’t enough, there are countless ways to get involved as a civilian supporter.

      But, from me to you- thanks for noticing that we live a different life.

      1. Lauren Bailey    

        Tim and Christopher — great insights thank you so much. I love volunterring and really need to make that a priority. Thank you both for everything you’ve done (and still do!!)

  15. Carl    

    Lauren,

    Service to our country can come in many forms; Soldier, teacher, fireman, policeman… and the list goes on and on. All serve our society in one manner or other, all to the betterment of those things that make our country great. Do not make little of what you do for our Soldiers and in turn for our country.

    Thank you for your service.

    Carl

  16. Mike    

    Lauren,

    On behalf of those that have served, thank you for being aware enough of our service members sacrifices to have such an emotional impact. Most of us are very aware that not everyone has the opportunity or ability to serve. We simply hope that our sacrifices are recognized and appreciated, and that the loss of our comrades and friends will lead to a better world for our children. My own personal take on your guilt, however, is to suggest that you attenuate it with whatever acts of kindness and service you are able to express. Whether it is a simple thank you to a returned soldier, ensuring his or her family’s needs are met, or simply doing your duty to the best of your ability, these acts serve the honor of our troops.

  17. civilianreader    

    Lauren and all,

    These are different times than the days of prior wars. This is a “sign me up” active duty warfighter as your four friends signed on and said train me, pay me.

    Consider the respect you give to these four as worthy and thank them. Keep reminding me though to get the good word out to those folks that “sign me up” for police, firefighters, emts, teachers, and etc. We all choose a direction and non are drafted in these times. No need for guilt and feeling inadequate.

  18. Debbie    

    Lauren,
    You may not have served in the Uniformed Services, but you are certainly serving ‘our country’, by serving those who did!
    Thank you for your ‘alternative’ service!
    (from a retired US Navy Chief Petty Officer)

  19. Snead    

    You should judge yourself by the quality of people you’ve chosen to work with. Civil service is an honorable and necessary means of serving your country. As a taxpayer, I’m proud of the work you’re doing, and as a veteran, I appreciate it. Do it to the best of your ability, and you’ve got nothing to feel guilty about.

    1. Jenyfer    

      @Snead – Thank you for your thoughtful comment that civil service is a way of serving our country. Too often right now it is civil servants that seem to be blamed for the economy, the deficit and many other woes. Most of us took our jobs to serve our country in some form.

      Lauren – You have nothing to feel guilty about. You do a valuable job and one that many vets are grateful for, I’m sure. My husband is an AF Desert Storm/Shield Vet and deals with the VA frequently…the people there are incredibly friendly and helpful. He and I both work at an Air Force Base as civilians. When the military deploys, it is the civilians that are left behind to “fill in” for the military. We miss the work they were doing but we also miss their friendship, the office banter, going lunch together, seeing them in town, at church, and sometimes (worst of all) hearing that someone isn’t coming back at all. You are a great person for doing the job you do…keep doing it for all the veteran’s that depend on you; and all civilians will continue to serve the country the love, just as the military does.

      1. Lauren Bailey    

        Thanks to both of you. I work with some amazing civil servants. I’m honored to work them AND with my Veteran friends.

  20. jim    

    Indeed reflections are the backbone and foundations of a humanity and her society.

    This a topic so needed to bridge the vets and the non-vets, to have a shared dialog. To many of us RVN era vets in coffee cafe dialogs asked, what is a veteran? Did Webster maybe not see the bigger picture? Our RVN era vets know it, have heard it for years and yet I remember service as sacrifice; as the original Greek word. If a man or woman is not called to military, where can you find their serice?. Did I serve in uniform so my sons and daughters would not have too? did I come home from military transition as a farmer so my sons and daughters would farm the land or become leaders in other professions?Interestin how Websterput both words vetern and volunteer in the V chapter indexed. It may be the quit synchronicity value of v in vet, and volunteer?

    Countless volunteers at homeless shelter’s; food banks, advocates in veterans courts, Doctors across bordors; faith-based and NGO’s, all serve. Families of former military veterans “The Blue Star” The Gold Star families” yes even our Black Star quite family of field operators at Langely serve,do not get the respect warrented as press seems to push apart at times, when veterans are in the bring together state of era’s. Regardless. “Rosy the Riveteer” the Air-Nurses, and Postal Flyers mostly women were/are as important to a defining America and her volunteer spirit, we call philanthropic. And in her hour of needs we share, sleeves rolled up, boots on the ground. Its not the money, nor the medals or certificates of honors,that define us..its the bridging, the sleeves rolled up the sweat needed at times to build these bridges and foundations. Its words of wisdom, a quite reflection, a poets passion shared from the heart penned in the spirit cascading bonds one for all, all for one. Volunteers Vets in humanity for in the sacrifice we come together, we heal, we regress guilts,we cry and laugh, we respect each others service in or not in a military uniform service. In reflection, and for me, a vet, the USO and Red Cross uniforms are my heroes as the ultimate calling, Volunteer service who just show up and brew the coffee, clean the tables and together we all do the next right thing. Im so humbled for these volunteers of the civic engaged service. Jim-Pittsburgh.

  21. James    

    Lauren,

    Not everyone serves, thats the long and short of it. I enlisted less than a year after Siagon fell. I entered at a time of great upheaval. I myself was spit on in San Diego airport coming home after my Communications School (RM “A”). I wasn’t in Vietnam but because I wore the uniform I was a target for the hippies and peaceniks. There HAS to be people LIKE YOU working at the VA who DOES respect what we’ve done and the service we’ve given because a great many of us haven’t seen this for decades. It was even a much different world when I got out 30 years ago.

    Just continue to do a great job at the VA and be Thankful for the freedoms you have. I am astounded and speechless at the men who came long before me and served. The ones who stormed Omaha Beach, the Marine on some God forsaken island in the Pacific. My Senior instructors were THESE men. Dont feel guilty, be glad that God allowed you to be born in the greatest Country the world has ever seen. Enjoy the freedoms that come along with BEING an American.

    God Bless and THANK YOU for what you do.

    Jim S.
    US Navy 75-80
    SGT SCSG 2010-

  22. Paul    

    National Geographic just lost a superb journalist along w/ another reporter this week (04/22/2011). The Nat-Geo gentleman was co-director of an excellent documentary called “RESTREPO” http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/episode/restrepo-afghan-outpost-4808

    I also feel a pit of guilt as well, due to the fact, that I, unable to join the USMC due to medical issues, while my family and friends joined the Armed Forces, didn’t keep me from educating myself through sources not to be mentioned. I feel that the “BUSINESS” end of the military along w/ our allied associations has become another stress factor to my mentality. Everything isn’t as cut and dry as we are told, therefore, it is a difficult matter to take to heart! I pray that, with the “End Of Time” lurking about, that God or whomever one may reference as their higher being, have mercy on our troops, affiliations in the military along with all the families that have and are suffering as of now, yesterday & tomorrow! Thank you for the post!

    Also, I thoroughly enjoyed the feature film: The Hurt Locker

  23. Karen    

    Hi Lauren,
    What an excellent expression of feelings many people feel including (me) a military family member (- daughter, WWII Seabee, and Mom to two sons serving/served (10 year army senior NCO on his fifth tour of duty, and my younger son, a vet (w/disability).

    Sometimes I’ve felt guilty myself, especially when I’m with one or both of my sons and then complain about something … like the heat (live in FL), or some other discomfort. I have felt terrible when I’ve been talking things that occured while he was deployed…, something in the family or something that was on the news, etc…and my son doesn’t know about it (even though I do my best to keep him up to speed on things while he’s away). Or I lose track of the time my younger son was in the MEB process and he reminds me (I shouldn’t forget that….), or when I’m complaining of a physical discomfort then realizing he’s feeling much, much worse.

    Sometimes, I wonder if anybody remembers we still have men and women in harm’s way as everybody goes about their lives. At times, I feel people seem more concerned with playing the ‘blame’ game (re: Iraq or Afghanistan and now Libya) and forgetting that some of us are not interested in hearing their opinions (at the moment) because we are too preoccupied (at the moment) with the safety and well-being of our troop(s)… I know, we all have the right to free speech, thank goodness.

    Lauren, the work you do at the VA IS a huge contribution … “troop support” doesn’t end when the servicemember becomes a veteran….and just like in any organization, there are some really ‘crappy’ employees and then there are some really GOOD people like you who care about our vets and their families and take pride in what they are doing to make a difference. Thank you! 🙂 Happy Easter. Karen (Milhealth)

  24. Bill Ferguson    

    Get over yourself,if you really cared you would quit your cozy office job on the 9th floor and enlist or go to ocs.Oh but wait that would require intestinal fortitude which obviously you lack by your “guilt”. Instead of being a coward and coveting the experiences you hear around the lunch table.Take Action!

    The Army is looking for officers.Go get in the mud, learn to physically condition yourself,pick up a rifle and serve your country. Someone at your age and educational expertise would be more valued by the Army than the VA.Instead, I hope you rot in your chair while you sleep under the blanket of freedom provided by someone more noble than you.For my money there are two types of people.Those who take action and all others. What are you? You must decide are you the less than 1% who volunteers to serve in a time of war or not?

    1. James    

      You have your right to speak.. But your post REEKS of IMAGINED GLORY from the Movie “A Few Good Men”. The point is.. You are PRIDEFUL and DISRESPECTFUL. You were NOT taught this in the US Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force. Not every single Civilian in this Country needs to go down and enlist to SERVE THIS COUNTRY.

      I AM a VETERAN.. and I CALL BULLSHIT on your PRIDEFULLNESS and and complete and utter A R R O G A N C E. I PRAY the Civilians you come in contact with you either knock you on your ASS or SLAP your face if you pull that crap with them. If “I” hear you talk like that at the VA or ANY OTHER PLACE.. I will pull your slimy ass out the door and introduce you to the pavement.

      GOT IT!

      1. Dan    

        Sorry James, this VA blog is full of things that are supposed to make veterans “connect” with the VA. To me it almost sounds as if Karen is trying to make a case for future disability because of her “stressors.” (My civilian guilt is sometime debilitating). Really now?

        It comes across as a “poor me, I know your pain and suffer too.” Now that’s bullshit.

        Keep up the great work? She didn’t exactly say what she does. For all we know she may be one on the legion of lawyers that are defending the government in disability claims.

        Her nine hours a day work load is laughable. That is one of the main reasons lawyers and doctors seek employment with the VA, so they don’t have to work 70 hours a week (like private practitioners) while they get 14 paid vacation days, healthcare you can’t afford on the private market, and a pension.

        Please!

        1. Jim    

          Isn’t freedom of speech a wonderful thing…

      2. Joe Mancinik    

        At least as a civilian I have learned how to practice civility. Your comments are rude and inappropriate. Lauren was trying to convey an emotion she felt and you belittled her for it. Not cool.

    2. Brandon Friedman    

      Bill, by the way you describe it, I can only assume you’ve never served in the military. It’s typically the ones making the most grandiose pronouncements–like you–who’ve never done anything. Anyway, I’m fairly certain Lauren has done more for Veterans than you have, so if you wouldn’t mind, take off.

    3. Toby Younis    

      Bill, if you did serve in the military, I hope it wasn’t the U. S. Army, because you’ve embarrassed us all. It took a lot of courage for Lauren to express her feelings on this (of all blogs). I’m as proud of her as I would be if one of my four daughters had written it. I served so that Americans like Lauren and my children could enjoy the benefits of freedom and liberty, one of which is to express one’s self with the expectation of personal attack.

      I’m grateful for all that the VA has done for me since returning from Viet Nam. I don’t think I could have gotten this far without their support.

      Lauren, thank you for your service. I hope to run in to you and your friends one day.

      t.

    4. Stephen    

      Bill,

      Feeling a bit self-righteous today? As a 22 year Army veteran, I pray to God that any service you performed was not in the Army. You are an embarassment to the military and all affiliated with it. Yes we serve, as do our civilian and contractor support, as do Lauren’s compatriots in the VA and other government agencies. Right now, I think that you are only serving yourself.

      Lauren,

      Thank you for a heartfelt posting. We do appreciate you and your service and hope that it continues. We need more in the VA who do care, even if the people you serve fail to recognize it.

  25. Bob Brayman    

    Thank you for realizing and recognizing the less than 1% of American’s AND non-American’s who make a choice to defend our nation and its citizens. Believe it or not; even after serving for almost 31 years I even feel guilty because I made it through relatively unscathed while my brothers and sisters who didn’t come back “whole”.

  26. Hi Lauren    

    If it really bothers you, you can enlist in the Army Reserve.

  27. John Madden    

    Thank you, Lauren, for putting words to the sickening feeling I get when I think about my missed opportunity. In my senior year of high school, I had strongly considered a career with the U.S. Coast Guard. I wanted to fly helicopters. A foolish youth, I was involved in an accident that cost me my left eye. I graduated and went on to college, and never fulfilled this dream.

    Now I’m in my 40’s and I’ve found myself in a position to serve those who serve in some small way – my publishing company produces magazines and web sites that pertain to various aspects of our nation’s defense. I’ve never been in harm’s way, but every day I read stories about those who have, and I routinely wrestle with the guilt you describe.

    I can only hope that the information we present in our magazines and on our web site serves the greater good. These young men and women demonstrate the meaning of valor and honor in ways I could hardly imagine when I was their age. Nothing irks me more than when someone who has not served starts spewing vitriol about “government sanctioned murderers” or other such nonsense. The men and women in service to our nation are truly our greatest asset, both on and off the battlefield.

    And if all I can do to help with the game is be the waterboy, I’m just fine with that.

  28. Gary    

    What a wonderful article. But, it is not only civilians who understand the sacrifice of others on their behalf who occasionally feel guilt, but also members of the military and Veterans. Those who lose buddies or see the scared effects of battle often feel immense guilt that although they served, they were not put to the test, they did not sacrifice. Some call it survivors guilt. That also can be debilitating.

    1. Ev    

      1. Ev Says:
      I did my service in a relatively safe job as an E5 radioman in the Navy aboard a DDG. A trip to Nam was rescheduled so we never went. In the meantime, several of my childhood friends never returned alive. I too, began to feel the guilt and wondered how such promising young men were sacrificed and I remained. That has never left me. Although this may be inappropriate on this site, I need to discuss the feeling of service time was really an exercise, not for God and country, but as a job watching out for each other. We came to realize the role of corporate america (sic) in developing and earning money off these conflicts as they protected American (corporate) interests which were not the interests of any of us and didn’t reflect the interests of the American people in general. Today it is even more evident our brothers and sisters are dying for a cause directly related to the the interests of the uber-rich as they destroy our own country and the foreign countries they have an economic interest in.
      Today the right wing political, economic plan is more blatant and out of the closet as we see american corporations land grabbing and polluting other nations as they leave this nation with it’s life blood sucked from it then attempt to circumvent or re-write the Constitution. Leaving the country, it’s laws and privileges as well as the workers who helped make them rich to go rape other countries for profit and pillage is shameful and traitorous. They have used financial terrorism against us. They have stolen all our money, give nothing back to society and move on to do the same in other countries under the lie of competition. Today’s soldier is aware but needs the job since corporations took the jobs overseas for more profit. Yet, he still fights the fight and watches the backs of his comrades but flag waving isn’t necessarily part of it. That’s for the propagandists. To my fallen friends and comrades I salute you and your honor with exposing the truth of what they did to you and as long as I breath I vow to continue to demand Democracy Now. I loath corporate america and will never capitalize america when coming before of after the word corporation, they have lost the privilege of being honorably associated with the nation of America. I will salute and honor all my friends and comrades who have survived or given their lives as American Heroes.
      We were duped and I hope my efforts today exposing the things corporate america and our government did and is doing to us and our country honors their memory. We served knowing the truth of the deception and many died realizing that truth. They were heroes doing the dirty work of this nation and knew it. I am a Vet against the war and and much as I loath corporate america I have a deep abiding respect and honor for all veterans of all wars, no matter how the politics or corporations pollute the theater.

  29. John    

    Hi Lauren, Thanks for doing what you do for Veterans. Believe it or not, we really do thank you for your service to this country’s Veterans.

  30. Jennifer    

    Lauren,
    I’m sure you’ve eloquently expressed the feelings of many civilians. Know that through your work you are doing more than the majority of the 99% who do not serve in the Armed Forces. Even in the Armed Forces not everyone can be a ‘trigger puller’, some body needs to file the paperwork, order the supplies and count the HMMWVs. At the VA you are now part of the fight to help us Veterans. Thanks for stepping up.

    1. Larry Potter    

      Lauren — you can serve also, not just VA but if you wish at The American Legion because of your grandparents in the Auxiliary. You would be warmly welcome and you just might totally enjoy it.

      1. Lauren Bailey    

        Thank you so much for the invitation, Larry! I’ll have to check it out.

      2. Deb Knox    

        Ditto on the American Legion statement. I’ve spent some time there serving the veterans meals, dancing and singing with them and just hanging out with them. Their stories are fascinating and they do so appreciate the attention. It is fun and good for my soul too. We owe so much and it takes so little to pay back in that way. Fabulous article and well said.

    2. Lauren Bailey    

      Jennifer — I’m so proud to work for Veterans.

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