How to Talk to a Veteran

Amanda C., a U.S. Army Disabled Veteran, has some great advice on how to talk to a veteran. On what is appropriate and what is not in conversation:

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.

Most of these seem like common-sense, but they all bear repeating.

4 thoughts on “How to Talk to a Veteran

  1. She offered some good advice…if only the ones who need to read it reads it. I have been offering the same advice to the groups I worked with (back when I worked and lead Veteran’s Day activities, etc.) But some people, in their ignorance, mean well, but are just stupid.

  2. I would say in response, that political correctness remains hidden to those who would ask such questions, such individuals remain insensitive and the language still in use is not as well formulated in their responses..I especially can appreciate item #3 because I still have relatives who say such things…that my compatriots who serve and have served are wasting their lives, dying for nothing seems to be lost on those who continue to articulate such nonsense…who says political correctness isn’t an expression of ignorance or purposeful lack of knowledge?…k

  3. Lil C: I agree, well-written and direct.
    CP: That is a great service, leading a Vet’s Day festivity. Good for you.
    Kris: Number 3 would especially annoy me. I don’t blame you.

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