Peacetime Veteran Gets No Respect From Other Vets

Posted: January 28, 1988

When the Office of Veterans Affairs assumes cabinet-level status, the first order of business is to get the peacetime veteran some respect. I'm not speaking of receiving their due benefits upon discharge. No, I'm referring to that certain stigma war veterans have placed on non-war veterans.

How come there is near total exclusion of peacetime veterans in American Legion organizations, both nationally and locally? The initial question on the American Legion application is: Which war did you serve in: Vietnam, Korean, World War II or World War I. This omission of peacetime veterans holds true for other veteran's organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

And then there are the sly remarks that non-war veterans must endure:

"Peacetime vet . . . what's that?"

"You're a veteran, but you don't look old enough to have fought in a war."

"You didn't even go across the pond . . . "

"If there wasn't no war, you should have started one!"

No, I was not drafted, I volunteered. No, I never saw combat, and I never left The States. In fact, the closest I came to a war was being on standby during the Grenada Invasion (chuckle). Still, I don't think some veterans should be penalized for having served when our country was at peace.

Imagine the peacetime veteran whose brother was in the Vietnam conflict and whose father fought in World War II. He returns home to the local VFW or American Legion post to find that there is not a place for him behind his father and brother. He finds that, at most, he can be a "social" member.

Granted, these posts were established to commemorate, congregate and

console our war veterans. But it doesn't take much to see that these institutions, especially the local organizations, are heading for a major problem - extinction.

Understandably, the peacetime veteran does not share the same experience as the war veteran. He doesn't know the anguish, the turmoil, the death, the misery, the never-ending memory.

However, should the peacetime veteran regret or rejoice for this situation? Was not the point of those wars so that today we could enjoy a surplus of peacetime veterans? At least, I thought so.

One thing that all veterans problems share is the immense pride in having done their individual part in service to their country. Peacetime veterans feel no less proud of themselves; no less respected by civilians.

Out of necessity, it is time for veterans' organizations to welcome non-war veterans to solicit their support, their particiapation, and their youthfulness. Otherwise, they will simply die out.

There is no justification for exclusion of peacetime veterans from these organizations. They are deserving of membership - unless, of course, those in charge are banking on another war.

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Readers are welcome to submit proposed "Guest Opinion" columns to Editorial Dept., Daily News, 400 N. Broad St., Phila., Pa. 19101.

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