Many of our young men and women who are military have now served during a “wartime” and this matters on how we speak to them. As a daughter of two veteran parents, and the wife of an Iraq War Veteran I live this every day. I have been exposed to the military world since the day of my birth and I have been educated multiple times over the years on what can be talked about and what is off limits. As civilians we need to know how to speak with our veterans so we can better serve them with any need they have. They are home but many are wounded; some with obvious injuries and many have invisible scars. We may respect them for their sacrifices but what we say can counter that without even meaning to. If you work with veteran clients on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis this is some good information to store away somewhere and remind yourself often. Remember the only question you need to ask your clients is “Have you served?”
A really great article to read is from www.TheStory.org - Things Not to Say to a Veteran. It may require 5 minutes of your life but it is by far one of the best articles I have read on this subject and I highly recommend taking the time to read it. You can find the article by clicking this link
Listed below are some of the major points that I definitely felt were valuable since I live with a soldier that suffers from the invisible on a daily basis and the majority of my clients now are veterans.
1) We say “Welcome Home” and “Thank you for your Service”
2) We listen without judgement and without the need to respond. If a Veteran decides to open up to you just let them and even if you are busy with a million things to do, take the time.
3) Never ask them “what it was like over there?” or “how many did you kill?” or even say, “I bet you saw some terrible things over there”. This can bring up some unhealed wounds. If they want to talk about it to you that is one thing but don’t bring it up in order to try to relate with them or start a conversation. As a civilian, we can never relate with their experiences.
4) If a Veteran calls you please call them right back, even before your other clients if need be. They really do need to know that you are on their side. They expect the people they work with to be prompt and have their "back" especially if you have promised them to always answer their call or be there when they need you. If you say to a veteran you are “available 24/7” they may hold you to that, so be careful with your promises and if you make them please follow through.
5) Another thing to remember is that rank matters with veterans so brush up on it when you have a chance. Knowing even a little about what they do goes a long way for these man and women.
6) And remember, (this is my all-time favorite from the article from www.thestory.com), do not say I am glad you made it home safe because many of their comrades did not and many of them are not feeling safe or ok, so just say “thank you for your service” and leave it there unless they open up to you about their experiences.
I hope this helps you when you come across one of our many veterans. Please take the time to read the article above because I think it could open your mind to many things especially over this Memorial Day weekend. Remember this weekend isn’t just about BBQs. Make sure you thank a Vet daily if you can. Because of their selflessness we all experience more freedom than we would without them. They should receive all of our respect, loyalty and integrity.