A service member’s unique experiences shape the type of veteran he will be. US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane.
Veterans are like penises. No two are the same. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and each possesses his own unique traits as a result of the trials and hardships he has endured. Some grew hard in the Marine Corps, some got a little soft in the Air Force, some were manhandled in the Navy, and some have a lasting rash that they picked up after visiting one too many Fayetteville strip clubs.
Even service members who share the same job can have wildly different experiences. For example, there are the military dentists who fill your cavities and shame you for not flossing, and then there is Capt. Benjamin Salomon — a Medal of Honor recipient who killed 98 enemy soldiers while serving as an Army dentist in Saipan during World War II, making him the single most terrifying dentist in history.
So given that there are so many varieties of veterans, why does the general public think of us as one big, homogeneous mass? Veterans are unique individuals. We cannot all be pigeonholed into just one archetype. Because, in fact, there are actually six distinctly different archetypes of veterans, each with their own unique behaviors, beliefs, hopes, dreams, and ways of conducting themselves in public.
Here are those six archetypes explained.
Did you serve in the United States military but don’t talk about it that much? Is military service something you did rather than something you are? Are most of your T-shirts free of skulls, AR-15s, and American flags? If so, congratulations — you’re a Standard Vet, probably the most common subspecies of military veteran that exists.
Not all who serve choose to make being a veteran a big part of their identities. Some people simply serve their country, get out, and don’t have much to do with military or vet culture ever again. These vets are not the Pew-Pew-Merica-Freedom-Tattoos-Barbecues-Guns-More Freedom types, and that’s perfectly fine. They are proud of their service but don’t feel the need to talk about it or hit up Applebee’s for free mozzarella sticks every Veterans Day like the rest of us.
Is there a sticker of an AR-15 on just about everything you own? Are phrases like “Merica” and “Pew Pew” things you say unironically or when climaxing sexually? Do every last one of your shirts have an American flag somewhere on it, such as on the sleeve or chest area? If you have answered in the affirmative to each one of these questions, you’re a Bro Vet. Kudos to you, bro.
The exact opposite of the Standard Vet, the Bro Vet is a veteran who has chosen to center his entire personality around being a veteran. This veteran is all Pew-Pew-Merica-Freedom-Tattoos-Barbecues-Guns-More Freedom. He or she is extremely proud of their service (women can be bros, too!). Bro Vets get a bad rap for being douchebags, which they can be, but by and large, they are just vets who are really proud of their service, proud of the military, and proud to represent military culture even after they’ve traded out their fatigues and combat boots for head-to-toe Nine Line Apparel and Kryptek Crocs.
Do you have the same exact haircut and beard that you were rocking in the Korengal Valley back in 2008? Do you humble-brag about shit you did in the military and inexplicably follow it up with something to the effect of: “But I’m just a regular dude”? Are your hands always in your pockets? Do you always wear baseball hats? Well, guess what, Cool Guy? You’re an SOF Vet. Hats off to you.
Easily distinguishable by their propensity for casually slipping words like “special operations” and “gunfights” into normal, nonmilitary-related conversations, these former quiet professionals tend to spend the majority of their post-military career talking loudly and openly about their former profession. For this reason, many find lucrative civilian careers as YouTubers, podcasters, and social media influencers or end up running seminars where they teach gun nerds a random chapter from the Ranger handbook.
Do you think the military is getting soft? Are you not quite as fit as you were back in the day but still very capable of whupping someone’s ass? Is your Facebook profile photo a dated picture of you in Woodland BDUs or some other camo pattern that was taken out of service eons ago? If you answered yes to these questions, you’re an Old Vet, sir.
Old Vets are important members of the military and veteran community. These are vets who have been around the block once or twice. They’ve fought the enemy, the VA, a couple of ex-wives, and all the other bullshit that life throws at a person who lives a long time. They’re wizened warriors and valuable sources of information for new troops and fresh vets alike. Since retiring from service, these vets have amassed a respectable collection of T-shirts emblazoned with offensive statements and spend the majority of their downtime calling people pussies on Facebook and reminding the up-and-coming generation of vets how much tougher it was back in the day.
Do you know a vet who likes to talk about his service a lot, but you’re never sure whether the stories he is telling are totally true? Do the stories get slightly more fantastic and heroic each time they’re told? Is this person so full of shit that his eyeballs are floating? If so, you’ve got a Tall Tale Vet on your hands.
We all know a veteran like this. Every story starts out with something like, “No shit, there I was,” or “This one time in basic training,” and culminates with some fantastic tale of derring-do. This vet will eagerly recount the story of his service to anyone who will listen, and with each iteration, the story gets more and more incredible. What started out as a nine-month tour as a wrench-turner in Kandahar will miraculously turn into five years of hand-to-hand combat with the Taliban. This vet isn’t a bad guy; he’s just looking for the recognition that so few of us get. Don’t take him too seriously, but also don’t let him get too carried away. After all, the only SEAL Ranger Delta Sniper Colonel around here is you.
Have you ever downplayed another vet’s service? Do you look down at pogues or think of them as subhuman? Do you regularly take your jelly-doughnut-fueled rage out on anyone who hasn’t served in the military? If so, you’re an Asshole Vet. And also just an asshole.
The name just about says it all. Asshole Vets are veterans who are bitter about their service, or because of their service, and tend to take their anger out on everyone in their path, vets and civilians alike. These vets regularly downplay other vets’ service, mock anyone getting treatment for service-connected issues, and lord their service over people’s heads whenever they see an opportunity to do so.
There is no worse kind of vet than the Asshole Vet. When dealing with an Asshole Vet, it’s best to not take the high road; instead, make a series of highly accurate, socially unacceptable jokes about their weight and appearance. This will remind them that they, too, are only human.
Eric Miller is a former Army Combat Medic from Parkersburg, West Virginia. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history and has worked with homeless populations and veteran services throughout the state. He is an avid outdoorsman and has recently become interested in woodworking.
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