I am not a Combat Veteran or at least I don't consider myself to be. This might come as a suprise to some of you who know I went to Iraq (heck I even blogged about right here at JU) but I assure you that I am not a Combat Vet in any way. I also don't refer to soldiers who experiences in Iraq paralell mine Combat Vets either. I save it for the deserving. Let me explain:
I spent 6 measly (and boring) months on a large sprawling airbase in Balad, Iraq. Previous to that I had spent about 6 months in Texas doing intelligence missions at all hours of the night. Before that I had done the intel thing in Texas for over one year straight. Which was harder on me mentally and physically? Iraq or Texas?
Texas was harder by a longshot folks and my experience is statistically the norm and not the exception. Most soldiers who deploy to Iraq rarely if ever leave the FOB's even in vehicles. Usually when they need to go to another FOB they go by aircraft (which is ridiculously safe). Most people don't really understand how many non-comat troops we have there compared to the actual trigger pullers.
Simply being in Iraq (technically even Kuwait is part of the "war zone" and Kuwait is like a goddamn beach resort) shouldn't make you a Combat Vet. it certainly didn't make me one.
Sure, the base was shelled on a daily basis when I got there (usually several one day maybe none the next and so on..) but the shelling was being done by the military equivalent of the Keystone Kops. Not only did they have problems even landing a shell inside the massive base but they had even worse luck getting a shell to explode if it somehow happened to make it inside the fence.
Firefinder radar coupled with nearly automated counter-battery fire ensured that as time went on any "experienced" insurgents got whacked and were replaced with idiots of even less skill and training. By the time I left the insurgents were lucky to get 3-4 shells inside out perimeter a month and almost none of those ever went off (and none killed anybody).
The Air Force (a fine para-military organization much like the Boy Scouts and the support Army) had built up such a lovely recreational area on Balad that we were ashamed to be photographed there. It is hard to tell "war stories" when you have 2 dozen photos of yourself in front of a giant swimming pool next to the Starbucks.
So when my kids ask me : "Daddy, what did you do durring the War?" my answer will be somthing like: "I kept people from giving Colangelo candy so he wouldn't have a psychotic episode." While that may be a vital function it certainly isn't war duty (it was also a role I filled in Texas so it wasn't even unique to Iraq).
There are lots of folks who went to Iraq and Afghanistan who are actual Combat Veterans (and not all are in combat arms MOSs either) but most folks who go do not and did not fall into this category. The door kickers, early Stryker units, Marines in the seige of Fallujah, and other soldiers who were shot at routinely by folks who could actually see them while they were shooting are real Combat Vets.
Using the term on REMFs like me simply dilutes the meaning of the phrase so make sure that if you claim it for yourself that you actually deserve it. When you find someone who does deserve it, give them the respect that they deserve as well.
And because pictures are fun: