By Greg Marcelo
I know a veteran named Ben. Ben was one of millions of Vietnam veterans who served their country in the late 1960’s and then returned to civilian life to pursue his personal goals. Over the years, Ben shared with me his personal memories and stories of being in the military, especially after distinguishing himself in combat during his deployment to Vietnam.
Ben became a my mentor on many things such as pursuing higher education, family values, and giving back to society for the privilege of serving in the Military. It’s the latter value regarding society that was most striking for me.
Ben cautioned against using the “status” as a veteran to sound like an expert on all things military, whether
historical or contemporary. He spoke often on the current political divisiveness in our country and how citizens from diverse beliefs and morality appeared to enjoy assailing those who disagreed with their own individual beliefs.
He knew that I would be sensitive to my own beliefs being challenged by others as well as being openly and often criticized in the media.
He challenged me to assume the competing opinions of those whom I vehemently disagreed with on most important issues facing the country today.
He challenged me to watch media outlets that did not support my points of political view.
I, of course, challenged Ben: “Why would I listen to the political pundits that not only disagreed with my beliefs but flagrantly assailed them as divisive, unpopular, and by some individuals as being archaic?”
Ben, again lectured me on why being a veteran required one to listen, accept, and respect criticisms from opposing Americans regardless of an unproven argument or thesis. His reasoning was very simple: “When I took the oath to serve in the military, I committed to serve and to protect all American citizens, not just those who agree with my personal beliefs.”
As I began to view opposition to my political and personal beliefs, I realized that Ben was right all along. I began to understand what he meant, that being a veteran requires one to embrace opposing views as credible to those who believe them.
Being a veteran requires one to learn from one’s service that others in the world have never and may never enjoy the freedoms that we hold so dearly.
Being a veteran requires one to never feel superior to others who may not understand that the rights and privileges that our country guarantees are for all citizens, regardless of physical, intellectual, political or religious beliefs.
Ben’s philosophy on the conduct and decorum that is expected of vterans may require some individuals who previously served in the military to rethink their attitude towards people who may disagree with their beliefs. It may require the individual to accept things they are not used to accepting, remain silent as disagreements become contentious while openly showing respect and acceptance of their beliefs without prejudice. It may not sound so difficult to accomplish, but rarely becomes something that goes over smoothly.
My birthday is Feb. 7 and Ben always calls me to acknowledge “my accomplishment” of enjoying yet another year of God’s gift of life; however sadly, Ben passed away in January of last year and I will miss our frequent discussions on the nation’s economy as well as its many challenges and accomplishments.
But most of all, I will miss the wisdom of his emphasis on the decorum and respect that all Veteran’s must and should show to all American’s during times when the country is challenged by political, racial, or religious differences. Ben was my older brother and I think about him all the time.
Greg Marcelo, of Rancho Palos Verdes, is a retired U.S. Army Vietnam veteran. Do you have a personal experience you’d like to share? Submit your My Turn column to email@example.com. Emails only. Include brief biographical information and a high-resolution photo of yourself in jpeg format. Please do not include the column or biographical information in attachments.
Source : https://www.dailybreeze.com/2018/05/07/my-turn-decorum-and-respect-learned-in-the-military/