On a sunny Wednesday afternoon in the Multicultural Center, Tony Nardone, an FSU student and Afghanistan War veteran, and Kevin Fields, the coordinator of Veteran’s Services, spoke with an eager group of veterans and students about what it is like to be a veteran on campus here at FSU.
They discussed everything from the history of Veterans Day, which was once known as Armistice Day, to the sometimes-uncomfortable questions that are asked of them as soldiers, sailors, airmen and heroes.
Fields explained what it really meant to be a “veteran.” He said that people “often think that a veteran is a war veteran,” but this may not always be true.
“There is a distinction between a veteran, a conflict veteran and a war veteran,” Fields said.
The discussion dug deeper into the stereotypes surrounding veterans, such as the misconception that all veterans have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Nardone explained that, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the PTSD level in soldiers is actually about 11-20 percent.
“One-fifth have it,” Nardone said, stressing the importance of recognizing that “four-fifths don’t.”
Another misunderstanding about the military itself is that the armed forces are easy to get in to, Nardone said.
“In some cases, it can be harder to get into the military than to get into college,” he said.
He later went on to explain the importance of being aware of how you talk to veterans. Nardone said approaching a veteran and saying, “Dude, you must’ve killed like five people!” is not the most tactful and respectful way of asking questions. This happens more often than one would think, judging from the response of the other veterans in the room.
“People ask a lot of uncomfortable questions,” Nardone said. “It’s not appropriate to pry.”
Nate Hall, a veteran and a junior at FSU, said that even asking something like, “Have you ever killed somebody?” could trigger flashbacks. Even if they have not been in combat, it is still a very ignorant thing to ask, Hall said.
Instead of asking questions, thank a veteran. Thank them for their service, their sacrifices and their dedication to our safety. John Tran, a freshman here at FSU and a veteran explained, “Something that simple could help them get through their day. … A little bit of acknowledgement can go a long way.”
[Editor’s note: Tony Nardone is a staff writer for The Gatepost.]