The Real Veteran® Podcast
Season 1: Identity
Episode 0: Introduction to the Real Veteran® podcast.
The time between March 2020 and today has been a significant moment in the history of our society.
I watched for 8 minutes and 46 seconds as the police choked the life out of George Floyd, an innocent Black man. I saw the police lynch Breonna Taylor, and white posse in Florida lynch Ahmaud Arbery. I saw our then-President order peaceful protestors to be gassed, beaten and arrested by over-militarized police. The relentless murder of unarmed Black people by the police paid to protect them has led me to question if this land was really made for you and for me.
I watched a crowd of veterans storm the US Capitol on January 6th. Angry, displaced and radicalized, disenfranchised and increasingly irrelevant white veterans destroyed our people’s house, ending the lives of fellow Americans and fellow veterans as they tried to disrupt and thwart the hallmark of our democracy, the peaceful transfer of power. The relentless barrage of hate, lies, and ignorance from the white veteran population made me question what it meant to be a veteran.
Looking at all the hatred, the white supremacy, the misogyny, homophobia and transphobia spewing forth from the mouths of Fox News, the White House and white veterans over the past 6 years brought me to a point where I was questioning why I am in the business of representing veterans. I spent most of 2020 evaluating why I was representing such people, giving my precious time on this earth to help line the pockets of the people who spread hate, fear, anger, lies, and intolerance. Representing veterans increasingly did not seem like a particularly useful way to give my life meaning and purpose.
Tired of hearing these voices push and shove their way into every other reasonable conversation, I started muting certain people from the Veterans Law Blog® facebook page. The people I banned could still follow the page, read the comments and digest the information. However, they lost their voice on my page and could no longer use my platform to spread their pernicious propaganda and prejudice.
Two things happened.
First, the Facebook page went from nearly 100,000 followers to just over 82,000 in the span of 9 months.
Second, the quality of conversations on the Facebook page improved. Other voices, other stories, other experiences filled the silence left behind by the mob of angry white veterans.
I started hearing from Black and Brown and Asian veterans who had been denied equal access to VA disability compensation. I heard from female veterans who were tired of being treated like a piece of prime rib by male veterans and their treating VA doctors. I heard from veterans who identify as LGBTQI and who had been shut out of the conversation about health care, often denied access to that health care by VA employees still operating under the values of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” culture of prior administrations.
The contrast between the voices of angry and radicalized white veterans and the veterans they had marginalized couldn’t be more stark. I realized that the public image of a veteran has been carefully crafted to serve and advantage only white CIS male veterans.
We veterans are barraged by constant reminders of our time in the military, while not being allowed the space to talk about our lives after service. The image of an all-American white male hero, the PTSD-ravaged bearded white warrior, has been placed on a pedestal, to be adored and venerated and in some cases, pitied by all Americans for his losses during military service.
This is not what it means to be a veteran. The veterans community – if there ever was one – is broken. Veteran suicides remain high. Seeing the VA as an obstacle, not a partner, in reintegration to civilian life, 3 in 4 veterans have walked away from the benefits that the VA has to offer.
I don’t know how to fix the veteran community. But this podcast will not be about solutions. Instead, on this podcast, I strive to meet four objectives.
One, this podcast will BEAR WITNESS to the lived experiences of ALL veterans. Black and Brown, male and female, gay, lesbian, trans, and more, with the hopes of reaching a consensus among us that the current veteran community is broken.
Two, from that CONSENSUS I hope we can explore what it means to be a real veteran. In doing so, I hope to lead more of our brother and sister veterans to fully reintegrate into civilian life. I hope to introduce you to the tools and skills and even the benefits that will help you thrive as your authentic self, an engaged citizen in a true democracy.
Three, I hope that the consensus that results from bearing witness will lead to a RECONCILIATION with AND REPARATIONS to those who have been marginalized by the white supremacy that has metastasized in the veterans community.
Fourth, we are going to kick open the doors to the veteran community, let in the sunlight of fresh voices and faces, and explore what it really means to be a REAL VETERAN®.
My name is Chris Attig, and I hope you will join me on this journey.