Las Vegas has the fastest growing population of veterans in the country. Veteran in the Valley is a column focusing on the strange transition from soldier to civilian in Las Vegas and the veterans that call this city home.
I’m sitting at work right now, sick as a dog. I took a few days off to rest up, but I had to drag myself in today to get some stuff done. The last thing I want to do right now is type out 400 words, but this is a good opportunity to reflect on something.
In the Army, you don’t get sick days. The best you can do is go to “sick call” instead of physical training in the morning, and that’s often way worse than whatever bug you’ve come down with. I was an intelligence analyst stationed in an infantry battalion. That translates to being one of a dozen dorks in a sea of 650 really tough alpha-male-types. One of the first things my analyst boss told me when I got to the unit was that I had to be better than the infantrymen. They knew I was an intel nerd, and I had to prove that I was not only good enough to hang with them, but that I was their equal.
Getting sick just wasn’t part of the persona. Just going to sick call could get you labeled as a pogue or, to use the proper term, a malingerer, and if you do go, you better have a broken arm, and you better have been doing pushups on it for the past week.
That tough-guy mentality stays with you, and it’s a big reason why many young veterans don’t register with the Department of Veterans Affairs when they leave active duty. No soldier has an easy time asking for help, no matter how serious the problem. People ask why the VA can’t do a better job helping homeless vets or those that tragically commit suicide. I certainly don’t mean to oversimplify one of the most complex issues we face right now, but the VA can’t help people that resist the offer. It goes the other way, too, though: How can the VA expect vets to come forward and ask for help when the military has been drilling “help = weakness” into soldiers heads from Day 1? It’s a bad situation all around.
Anyway, I’m not sure if it’s the medication or the fever talking, but I just got a wicked case of déjà-vu, so if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to lie down. Call me a pogue if you must.
ArtsVegas: Covering Las Vegas Art and culture since 2009.
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