Playing the veteran card (again)
I was honored to speak at the 2nd annual Veterans Day luncheon sponsored by the Woodford County Public Library last Friday, Nov. 2. The conference room was full of veterans and their loved ones, and they were a polite, enthusiastic audience. I like to think I’m a decent public speaker, but near the end of my chat, I wished that I’d just read from this column from 2015. Happy Veterans Day, ya’ll.
In 2014, I added a new tool to an already impressive arsenal of ways to get my way: the veteran card.
It was a belated tip o’ the hat to two people, neither of whom are veterans.
Years before, after a few bonehead moves, the athletics director of a major university had sat down for a newspaper interview. When asked about decisions he’d made that blew up in his face, he prefaced his answers with the words, “As a Christian, …”
I also observed how a photographer I’d worked with at a Lexington television station put his status as a cancer survivor to good use. My buddy, long since given the all-clear signal by doctors, would tell friends before the four of them got into a car, “Well, I had cancer, but if you want me to sit in the back, I will.”
As far as I know, he’s still riding shotgun everywhere he goes.
Still, it took years to effectively incorporate such thinking into my own line of patter. During that time, my mistakes continued to land at my feet, with the resulting stumbles leading friends, loved ones and bosses to consider them my fault.
This simply won’t do, I realized.
It’s said that the biggest difference between the thinking of a child and an adult comes when we realize, “The world doesn’t revolve around me.” I have belatedly come to grips with that fact, but I’m still not very happy about it.
Last year, I had a Newton-and-apple moment, and ever since, life’s been so much easier.
Here are a few examples:
With one last roll on the dinner table, I’ll announce, “As a veteran, I should probably eat that.”
Engaged in a bitter political dispute about budget deficits, immigration reform or White House pardons of Thanksgiving turkeys, I’ll end the argument by pointing out that, as a veteran, I was honored to have maintained the right to engage in such discourse.
With deadline approaching and a worried editor wondering when or if I’ll finish a story or column, I’ll say, “As a veteran, I’m having a bit of trouble with the lead.”
Finding a bit of Halloween candy my daughter stashed away, I’ll conclude, better a veteran eat it than a straight-A student and aspiring dancer.
Asked if I indeed drank the last libation in my buddy Dave’s refrigerator, I’ll suggest that, as a veteran, I thought it was the right thing to do.
Stops ‘em in their tracks every time.
As we’re in the business of telling the truth here at the Sun, this veteran will admit that the closest I came to live gunfire during my stint in the U.S. Navy was when I shot M-16s alongside the Seabees. As I’ve done ever since, I used pens and tape recorders and microphones and cameras. They’re safer, and some viewers, listeners and readers think, usually mistakenly, that you’re hot stuff.
Still, consider just some of what happened during my six years and four months of active duty (at the conclusion of which, I must point out, I was honorably discharged):
We bombed Ghadaffi a time or two, won the smart Gulf War, and watched the Berlin Wall come tumbling down and the Soviet Union fall apart like a cheap suit.
Do I deserve all the credit for these victories?
Of course not.
However, as a veteran, I’m entirely comfortable with implying I had a lot to do with them.
You see, playing the veteran card isn’t just a way to get out of trouble. It’s also a way to get what you want, when you want it – and to make that big old world spin around you just a little bit longer. Note: As a veteran, John doesn’t hesitate to employ irony and other rhetorical devices to make his point, get a laugh or evade responsibility.