Home Veterans 5 Most Common Questions Civilians Ask Service Members

5 Most Common Questions Civilians Ask Service Members


Did you miss my article over at Military1?

Servicemembers colors flagAs a service member or member of a military family, there are some questions you might get tired of hearing

1. Have you killed anyone?

Why this question comes as one of the first things people want to know is beyond me. Does it matter if they have or have not? If you want to know what a deployment is like, ask questions like:

  • What did you eat while you were over there?
  • What were the living conditions like?
  • Did you ever interact with the locals?
  • Do you have any stories you’d like to share?

2. Oh you’re in the Marines. Do you know John Smith?

Chances are you don’t know John Smith. But you may know LCPL Smith who is stationed in 29 Palms with 1/7. If you know someone in the military, find out their rank, where they’re stationed and what unit they’re with. This is especially helpful if you’re close with the individual in case you need to track them down should something come up.

3. Do you have PTSD?

While PTSD is a very real issue, not everyone has it or is going to have it. Don’t presume that everyone has it and don’t ask if they do unless you’re in a situation where a meaningful conversation can take place. Those suffering from PTSD find the effects debilitating and it isn’t something that they want to broach with just anyone. Additionally, assuming that anyone who has served in the Armed Forces is going to self-destruct and leave a pile of ashes in their wake is not right and can actually be harmful to the military community.

4. What’s that medal for?

Some military uniforms require medal to be worn. Some are earned for doing time, deployments completed, or acts of bravery. Sometimes when people see our military dressed up in uniform, they see a lot of shiny ‘things’. First, don’t touch the medals. Second if you’re going to ask what a medal is for, be ready to listen for the story behind it. Don’t just ask in passing. See it as an opportunity to learn.

5. What do you think about the President?

Active duty military personnel are subject to the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) and the President is their commander in chief. While our servicemembers can have opinions, some of them may rather stay quiet without discussing their personal views with just anyone. Speaking against the President, especially in public or social media, could cost a servicemember their career.

If you’re curious about politics, ask them more specific questions about the actions we have taken as a nation. If they’ve deployed, talk to them about what they’ve seen in the Middle East.

When in doubt…

Remember that you can pick up a book or simply google something if you have a burning desire to know more. In the meantime, buy a military family or servicemember a round of drinks. Or pick up their tab at dinner. Or just say thank you.

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