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Saturday, January 24, 2015

American Veteran The Target Of Ignorance

I sincerely hope that this post helps raise awareness about US military veterans and the folly of prejudging stereotypes about them.

On Friday, January 18th, Mary Claire Caine, finished grocery shopping at a Harris Teeter in Willington, North Carolina.

Her car was parked in one of the reserved "Veteran Parking" spaces that the grocery store chain provides for those who served our nation. As a veteran of the US Air Force who served in Kuwait and on the flight line of the F-117 Nighthawk, Caine of course has every right to park there.

However, when she returned to her car and finished unloading the groceries from her cart, she noticed a note taped to the passenger window, written on sharpie.

It reads: 

Yeah, this "Wounded Vet" despite being able to print decently couldn't have been bothered to spell-check his work at the beginning. Oh well.

Caine was devastated to say the least. No one had ever questioned her qualification for parking in that space before, until now.

"The first thing I felt was confusion that there was a mistake, and that I had to talk to this person and ask them why they were so quick to assume I wasn't a veteran and that I was taking privileges that didn't belong to me," said Cane.

She continues. "For a split second I thought, 'Am I a worthy enough veteran to park in this spot?' And then I got very angry at myself for even considering that."

Instead of tearing up the note and throwing it away, Caine waited by her car for a few minutes, hoping that the note's author would emerge from the sliding doors of the grocery store to talk to her. Nobody came.

Because she was a woman, and her car is donned with real estate agent information on the back rather than the armed services bumper stickers, it's clear that the author of the note drew a wrongful and hurtful conclusion about Caine.

"I think they took one look at me when I got out of  my car and saw that I was a woman and assumed I wasn't a veteran and assumed I hadn't served my country," Caine speculated. "They have this image of what today's American veteran is and honestly if you've served in the United States military, you know that veterans come in all shapes and sizes. I question whether the person who left the note was fully aware of that."

Caine herself knows that the likelihood of ever finding out who left the note and was so quick to judge her by her appearance is slim to none -- unless the store has surveillance videos of the parking lot -- but she hopes her experience will teach a lesson to other people who may have wondered the same thing about a female veteran, or any other veteran that doesn't fit the stereotypical image they hold to.

"I want them to know they owe me and every other female service member who's fighting now and who's fought in the past, an apology for jumping to conclusions," Caine said passionately. "It's true what the soldiers missing in action slogan is: 'All gave some and some gave all.' And, I think that's very important that sacrifice is sacrifice and I earned the title as a veteran and I'm proud of that."

Well said, ma'am!

Since the story broke over a week ago, there has been an outpouring of support for Caine.

A Harris Teeter Spokeswoman Danna Jones wrote in a statement: 
"Harris Teeter shoppers write, call, tweet and post to us that they loves these spaces, and we were disappointed to learned what occurred with Ms. Caine. Our teams are in the process of reaching out to Ms. Caine, so we can offer her a token of our appreciation as well as thank her for her service and for shopping at Harris Teeter."  

Caine said in a statement that she appreciates people offering her gifts, but asks that people consider donating to the Wounded Warrior Project instead.

That is true class ladies and gentlemen, something that the author of the note clearly knows nothing about. I myself personally question if the author of the note actually was a "wounded veteran" rather than just some bitter little nobody who goes out of their way to key car doors and attack anyone they feel is an "easy target" for their own twisted sense of amusement. I personally hope that is the case rather than the alternative, but regardless Ms. Caine handled the situation as reasonably well as anyone else in her situation.

I myself served in the US Navy briefly - five months before being honorably discharged for medical reasons. Legally I may be entitled to veterans benefits, but I never take them because I personally don't feel that I've ever done enough to earn them since I was had only just finished basic training and was at school when I was unable to continue to serve this country of ours.  For me, it's not just enough to wear the uniform, you also have to earn it through full enlistment service, if not actual combat.

It sickens and disgusts me whenever someone dishonors a veteran, or speaks ill of those who volunteered to serve this country. It's worse when someone poses as a veteran to take advantage of the few privileges that individuals who fought for American freedom receive. Such people deserve to be exposed and humiliated whenever they are encountered.

I hold our soldiers and veterans - both living and dead - in the highest regard and speak out to support them whenever I can. It is because of those men and women (and in some cases service dogs) that we live in an (allegedly) free country today. That we are able to enjoy those barbeques on US Memorial Day and those fireworks - and yes more barbeque - on the Fourth of July.

Those people - those veterans who come on all shapes, sizes, and genders - who volunteered to serve, to protect and defend America deserve our appreciation and our respect.

On a final note, as Ms. Caine pointed out selflessly, there are real wounded veterans out there who still need plenty of support. On my blog page is a link to the Wounded Warriors Project. Support our American Veterans. And to Ms. Caine, and all other veterans of the United States Armed Forces, thank you for your service to this country and to its people. 

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