When we hear the word patriot, what does that mean? Is it a straight forth answer or is it ambiguous? The official definition from the Oxford dictionary is “The quality of being patriotic; devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country.” The key phrase is “support for one’s country.” To some, this means to support the flag as symbolism for being thankful for their freedom. For others, this freedom has not been actualized. For many minorities, freedom has been an elusive entity. In an age where our society seems to be divided on every issue, who embodies this idea of freedom?
Minority Veterans are in a unique situation. We have told everyone we are willing to give up our lives for a country that has not treated us the best. As we push towards visibility and continue to tell our stories, we get pushback alongside support from our fellow veterans in our community. We live in an interesting time where voices which were silenced can now be heard, and connections can be made. Many view us as a force to divide the veteran community but, we want the same treatment as other veterans enjoy in allocated spaces. We want to have conversations with others that may have questions about a particular issue. We want to put a face on a status. All of us in the veteran community has a truth to speak regardless of minority or majority status. We have earned this right by offering ourselves in the line of duty to preserve American ideals.
Our civilian counterparts thank us for our service and call us patriots to which they are thankful for the freedoms they enjoy, but for many of us, we feel ostracized in our communities. Are we patriotic? Are we as good as our fellow veterans? Do people care about me?
The answer is YES, YES, YES!
You earned the right to be a veteran. You should feel proud to say you served your country. You should feel proud that you accomplished something that many people have not and will not do while, being treated as a “less than citizen.”
What does patriotism mean to me? It means standing up for what is right. It means standing up for the idea that America is the lighthouse for freedom. It means that no matter what separates us, we can come together and break bread together while enjoying each other’s differences. I learned this idea from the very people I served with. All of us were individuals that came together and be apart of something bigger than ourselves. Our military is a representation of every fabric that makes our country unique while, maintaining mission readiness. For many of us, this transition to civilian life has been difficult. Every veteran needs a support structure, so they do not stray from the path.
Do not leave your battle buddy behind.
As we gear up for Independence Day, remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Celebrate their lives, celebrate the freedoms they provided. Think about how diverse our nation’s military is. Think about how diverse our country is. Be thankful we live in a country where we can question simple ideas of what freedom is and what patriotism is.
To me, this is what patriotism is. It is to challenge the status quo to reveal truth and knowledge.
~Loren Christopher Lacy served in the United States Navy as an Aviation Electrician’s Mate from 2012-2017. During that time, he completed four deployments and left the Navy as a Petty Officer Third Class. Loren now is attending the State College of Florida and he is working on his Associate in Arts degree and plans to transfer to the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.
Loren is currently SCF’s Student Veterans of America Venice Chapter President along with as a FO for Minority Veterans of America. Loren is passionate about intersecting his LGBT identity as well as his veteran identity through conversation and understanding. Loren wants to help all veterans feel comfortable in the Veteran Community as well as their respected identity.