The Faces of 36 People You Might Not Think Are Veterans
A motivational speaker, a Princeton Tiger, a CEO, and a kid from South Side Chicago all have one thing in common, but it's something that most people wouldn't assume by looking at them. They're veterans, and yet there's much more to them than their collective identity. That's the idea behind a campaign launched Monday by the veteran-focused nonprofit Got Your 6.
The "I Am" campaign highlights the faces of 36 veterans, all of whom challenge the notion of what a typical veteran looks like, and when it comes to their attributes, no two are the same. Some are artists and poets, others are marathoners and parents, and all have served in the U.S. military.
"When I tell people I served in the Army and deployed to Iraq I tend to get the 'Really? You don’t look like a veteran,' " Kate Hoit, the director of communications for Got Your 6, told TakePart. Hoit served eight years in the U.S. Army Reserve, joining at 17 in 2001. From 2004 to 2005, she was an Army photojournalist in Balad, Iraq.
She and the other featured veterans represent a largely misunderstood demographic, considering most Americans’ perceptions of veterans are shaped by the way they’re depicted in film and television, said Hoit. A study conducted by Got Your 6 earlier this year found that the general population reported seeing only extreme depictions of veterans in much of the media.
“Some of the stereotypes and misconceptions of veterans is that we all struggle with unemployment, homelessness, and post-traumatic stress disorder or that we’re less educated than our civilian counterparts,” said Hoit. “And while some do struggle with these issues, on the whole we are a resilient bunch.”
With the launch of this campaign, Hoit and her team are hoping to put a new face to the word “veteran” and inspire others to share their stories of how they identify, their military background aside.
"Some veterans just don’t identify as veterans—especially female veterans," she said. "We take off the uniform and reenter civilian life. We enroll into colleges or universities so we identify as a student now. Or we get a new job and take on that title. We return to roles such as a father, mother, or caregiver. And some veterans just don’t see or think of themselves as a veteran."
As for how she identifies, Hoit says it's a tough one.
“That’s the hardest question…. I am a former [pretty terrible] cheerleader. I am a fan of punk rock.”
Though Hoit possesses a laundry list of accolades, it's her multidimensional attributes and those of the others in the campaign that show that veterans have far more to them than their background.
Got Your 6 is a campaign working to empower veterans by creating collaborative training programs with the nation's leading veteran organizations, raising awareness of the misconceptions facing veterans, and recognizing media projects that accurately portray former service members.