Halfway Heroes: ‘Near Veterans’ Seek Recognition For Almost Serving In Military

File: A US Army recruiter speaks with an near-veteran hoping to eventually convert him into full-veteran status.
A US Army recruiter speaks with an near-veteran hoping to eventually convert him into full-veteran status.

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Jody Siever spends his Friday nights like so many American servicemen and women, mingling while kicking back drinks at a local bar. Recognizing the giveaway military haircut of a fellow patron, he approaches with an arm extended.

“Welcome home, soldier.” Smiling, though apparently puzzled, the stranger returns a firm, brief handshake.

“Thanks, but I’m in the Navy. And I haven’t been anywhere—I’m in Nuke School,” he replies, referring to the Naval Nuclear Power Training Center in Goose Creek, S.C.

“That’s cool,” Siever says. “I almost thought about joining the Navy for a while, but if I did join the service, I would have gone into the Army. I’m just kind of hardcore like that. Shooting bad guys in the face—that’s the life for me. If I wanted it.”

Siever, you see, never actually enlisted.

Veteran servicemembers often find it difficult to relate their experiences in the military to friends and family back home, but a new civilian organization is working to expand that exclusive brotherhood. The Bros Before Joes campaign, established in 2011, seeks to legitimize the efforts of people like Siever, whose commitments to serving in the military range from the hypothetical to the nearly realized.

“We’ve got guys from all over the spectrum here. Some of our members, they merely thought about joining the Army a few times, or took the ASVAB in high school to get out of first period,” explains BBJ founder Trent Bower. “Other guys though, they got as far as making appointments to go to MEPS [Military Entrance Processing Station], but then something important came up.”

A near-Marine himself, Bower recounts his own brush with fate:

“I talked with a Marine recruiter a few times in high school, even attended a couple of pool functions at the recruiting office. It got to the point that I was there so often, the recruiters even started calling me ‘Boot.’ They were practically begging me to enlist, but I always knew I was meant for something more meaningful.”

Bower, a 31-year old assistant manager at a successful pizza delivery franchise, started the Bros Before Joes campaign in his spare time, seeking to bring recognition to others who share his story. For Siever, and thousands of almost-soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines like him, the organization is a long-overdue ray of hope.

Says Siever, “It’s great, you know, to finally be able to reach out and connect with others who share your non-experiences. After giving so much, dedicating so much time and energy to thinking about enlisting, it just feels like we’re finally getting the thanks we deserve.” And recognition has been swift in coming.

Thanks to a successful joint-lobbying campaign with the Almost Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a bill is now before the Senate to approve Veteran’s Affairs benefits for BBJ and AIAVA members. The resolution received overwhelming bipartisan support in a House vote earlier this year from a majority of US Representatives who are themselves non-veterans.

Regarding the passage in the House, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) released this statement:

“This isn’t a Red-or-Blue, liberal-versus-conservative issue. It’s about giving near-veterans like me and many of my constituents the recognition we’ve been denied for far too long.” Currently, 345 out of 435, or roughly 80% of members of the U.S. House of Representatives, have no recorded military service.

As the bill nears the Senate floor, however, some opponents are voicing concerns. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a Navy veteran, held a press conference outside his home in Phoenix on Tuesday, calling the bill “a mockery… of all that I hold dear.” He also stated that he would “rather tongue-kiss Jane Fonda” than vote to approve the measure. Before he could take questions, he had to be ushered away for medical treatment when blood began seeping from his clenched fist — reportedly from clutching his Silver Star too tightly.

And he’s not alone. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) is an Army veteran of World War II and presently the only serving member of Congress to have earned a Congressional Medal of Honor. When presented with the bill’s full text, Sen. Inouye declared it “a perversion of our American values,” and refused to touch it, even with his prosthetic arm. Said Inouye, “I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.”

Despite these protests, the bill has mass appeal with civilians and near-veterans on both sides of the aisle. Arguments will begin in earnest when the Senate reconvenes next January. Until then, it’s a long wait for near-heroes like Siever and Bower.

Asked if he would do anything different given the opportunity, Bower harkens back to his non-Marine days:

“I just couldn’t leave all of this behind. I miss those pool functions, though. They were good times; some of the best times of my life. You just… you go through something like that, almost sacrificing so much, with such a close group of guys, and it really makes you brothers, you know? I even think I still have some recruitment brochures around here, somewhere.”


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55 Comments

  1. I know someone, who I’ll call Veteran, who went with a friend, who I’ll call Civilian, because the friend reeeally wanted to join the military and needed a ride. Veteran hadn’t particularly thought of it before then, but Recruiter was good at his job. I have the odd feeling this happens a lot.

  2. I am active duty Marine Corps. I work hard everyday and give up valuable time that I could be spending with my family to serve realistically. Therefore, if you dont do what I do everyday and have never worn the unifrom, YOU DONT RATE S H I T!!

    • Well I have never done what you do every day. I have also never worn a unifrom. What is a unifrom? Is it like a unitard? Some kind of dress? Are you a girl?

      As for rating shit, every time I take one I rate it. Hardness, softness, duration, smell. How can you not take one and not rate it? What else do you have time to do?

      If you got out of the Marine Corps, you could spend more time with your family. Not sure if you realize that.

      How do you serve realistically? Are you Keeping it Real? Do you stab your battle buddies so you can treat real wounds? Did you shoot your Drill Instructor so you could get your hard core on?

      Does the Marine Corp know you are a Marine? Or do you think that playing Halo is enough?

  3. Not to get serious but…

    I ran into a Viet Nam Vet at work today. He saw I was a veteran and thanked me. I got up, walked to him and gave him a handsake and said “Welcome Home”. He actually froze and got a little teared up. He thanked me again and I thanked him again and reminded him that no matter what he heard in the past, there were still those of us who cared.

    Our Viet Nam Vets are aging. When you get the chance, please let them know you care. Some of them stay away from anything military today because they still hurt. I came home twice to bands and those wonderful folks at Bangor Main who get out and spread the love to all the Troops coming through. Our Viet Nam Vets have almost nothing but horror stories.

    We are a Brothers and Sisters in Arms. Please let them know you remember their sacrifice and that you care.

    Okay back to less serious business. I have to figure out how to get credit as a lesbian. Ladies? any help?

  4. This was awesome and had me rolling but my favorite part is reading the comments so I can see how many jackasses really bite on this..LOL

  5. I am seriously bummed out.

    I went to the Salacious Lesbians Unbeatable Tough Souls group in my local area. I wanted to join up. I mean it’s time to come out and get my benefits right?

    I got in touch with my feminine side a while back. I put it on a restraining order of course because I did not want to get too close but now that its worth something I can release it to run wild.

    Do you know what they told me? They Told me that I was too MALE! The nerve. I mean the one group leader had a better high and tight than I did and had some awsome tats. I told them I had touched my feminine side so I was almost a woman in a mans body, just like her, and that I loved women, just like her, and she had the unmitigated gall to tell me that there is a difference to be a man trapped in a womans body lesbian that a woman trapped in a mans body lesbian. She actually acted like I was Not Pure enough for them.

    Now I guess I am going to watch sleepless lisa does seatle and cry.

  6. This was written too well…some are going to mistake this satire for a serious article. Thoroughly fucking enjoyed it.

    • Funny thing is… all the ones who will mistake it for a real article have to scroll past all the comments about it being fake. Or they don’t know what satire actually means.

  7. How does that make sense? how do you rate benefits, when you never did the work, felt the pain, been shot at, or blown up. This bill is a Slap in the face to the people and the families who sacrificed everything, I’m a 100% eligible VA.B. Vet and I can’t even begin to describe my anger right now. Every one is entitled to there own opinion but asking for benefits and recognition, For what! Almost signing up, I get guys like this all the time talking to me saying things like “I would of joined but..” let me finish that sentence for you. But your a coward, and these guys don’t deserve any of the benefits, I get because they didn’t see people die. they didn’t have to carry dead bodies and put them in body bags. They didn’t have to get shot at all the time in Afghanistan. They didn’t have to worry about weather or not today was there last day, every day. Like so many of my fellow Infantry members who been there and done that. These BBJ guys and all the congress members who support these guys are cowards and if this bill passes it will slap the faces of everyone who split blood, lost a limb, and who died for American soil. THIS IS WHY IM IN POLITICAL SCIENCE SO I CAN FINALLY REMOVE THESE IDIOTS OUT OF OFFICE.

    • You are completely right Mr. Kirner! To hell with these guys/gals. I mean…the ones who truly deserve the “ALMOST” status is the committed hunters and survivalists out there who dress up and hone their skills at tracking, sniping, and ridding this country of terroristic animals, like squirrels and raccoons. These are the men and women who prepare everyday and every hunting season for their chance to save the United States from “RED DAWN”. Not the new cheesy one, but the original 80’s Patrick Swayze one. There are inherent dangers that they subject themselves too, cold winters, tripping hazards, splinters, even fratricide. These are the ones who must be honored and given benefits too….for one day….one day I say, they will be called upon to dress up in the ACU and fight off the enemy………..one day.

      -Disclaimer- I love hunting and not all hunters fall into this category.

    • @William Kirner
      Yes! Please, please, please get the non-vet war hawks out of office. I mean, this article is made up, but that is a noble goal.

  8. This is truely shameful! As a member of the US Air National Guard and working for the AF full time I am ashamed of this. Really ALMOST serving…that is like saying the bomb almost missed the target. if you did not ACTIVELY serve in the US Military and make the ULTIMATE SACFRICE then you do not deserve the Honor, Recognition or Benefits that go along with serving. As a military spouse you already have the benefits and the right to be proud and say you have served because the family of the military member sacrifices so much to support our Country. This is truely a shameful state our nation has come to be if this is going to be done.

  9. OH.MY.GOD! we need to pass this bill in a hurry. Do you know how much money the NFL alone owes me? I coached BOTH teams in the last 15 Superbowls! I have picked the winner of each game in the last 30 seconds of play for Years! I wonder if they will pay me with back interest?

    AND all the Allimony that my Supermodel and Actress and Musicians ex wives owe me? I almost married Oprah for the money, Bar, Heidi, Heather, Britteny, Jennifer, Angelina, Hellen, Alicia, Reece, Avril, and ………..So much money, I may have to stroke.. out. And since I was almost a lawyer I can submit my own court documents.

    THIS WILL BE GLORIOUS!

    But the really really awsome part.. One move my commanders was always calling me Jesus. He would say “Jesus Christ SGT G, what the hell were you thinking.”

    So I am almost the son of god. I get to decide who goes to heaven or hell. he he he ehehehehehehehehehehehe

    • This question posses a hard one for me. To give you true credit, we need photos and independent verification of the alleged almost faithfulness. In fact it calls for expert testemony and I have almost been that expert because I watched it on tv. So, I will volunteer myself for providing support to your verification. What is your phone number so we can get together and discuss it?

  10. HOLD THE PHONE, STOP the TWEETS and Listen UP.

    This is an outstanding IDEA. I mean I could not have thought of anything this significant with all the free time on my hands while in Iraq. BUT we cannot let this stop there.

    I was almost a Millionair! I stood in a casino next to a wall that has a million dollars on it. That Makes me a almost Millionair. I have a picture.

    I was almost a Doctor. I gave my friends and even complete strangers totally unsolicited and wildly innacurate medical advice. There were not cured but I tried.

    I was almost a Lawyer. I represented myself after some unfortunate medical advice turned out to be not quite up to par. I even got myself off on a technacality. I told them I only Thought about Medical School so I was not really licensed and they did not have to follow my advice.

    WE are limiting ourselves. This all inclusive society needs more inclusions.

    Tomorrow I am going to go towards my life long goal. I have had it since I was a little boy. I am going to be a lesbian because I really like women.

    • That had me dying! Pure genious. Oh, and don’t forget… I stood next to the White House (I have a picture to prove it) so I was almost the President. Where are my Secret Service and benefits of Presidential status?

      I have truly served for 12 and a half years. Been to this place, been to that place. I haven’t heard of such idiocy in my life. “Almost” a Hero? “Almost” doesn’t pay the bills.

  11. Sadly enough, I too was an “almost-Marine” and put the recruiter through some of the things that Darrell went through. A true hero. I mean the concern and effort to have me take tests and do everything I could to join. Ultimately, a gut instinct, or maybe the Army NCO barking in my ear, whatever it was, it’s what made me join the Army. Every now and then I reminisce of those days of being an almost marine. great times.

  12. I think this is great for those who ARE heros at heart. We in an all inclusive society, I think if one American gets the oppertunity to serve his or her country then the effort put forth by that individual should extend to the rest of us looking for something in our lives… as long as I can continue to be behind my computer screen on my couch watching netlix and sipping on rip-its (my high school buddy told me those are what he drinks in Afghanistan) it sounds perfectly just and dignified to me. Soldiers, sailors, marines, and the guys who fly around in blue jets at air shows should be proud to extend their accomplishes and let their experiences be relived through ALL AMERICANS at the bar around total strangers who’ll finally think we’re cool. Let’s come together on this, Holah (thats what the military yells sometimes right?)!

    • You’ve just made a fan, my Igger.

      I think the level of dedication goes so much further in some. When I was recruiting, I had the honor of knowing those diehard young men and women who would selflessly take the ASVAB, spend the night away from home in a government-provided hotel, wake up at asscrack early, take the physical, and still have the presence of mind to tell the MEPS liaison that he or she “didn’t feel right” about joining. For these valiant young men and women, it was never too late to decide that serving was not for them. Through constant reassurance from me, my NCOIC, coaches, teachers, counselors, and family, they persevered and stuck to their committment of becoming family-woend construction company laborers and beauty school applicants. To them, “quit” wasn’t an option. It was a core belief, a calling, a way of life. I was proud to give them my business card and spend countless hours on the phone with them, ferrying them about, putting their police waivers together, and eating their mom’s shitty food. It was the least I could do to support the almost heroes. Getting my ass ripped apart for having a kid flake at MEPS was a small price to pay.

    • Igger, you brought a tear to my eye to know that all the men and women who have served can now stop being selfish and include those poor unfortunates who “almost joined the Army but I said fuck that, staying home is gonna work out a lot better.” You are a true hero and I salute you! Thanks for the good laugh on my day man, keep the funny rollin on.

  13. I’m an almost vet too! The Air Force recruiter wouldn’t let me join as a jet engine mechanic. He tried to make me a clerk or some lame shit like that. So I became an AF wife instead. (We were already engaged when hubby signed the paperwork…) Where do I sign up for my benefits!

        • Do what I did. I spent some time training with foriegn troops. I am almost a British, Canadian, German, Japanese, and Austrialian Citizen.

          I applied for my benefits from all of them on that basis. Still waiting to here back.

          I even submitted for the Iraqi Army college fund. (I skipped the suicide bomber course so I dont know if they are going to grant me an exception)

  14. Best part:
    “Senator and Navy veteran John McCain (R-AZ) held a press conference outside his home in Phoenix, Arizona on Tuesday, calling the bill “a mockery… of all that I hold dear.” He also stated that he would “rather tongue-kiss Jane Fonda” than vote to approve the measure. Before he could take questions, he had to be ushered away for medical treatment when blood began seeping from his clenched fist—reportedly from clutching his Silver Star too tightly.”
    Haha!

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