Opinion: Dear veteran community, it's not you, it's me

By Jason Collins

Writing this letter has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in years. It’s been a long time coming, but everything that follows comes from the heart.

First let me just say that you’ve been great. When I got back from my third tour and was struggling with alcoholism, post-traumatic stress, and a messy divorce, you were there for me with everything from funny and sometimes racist memes, to irreverent bumper stickers and cool gun videos.

I can’t really place my finger on when I first realized there was a problem, but I think it may have been one morning when I was furiously typing out a rant against some lib-tard whore who had posted an article saying we should treat illegal immigrants with respect. While I hadn’t actually read the article, the link was being passed around all the veteran social media sites and everyone was pretty fired up about it.

Then, under the comment of the second “Democrats are un-American communists” meme, someone posted the author’s hacked phone number and home address.

Yet I was shocked to discover I didn’t want to call and deliver a hate-filled rant to a complete stranger.

So I logged off, slipped on my combat veteran-designed flip flops and DD-214 robe, and went out to the porch swing to think. As I sat there sipping Black Rifle coffee from an “I served” mug and watched my Gadsden flag sway in the breeze, I knew something was seriously wrong with me.

But things only got worse in the weeks that followed. For example, one day a soldier from my old platoon posted a picture of his new tattoo. It was a full back portrait of one of our NCOs who had been decapitated by a rocket-propelled grenade while standing next to me during a gunfight.

While everyone else commented with tearful “He’d love that! RIP Dawg” and “See U in Valhalla bRotHer!” all I could think was, Jesus, that’s a terrible portrait. And Sgt. Smith always hated you.

What was happening?

Then last month I was leaving the mall parking lot, and through my OEF/OIF combat veteran window decals I saw two young Marines home on leave beating the shit out of a 14-year-old wearing a faded camouflage jacket. They were both wearing their issued combat backpacks, tan boots, and dog-tags on the outside of their tucked-in Death Before Dishonor t-shirts.

With spittle flying from his acne-scarred face, the larger one screamed “stolen valor” and kicked the young man in the head, while the other cheered him on and shouted that his grandfather who “butt-fucked Nazis all across Europe” would be rolling over in his grave if he could see what the teenager was wearing.

Normally I would have pulled out my phone and immediately streamed the video to the Spartan Valor Freedom Watch Defenders Facebook page, but instead I called 911 and reported two guys assaulting a kid. After that I knew things were near the breaking point.

During my last job interview I actually forgot to wear all three of my memorial bracelets, and a few days ago I went on a date and didn’t mention the military or combat even once.

It hurts me to say this, but I don’t even enjoy watching former-soldiers-turned Instagram celebrities shoot guns in the desert anymore. And seeing a Medal of Honor recipient shill tactical gear no longer makes me reach for my credit card.

I’ve even found myself questioning a former soldier’s ability to go on cable news shows and comment on global strategic policy despite having a single six-month deployment to Kuwait.

So look, I’m just going to rip the Band-Aid off. This isn’t working.

Please don’t try and contact me. I’ve cancelled all of my monthly t-shirt subscriptions and already finished my first book not written by a Navy SEAL. It actually wasn’t bad.

I've decided to get away from all this. I still love you, and you’ve given me memories that can never be replaced, but it’s over.

But please understand: it’s not you, it’s me.

Jason Collins is a former U.S. Army infantryman. After leaving the military and walking around with a chip on his shoulder, he finally decided to stop acting like a pretentious douchebag and reintegrate into society like the veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam before him.