“Is it ok to ask a veteran for war stories?”
I cannot answer for all veterans – only for myself, and I would have to say “Sure. Why not?”
Quora has sorta become my temperamental Muse. I find something like your question, and I feel compelled to answer – especially if it is a direct question (keep in mind, I pass on more questions that I answer – toddlers and relocation make for challenging quiet times). Nearly all of my answers get re-posted to my ownthough there is some content I compile only on that site. For the most part, a question might dislodge a relevant memory which best illustrates the point I am making. So, in a way, I have little reservations about sharing my own “war stories,” but with a couple conditions…
First, these are my experiences. Judgement or criticism of my actions or perspectives is usually considered momentarily only for the sake of re-evaluating if I had confused or omitted details. Other than that, the judges and critics can go pack sand – and I mean the type that was found under the neglected Porta-Potties near the Transient tents at Speicher.
Second, the stories I share are on my terms. I write when I have the time, inspiration, and quiet to do so. Asking is great – badgering is great for being deprioritized to #13 of the “Answer Later” list. Not saying that you are guilty – just had to put it out there.
Third, and most importantly, I give a plague-ridden rat’s ass if I offend. Veterans are often coarse, vivid, and animated. We curse a lot, and I have been known to seek a level of “eloquent vulgarity” which would make some cringe in disbelief. While I think the word “fuck” is probably one of the most versatile words in the English language, I also know that there is a time and a place for such language; I try to pride myself on writing in a manner which would make my son and daughter proud.
As for what other veterans feel about being pressed for stories, I would wager that most may cooperate, many will have a hard time in avoiding the transitional stories (bring a lunch – we will go on and on), and all have stories that they will never share for whatever reasons. Those? Yeah… they are omitted for a reason – either their sake or yours. Don’t push; rather, redirect and ask about the funniest thing they can think of about having to take anthe showers in any transient location (on second thought, those stories are traumatic and will forever scar you on the word “jellyfish”), or – my own personal favorite – the we have done drinking.