Integrity Becomes Respect

Veterans often struggle with feeling like “Dysfunctional Veterans.” But respect is earned, not given. Honesty, integrity, and empathy pave the way to mutual respect.
April 13, 2024

Losing Respect

Years back, I was in a very negative headspace. It’s the headspace that many Veterans go through, the “I don’t fit in, Dysfunctional Veteran.” While funny on the surface, there is a danger to this. Veterans are Wearing shirts that put a mark on your back, literally. Furthermore, making the common Veteran look like they are all jerks and idiots. (I can fully assure you that this is the exception and not the rule.) It took a few people for me to understand that I’m not dysfunctional, albeit going through a hard time because of trauma, and that was okay, too. Being not okay is OK; sometimes, it’s a natural response to being in a high-intensity situation for long periods. That is the way of the military. However, in this mode, it is hard to show people that you have worth. Respect is earned, not given. Walking around like the world owes us a favor is irresponsible. The Veteran community went through a time of losing respect for one another and themselves as a whole because of this mentality.

Earning Respect

My wife and I teach our children that if you want respect, you must first, earn it. I teach my sons that if they want people to take them at their word then they need to be honest. Being honest is that first spot that people look for when deciding to give respect to someone. There is no place for dishonesty in respect. Therefore, having the integrity to keep your word, answer with truth even if it hurts, and always speak in respectful mannerisms will earn that respect.

There is more to it than just telling the truth to gain respect; however, it’s being cordial, honest, and caring. Often, people will say the truth in a manner that is hard to hear, with no caring if it hurts someone or not. Often, this is the way it needs to be done. We’ll call it the “ripping the band-aid off method. While some people respond much better to that method, most do not.

It’s not what you say it’s how you say it…

Verbal Judo is acrobatics in the mind. People have become accustomed to being spoken similarly across the world. They expect to be given respect immediately, regardless of context. This is a complex concept for many people, especially Veterans, who, for the duration of their military service, were being yelled at to do tasks. The task, or mission, was always the most essential thing in the military member’s life at that moment. There was nothing to stop the soldier* from completing said task. Often, the soldier was screamed at from the time they started the task until the end of the task. Unfortunately, that is the military way in many cases. This often becomes a trauma to the later Veteran, which retrains the brain from treating others with respect. Returning to speaking respectfully needs to be how an enlisted person discusses with an officer, saying with respect to the rank that has asked you to do something. This is the acrobatics that one must do in one’s brain before they speak. Retraining people to talk in a manner that de-escalates a situation or encourages is often the most challenging part of re-learning integrity.

Saying the right words, all the time, does not matter! It’s the way in which you say the words that matter. Speak the truth in a manner that doesn’t harden hearts. The Bible says to “speak the truth in love”, while this is important – it is not an easy task. This is the part where we have to learn to become and speak what we believe.

Gaining Respect is Gaining Integrity

I, me, Kenny Holmes, personally believe that the way to gain respect is to treat the person that you are talking to in a manner that they want to be treated. The whole “Golden Rule” thing is a thing to me. I have been fairly successful with it I think, since getting off of the “Dysfunctional Veteran” roller-coaster ride.

All of this only works if you have respect for yourself! I saw a VA counselor for many years. The one I saw was also a Jewish Rabbi, and one of the things that he was fond of telling me (because I identify as a Christian): “You Christians do not use your Jesus!” While that may seem odd for a Jew to say – it’s also quite true. We, as Christians, want people to see us as lovers of each other; while respecting us in the present. We often forget to ask for our Creator’s blessing. Showing our love through our Christian Values is the way that people will see you and judge your integrity. Walking the walk and falling the talk.

When I was going through the hard time, it was evident I didn’t have much respect for what I was doing. I didn’t have the self-worth that I needed. Looking at Facebook, at the drama, the insecurities of people, the over-enthusiasm for mediocre tasks, this all messed with my psyche. Social media wrecked my self-worth. It wrecked my ability to have confidence; therefore, I couldn’t speak the truth because I wasn’t living the truth. Ironically; though, I met another individual that helped me get my self worth back. He helped me until he couldn’t anymore, and even offered me a job if I’d move to Texas. However; that was never in the cards for my family! But he gave me the opportunity to meet and do work for very successful people. All of the people that I met through him helped me gain the knowledge of what they were doing, showing respect.

Move Over Gains, Respect is in The House

Knowing I still needed help, I contacted clergy, who referred me to a Stephen’s Minister. This is where clarity met mind and respect in the road and hugged! The object of being respectful is the ability to listen, speak when needed to, and regard with only the knowledge that the person lets you in on.

My Stephen’s Minister and my therapist worked with me to help me get out of the hole that I was in. To this day my Stephen’s Minister, let’s call him Mike, help me out. Mike keeps me in check and in reality, but he helps me remember that to receive respect it’s about showing it first!

Full circle now, and if you have stuck with me this far, we are on the ending strip of this article. This is what FreedomSystem’s goal is now. Let Veterans earn the respect that they may feel that they lost when the left the military.

What’s Coming Next

Right now,, has classes once a quarter to help get resumes right. There are a few new features coming to the website that will be there to help with résumé’s and job searching. We are starting to do our group mountain bike rides again this year, and we are working on our Veterans coaching kids program through our newly formed baseball team! And so much more…

Don’t forget to get your tickets to “Remember,” May 18th, tickets are on sale on the website here and through our board members and a select few locations throughout the Elkhart Community!

Until next time:


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Join us in honoring our Veterans’ legacy at Remember 2024! 🎉 From humble beginnings to impactful initiatives, discover how has evolved. Learn about our mission, memorable moments, and the keynote speaker, Captain Chad Fleming (Retired). Don’t miss out on a night of camaraderie, entertainment, and giving back. Read our article for an exclusive glimpse into our journey! #Remember2024 #SupportOurVeterans

What is Remember?

What is Remember?’s ‘Remember’ event honors veterans’ legacies, focusing on camaraderie to prevent isolation and promote mental health. Join us in honoring past, present, and future veterans’ contributions. Get your tickets now!



Christian. American. Father. Husband. Friend. Brother. Son. Grandson. Uncle. Cubs Fan. Digital.



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