A Day for Veterans

Veterans day
Today is Veteran’s Day*, not that you would know it. Sure the banks are closed as is the post office, and I believe if you present your veterans card at the Sizzler you get half price off your entrée with the purchase of another entrée at full price, and of course the thanks of the nation.

America has a weird relationship with its veterans, well let me clarify it with veterans of wars other than World Wars one and two, or as they seem to be thought of “the good wars”. These are the wars that they make glowing documentaries about, the ones glamorized in a million movies, TV shows and every other kind of fiction imaginable. We fought the Nazis, liberated Europe, kicked Japans ass, and got the girl. With a minor obligatory nod to the people we fought along side, which of course was most of the world minus the Axis powers. Since there aren’t a lot of WWI vets roaming about, World War 2 is the clear cut noble war to talk about, at least as it’s presented in our history books, and the veterans of that are considered are greatest generation. They have become the basis of our modern mythology.

Not to take anything away from them, because lets face it they were pretty great. They were the shoulders that built the latter half of the 20th century. But lets look at the war itself. One of the reasons we can feel good about WW2, is that from the 21st century perspective it seems pretty clear-cut; we were attacked by Japan, who were at the time Hitler’s evil little buddy. Hitler was a bad man who killed a lot of people because of race and religion. Which is a pretty good reason to dislike someone. From today’s perspective it seems pretty black and white: Hitler was bad so we had to fight him.

Thing is, it really wasn’t that black and white at the time. Hitler had been working the genocide machine for close to ten years in Germany prior to the US involvement. Ten years of going yeah maybe we should do something, (Darfur anybody?) When we did get involved was when we were surprise attacked at Pearl Harbor, except now we know that the government was aware that Pearl Harbor was a very likely place of attack. Then the rumors abound that this was used by FDR as a setup to go to war. Before I get too far down conspiracy lane the point of the matter is that war is never a clear-cut simple thing. It has a multitude of purpose, civilized nations don’t go to war over just principles, and they go for principles and gain.

We talk a lot about freedom in Iraq, but freedom doesn’t seem to be a big motivator for action in Darfur, or Burma, or anywhere else that doesn’t have a lot of resources to offer.

When it comes to veterans of the not so easy wars, like Korea, Vietnam, the myriad of South American scuffles that made up the 80’s, and Gulf wars I& II, we tend to confuse the singer and the song. Some Vietnam vets found themselves booed when they got off the plane, we have progressed a long way since then, now we just ignore it. Your average US citizen is really unencumbered by the war, sure gas prices are higher but most folks see no relation between the two events. Citizens aren’t saving grease droppings like WW2, there is no rationing, in fact it’s the opposite, like it’s our patriotic duty to shop. What is the price of freedom? $12.99 at Wal-Mart (regularly 15.99, a $3.00 savings!).

Our current vets come home to lost jobs and indifference, and fighting in abstract war I suppose that it’s fitting, but it is hardly fair. We do have a tendency to confuse the soldier with the war, lets face it the Iraq war isn’t exactly popular amongst the masses. It’s a war, much like Vietnam, that we don’t want people to go to. Honestly, what war would we want to go to? No one outside of the members of the military and politicians really want war, and even a good chunk of them don’t like war but they understand it as a necessary evil.

Our vets are like a friend who we owe money to and don’t want to pay back; sure we owe them but for whatever reason can’t give it back. So we avoid them, don’t acknowledge them because we don’t know what to say. We return their bravery with cowardice.

Just the act of being of being a solider is brave, whether you’re on the front lines or in an accounting division, because you have to give up free will. Joining the army is like signing a contact to do as you’re told. They say jump into the abyss, and you jump regardless of the consequence. It’s a trait that I truly admire to have such faith in an entity that it will see you through. To have faith in your country without question, to follow an ideal even if you disagree with the administration or their execution of duty.

It’s a different job ethic from those of us who live in cubes, and feel gypped if there is not a cake for our birthday in the conference room. So for our current soldiers we put magnetic ribbon on our cars and every once in a while there is a news story about a plucky third grade teacher who gets a letter writer drive where anonymous citizens write letters to anonymous soldiers thanking them. What do we do to show for the troops that are back? Well they do that half off thing at the Sizzler.

*Well to be specific it’s only Veterans Day in America, and Canada, everywhere else it’s just a standard issue Monday.

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There are 4 Comments to "A Day for Veterans"

  • Miss Try says:

    As someone with a little brother who’s a marine, all I can say is RIGHT ON! “Vets” today are otherwise known as “kids.” Kids who were usually lured by a powerful recruitment machine, with the promise of college tuition and “being all you can be.”

    My brother is one smart whip. Athletic, intelligent, kind to small animals and women, exactly the kind of person you wouldn’t think would join the military. But they got him. Now he has to face going over, losing his job and wondering if he’ll lose his life. Is he sorry he joined? Boy fucking howdy, is he. This isn’t “the way” they told him it would be.

    And before you say, “well he should have known,” ask yourself, did you do anything stupid when you were nineteen? Was there anything nobody could talk you out of, or did you have a feeling of immortality and never-endingness?

    Yeah. Me too. Only I didn’t have to pay with my life, or someone else’s.

    I don’t worry about him being wounded or even killed – as strange as that seems, those both seem like comparitively “clean” endings. I worry that he will have to kill someone else, and then live with that for the rest of his life.

    So my little dorky brother is going to be a “vet.” Lets hope this time next year, he’s here to celebrate another (unspectacular) Veterans day. I think I might go buy one of those little red paper poppies today…if I can find one.

  • Angelina says:

    Thanks Chris, one of the few civilians that get it.

  • On V Day I want to extend my deepest thanks to all of our military. Thank you.

  • Thank you to all of our armed forces from wars past and present who unselfishly gave their lives for for their country. Thank you.

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