Today is Veterans Day, the day when cemeteries all across America echo with brass bands, 21 gun salutes and the voices of politicians who dust off their finest patriotic rhetoric in praise of those who have died for our country.
It seems the pomp and circumstance surrounding this day is more about preserving the afterglow of World War II, when Americans of every social strata came together to fight “the good war” and won. Today, only 1% of us are actually in the military and shouldering the burdens of freedom. Most people don’t actually know a veteran. We don’t know what they did or why. And we really don’t care.
Do we truly honor our veterans on this day? It seems more than anything else, we use them to pursue our ill conceived and poorly thought out geo-political objectives and then discard them.
A veteran commits suicide every 65 minutes in America. 50,000 veterans are homeless. Some have traumatic brain injuries or suffer from PTSD, but we expect them to be “good soldiers” who come home and fit in without making waves. If they don’t, we classify them as undesirables and boot them out of the service with a Dishonorable Discharge, which makes them ineligible for the medical care they so desperately need. It also bars them from other benefits like college tuition assistance or VA sponsored home loans. Some former soldiers have been deported after serving.
How’s that for honoring our veterans?
If it were up to me, I’d pass a law saying only people who will be actively involved in the fighting can send others off to war. And I’d reinstate the draft so the burden of military service falls equally on all sectors of society. No exemptions; no deferments; no excuses. Then maybe sending our troops off to fight for oil wells or to satisfy the megalomania of our leaders wouldn’t be so easy.
Perhaps for every time our children play video games that make them think blowing people up is fun or that bullets don’t really hurt, we could let them listen to the Irish anti-war ballad, “Johnny I Hardly Knew You” so they can hear the heartbreak and pain that follows in the wake of military adventurism.
That’s one way we can truly honor our veterans.