Quick post, writing this before I go to work at oh-dark thirty. Happy Veteran’s Day to anyone and everyone who ever served their country or community. I add community, because after volunteering at the Pile on 9/11, I’ve felt like I shared this day with guys “on the job” and “blue shirts” (cops and firemen).
Granted, this day doesn’t mean as much for me as Memorial Day, but with each passing year I’m troubled by the growing chasm between those who’ve served and those who haven’t. 90% of this country probably thinks today is another reason for a one-day sale, a reason to put a yellow ribbon on your bumper, something to honor those nameless faceless worthies who serve us. For others, it’s a day to reflect that the War to End All War ended on the 11th (actually the 23rd) hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918. We know how well that worked, how much peace ensued after the Armistice.
I’m not asking for non-veterans to walk a mile, figuratively speaking. I’m not even looking for empathy, because that starts us on the road to being the cliche of an emotionally dependent, soul-searching vet. Just have our back, honor the service but don’t cheapen it. Do something about it, hire a young veteran who might or might not have any transferrable skills, because shooting someone with an M4 carbine at 50 meters does not have a civilian analogue. But that young veteran will bring devotion, unparalleled work ethic, and a rare focus on your company’s mission unlike anyone in his age-group.
Like many veterans, I don’t want to be thanked for my service, because really, how are we supposed to respond? You’re welcome? Or, where were you? Still, it’s always preferable to “did you kill anyone?” My favorite, by a a knucklehead who used to work with me, was “what did you feel when you shot someone?” He had just overheard one of my squad leaders tell a typically conflated story that made us sound like the Rambonator. I answered, “Recoil,” because not only was the story false, my coworker just had no idea how to relate to us.
If you must thank a veteran, please don’t just thank them blandly for their service and be on your way. Thank them instead for being the kind of person who volunteered to serve the country, because we are less than 2% of this country’s population. Thank them for spending their youths overseas so that the rest of us can have cheaper gas and electronic devices. Thank them for risking life and limb. Thank them for being sheep dogs protecting the greater flock.
Thank a veteran for defending our country.