My friend, K, today says what I often think about our military (she is saying this in a Facebook status to her relatives who have served):
I don't always understand the decision to serve but I do understand some of the sacrifice in time, autonomy, and personal safety that you made when you joined up - and for that, and for whatever repercussions you voluntarily endured or might have for the sake of allowing the rest of us to live in oblivity, I salute you.
Yes. I don't understand it. I'd never advise it. But, if someone makes the choice, I honor the things they may have gone through, the things they have seen, and the ways their lives have changed through that choice. I cannot imagine, and I know that the rest of us continue to live in blissful ignorance.
Another friend re-posted a status of *his* friend, whose son is currently in the Navy.
I challenge everyone to NOT EVER say, "thank you for your service" again.
You want to thank someone in the service? Put a couple of $20 gift cards from Target in your pocket/purse. You see that E5 in line at the pharmacy? Give him/her one. You know that gal behind you at DD is married to a guy who is deployed? Buy her coffee for her.
You want to thank a Veteran? Do all of the above, and also hold politicians' feet to the fire. Force them to take care of the men and women they sent off to war. Don't let up. Don't vote for the ones who don't care.
"Thank you for your service" is awkward. LT Firstborn accepts it with grace, as the Naval Officer he is, but it's cringeworthy. The statement was used extensively in the wake of 9/11, and reached jingoism levels very, very quickly. It allows someone who lives their life not giving a damn about servicewomen and men to appear patriotic. Don't buy into this. LIVE your appreciation for our Forces.
To pay for the World Wars, Americans bought War Bonds, and then allowed themselves to be taxed to pay off those bonds. The American homefront in the wars of the 21st Century has not had to make financial sacrifices to pay for them. It's time to pay up. In true American form, put your money where your mouth is.
This is my anguish, my anger. When I roll my eyes at ribbon stickers on cars. It's not because I "don't support the military." It's because I love them so much, I don't believe they should be put in harm's way in the first place.
I can't believe that we have people in our government who consistently vote down bills that will help them with food and shelter and healthcare and treatment.
It's because I don't really think we should be going places where we aren't wanted and killing people and losing our own men and women for some false sense of "democracy" when back of all of that is hubris and greed and lies.
And on top of it all, we "thank them for their service" by hanging them out to dry:
- The Department of Defense reviewed and found over $100 million in food stamps were spent in 2013 by military families at commissaries.
- In an article from the Mercury News, I read that "22 U.S. military veterans who die by suicide every day, more than double the civilian rate. Since that day, some 27,258 of those we honor for their service on this Veterans Day have died by their own hand."
- And the rates of PTSD, addiction, and traumatic brain injury are obviously much higher than the regular population -- and getting help through the VA is not always easy or expedient. ("It's been seven months since top officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs learned that tens of thousands of combat vets were being denied VA health care enrollment because of a computer system error." -- Huffington Post)
These are not the actions of a grateful nation.
After a year of sitting in my friend, L's, closet, I finally picked up my Dad's Navy peacoat and brought it home with me the other day. I had asked her to pick it up from the drycleaner's last August? when I knew there was going to be no way that I could get there in time.
I had taken it in to be repaired and cleaned. I had been wearing it for years and years, and it was literally falling apart. It was just shy of 50 years old, and I figured it needed a permanent rest, but it should look good before I put it in the archives. But I was now bouncing between Wisconsin and Chicago, visiting and taking care of my dad, and I just knew I wasn't going to make it back before I was worried something would happen to it.
L picked it up, and then my dad got sicker and sicker, and then he died. My dad was in the Navy, but just for a short stint. Turns out, he didn't do well being confined in a small space, and got an honorable discharge. The man at the funeral home said it didn't matter, as long as he had an honorable discharge, he was entitled to a military funeral -- guns and flag and all. My mom said we'd do it, then.
Time passed, and I would intermittently think about the coat. I knew that it was perfectly safe with L, so it was easy for me to let it stay with her, and she was kind and patient with letting it be. I just wasn't ready to carry it home -- to have it and know that its significance was so much more weighty than ever before.
I went over the other night to feed her cats, and I knew it was time to take the coat home. It was the perfect time, and I am happy to have it with me. I also thank her for her service.
(If you know someone who needs help, The Veterans Crisis Line is 800-273-8255, then press 1. Help via text is available at 838-255 and veterans can chat at www.veteranscrisisline.net.)
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