So Veterans Day has passed for another year. Yesterday on November 11 the people of the United States stood still for a moment to remember the fallen and to say “thank you” to veterans who served in the military. In Britain and across Europe similar scenes take place as armistice day is used as an occasion to recognise the sacrifices made by veterans and their families. Veterans probably appreciate the gesture and use the occasion to remember those with whom they served. Most veterans are proud of their service and value the opportunity to remember fallen comrades. That said many veterans now see the annual outpouring of jingoism and the way veterans day is “celebrated” as a grave insult.
In recent weeks we have seen an outpouring of news stories about where veterans can go for a free meal on veterans day. WNEP reports about how some 400 veterans gathered at Geisinger-Bloomsburg Hospital cafeteria to claim a free meal. Veterans were encouraged to bring a guest along for a free meal too. Doubtless offers of a free meal and a thank you to veterans is a well meant gesture. Doubtless many veterans appreciate that for least for one day in the year their sacrifices are recognised and remembered.
Of course what veterans would really like to see is that their service is recognised 365 days a year. The Huffington Post points out that in recent years the U.S. and her allies have fought their wars a long way from home and in a fashion that means the general population barely notice that it going on. You know what? Waving a flag, standing at a baseball game and saying to a veteran “thank you for your service” is easy. It is also seen by many veterans as an empty gesture, a false platitude that allows us to feel better about ourselves without even having to think about what a veteran has gone through.
Another report in the Huffington Post reflects on what veterans and their families see as a national scandal. When our veterans signed up for military service they knew deep down that their service may well call on them to make the ultimate sacrifice. In return for exposing themselves and their families to that level of risk our veterans are sold the concept of a national covenant. That covenant assures veterans that if they are killed their families will be looked after. If they are wounded, and the wounds are often horrific, veterans believe that they will be looked after.
Sadly it seems that this is a huge lie. The tragic reality both in the U.S. and in the U.K. is that our veterans are treated appallingly badly. There are huge numbers of veterans living rough on the streets and around 10 percent of veterans end up in prison.
All too often, veterans are discharged from the military with undiagnosed and untreated mental health issues. While 6,828 military personnel have died in the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the number of veterans who returned home and took their own lives is at least four times higher. For these veterans and their families there is no support, no military pension and no resettlement program.
Forward Progression calls this an outpouring of “fake patriotism” and an insult to our veterans. They report U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, among others, have revealed that the Department of Defence pays for tributes to our veterans at major sporting events and is stating that these sponsored displays should end.
Offering a free meal or a store discount to a veteran on Veterans Day is a nice gesture but whilst lawmakers in Washington block programs designed to help veterans because they are “too expensive” it is a meaningless and empty gesture.
Forward Progressives conclude by saying “this is America, probably the greatest and most powerful country this world has ever known. We can do better than this for our veterans. We have to do better than this.”
Do you think veterans deserve better? Let us know what you think.
[Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]