“Thank you for your service.”
The phrase has grated on my nerves since I left the Army. Maybe that’s because I was in medical units the whole time. But I think it’s something bigger than that.
I remember protesting the second Gulf War, not even a year out from being discharged. I remember the young men jeering at me for protesting the war, but having “better” things to do than enlist themselves.
If I’d not been holding a protest sign, I suspect they would have thanked me for my service… but still wouldn’t have enlisted.
When it comes to actually taking care of veterans, we’ve been doing a pretty bad job for two long presidential administrations. 1
For all the hand-wringing over what impact a Twibbon campaign or making your profile picture green might have, for all the whining about clicktavism, it’s stunningly shameful to see this in real life example of the same.
Put the flag on your lapel. Thank them for their service. Then you can feel like a good citizen, like you’ve done something.
And that’s bullshit.
Listen to this episode of The Memory Palace: https://thememorypalace.us/2016/08/numbers/. There’s a player on the web page, so you don’t need anything special. It’s maybe ten minutes long. Listen.
If you’re old enough, you might remember that night. If you’re young enough, really listen. Let the idea of it sink in.
That was when everyone2 had something at stake.
I don’t think going back to a draft would be good, not really.3
But I wish there was some way to make military service mean more than a cheap lapel pin and empty thanks.
I wish it was real enough that VA programs were funded, that returning troops got treatment for PTSD, that instead of overpriced pork barrel projects, our military members got the equipment they want and need.
Instead, all we get are a quick gesture of thanks and mentally crossed off the “be a good citizen” list.
1 The current VA issues were known to the White House in 2005, for example.
2 Well, most everyone.
3 The general thought for WWI and WWII was that we gave just enough training to civilians, and those who survived would be good soldiers. American casualty rates at the beginnings of hostilities before 1980 were usually quite atrocious.