Veteran’s Day. I’ve been out on Facebook already this morning and seen this phrase, or variations of it, quite a few times. So I’ve got something to say about that and being that this is my blog, darn it, I’m going to say it.
Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day are when this sentiment gets thrown around the most, but we see many other examples throughout the year of this. I think it was one or two Sundays ago that I noticed the NFL football games had some kind of ‘Thank you for your service’ theme. For the most part I just let it slide but today I’m going to rant about it.
What bugs me is that the implication of this phrase is that it is referring to the military performing some kind of ‘service’ that is worthy of this kind of adulation. We’ve been set up to think that this is a superior kind of service to our country. Yes, men and women in the military have sacrificed their lives and limbs in war. But we have to recognize that there are other forms of service that are just as valid. Is Jeremy performing less of a service to our country by being a firefighter and never having been in the military? Is Ashley or Jane performing less of a service to our country by teaching our children and never having been in the military? Is Teresa performing less of a service to our country by being a nurse and never having been in the military? No.
And there are many people who do time in the military who are never near the front lines and whose lives are never in any more danger than any other American. My uncle Pat was in the Army during World War II and he drove a supply truck behind the lines. My brother Tim served in the Army during the first Gulf War. He went to Iraq and was a guard at a prison compound. As far as I know, he never fired a shot in anger nor was he ever shot at by enemy troops. Tim, if I got this wrong, please tell me.
The point is that while the military is an organization designed to kill people for the state, the part that actually does the killing is relatively small. And nowadays we have soldiers sitting in air conditioned room playing video games (running drones) for their service – killing people for the state.
So I think we should talk about what service we really want to value in our country. I remember reading about the ancient Greek city states in school. Athens, where democracy reigned supreme, and warlike Sparta, where everyone was a soldier. My takeaway from that was that ultimately Sparta failed because democracy was good and war was bad. Now here in America we have a kind of democracy but we are also very war like. It pains me that we don’t value forms of service to our country that don’t involve killing people or blowing things up.
Jeremy, Ashley, Jane, Teresa, thank you for your service!