It's Veterans Day, and Facebook will be inundated with posts, memes, and other displays indicating support for veterans. Pretty much all of you know I'm a veteran. I tend to squawk about it a fair amount on teh Facebook. Probably too much.
I might rock my ships ball caps when I'm out and I post Navy stuff and belong to several veterans groups on FB, as well as I'm a 30 year member and post officer of the American Legion, but I don't chase veterans discounts. I don't really need them, I'd prefer that they went to those who saw combat and left some of themselves, whether in body or mind, on the battlefield. I didn't do anything special. I was a cook, (or the 65 cent equivalent phrase, Mess Management Specialist.) I served chow. I can hold my own in a kitchen. Not exactly Bobby Flay/Iron Chef material, but I can more or less cook or at least follow a recipe. I cranked out a bunch of chow to a bunch of squids on an aircraft carrier and a guided missile cruiser. No big shakes.
As I've gotten older, I've looked back on that time in my life and frankly, I made a lot of stupid decisions. I could have done a lot better, and a lot more than I did. I didn't come home with a chest full of medals, but at least I did come home, albeit with a head full of memories as well as some Ill fitting uniforms.
I don't really care if people thank me for my service. It's no real big deal to me. To a lot of veterans, "Thank You for Your Service." can sound like an empty phrase. Small talk along the lines of "How are you doing?" "Fine weather, we're having." A time filler.
Understand that I didn't join the Navy out of any patriotic duty or love of country. I simply had crap grades coming out of high school, college wasn't an option and Homewood in 1980 wasn't where I wanted to be. I wanted a reboot and the Navy gave me the Ctrl-Alt-Delete to do that. 34 years after walking out of the East Gate at NAS Alameda, DD214 in hand. I can say that while I've done some noteworthy things (going to college, staying employed and out of trouble) I could have done a lot more.
But, on this Veteran's Day, don't just thank a veteran for their service. If you know a vet who's down on his luck. Buy him/her a meal. Lend him/her an ear. Find the local organizations that help veterans where you live and throw them a few bucks. Volunteer if you can. Make your words count. If you're in a position to hire a veteran, give them a shot.
It has been my honor and privilege to serve this country. I'm not the biggest flag waver in the world. Show me a veteran who got pissed when Colin Kaepernick et al knelt at the National Anthem and I'll show you a veteran who'd have knelt with him. Starting with me.
I don't need the patriotic theater that comes with our sporting events. I've marched in Veteran's Day Parades and officiated at Memorial Day services. I've given Medals to NROTC Midshipmen at CMU and I've presented Legion school awards to graduating eighth graders at St.Bedes. I've done the patriotic things that don't involve waving the flag. I vote. I've protested. I've served on juries. Among other things.
Loving your country is like loving your children. When your kid cuts up and does wrong, do you just look the other way and let them persist in wrongdoing? No. You correct the child, you show them the right way to live and to treat others. Correction and discipline as well as praise and congratulations produces a well rounded child. Same with the country. A good country needs correction and discipline as well as congratulations and praise. I love this country, but I will call it out when it does evil.
Happy Veteran's Day to all those who served this country and to those who love and care for them.