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Veterans Day Is About Veterans; The Rest Isn't

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November 11, 2016
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Yesterday I asked my father how he thought Veterans Day had changed over the years. He told me that he didn't really remember ever celebrating the holiday before 9/11.Before Afghanistan. Before Iraq. Before ISIS.My dad retired this year after 28 years in the Army, many of those years spent far away from his family. He told me that maybe he didn't celebrate Veterans Day because he was in the military, rather than outside of it.He definitely didn't remember any store or restaurant offering a military discount before 9/11.I can't say for sure whether the celebration of Veterans Day has changed in the last 20, 30, or 40 years. What I can say is that the modern iteration seems to be less a unique holiday than an extension of the year-round lionization and celebration of military service which seems, at times, a bit over the top.[caption id="attachment_8799" align="aligncenter" width="960"]

veterans day

Does every holiday need to be about veterans? Source: Pinterest[/caption]Maybe I'm cynical. Maybe it's because my Facebook friends list is filled with military veterans and I see their posts every day. Maybe it's because the military seems to be the last protected group, the one group you can't offend any more."As a veteran, I believe..." is the ultimate beginning and end to any argument. It gives veterans power over civilians whose opinions might be just as valid."My friends died for that flag," people said when Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem. And the debate became about veterans, not about the merits of what Colin Kaepernick believed or didn't believe. days I get a year-round assault of pro-military memes on Facebook. Stores and restaurants offer discounts to active duty military. When that's not enough to appease the community and its supporters , they offer Reserve, Guard, veteran and spouse discounts, too.This is the first year in a Presidential election when both major-party candidates spoke directly to veterans in a town hall-style Commander in Chief forum. Was that necessary? Are we really that much more important than the average citizen that we need a presidential debate specifically to speak to us, the 7.3% who have served?[caption id="attachment_8804" align="aligncenter" width="700"]

veterans day

It's had to do anything patriotic without some veteran getting upset these days. Source: Maximilian Uriarte, Terminal Lance. All Rights Reserved.[/caption]Maybe it's good that the public perception of veterans has changed. My father tells me that, 12 years ago, people saw veterans as victims, objects of pity, too stupid to understand what they had done in Iraq. Sure, there were veteran's parades and "support the troops" rallies. Nobody got spit on, like some of the vets who returned from Vietnam.But at the very least, many people thought veterans were naive."You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq," said John Kerry in 2006, to widespread outrage. Is that how most people felt back then?


I think the public perception of veterans has changed drastically. Veterans have empowered themselves, through founding companies, creating media, writing. They go to Ivy-League colleges. They form nonprofits.It's a change for the better. But with it comes over-lionization. Hero-worship. Over-valorization, as Sebastien Junger puts it.Veterans have a holiday all for themselves. It's one day out of a 365-day year, and as long as we never forget it, as long as we celebrate it and recognize it and never let it fall to the wayside, veterans will be honored.We should never let Veterans Day fall into obscurity the way my father experienced it in the 1990's. Christmas, President's Day, Thanksgiving, Flag Day, aren't about veterans Veterans Day is.When we make every other day of the year about veterans it dilutes the meaning of our holiday. Happy Veterans Day, and thank you to all those who have served.

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