Gretchen Zovak | Support veterans year-round, not just on Veterans DayGretchen Zovak November 11, 2018 0 COMMENTS
Today marks the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, which was a holiday to mark the end of hostilities during World War I. Later on, veterans of World War II were included in Armistice Day recognitions. After the Korean War, Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day and became a holiday for Americans to acknowledge all of our veterans from all eras, whether they fought in a war or not.
The day we’ve come to know as Veterans Day was not always quite as popular as it is today. Today, it’s a holiday where most of us get a three-day weekend, have barbecues and get 25 percent discounts off sheets, towels and mattresses. Veterans themselves can usually find a free burger or get a free Grand Slam at Denny’s.
Unfortunately, as we pay homage to our veterans, most people forget that many veterans don’t get that three-day weekend because when they get out of the service, the best job they can find is working in retail somewhere. Believe it or not, military service doesn’t help you get a job. That’s a lie recruiters tell you when you’re 18. Spending your college years in the military just means you spent your college years not going to college.
In my own lived experience as a veteran, only since Sept. 11, 2001 has Veterans Day become a holiday of patriotism — at times, almost cult-like patriotism. It’s as if Veterans Day has ceased to be a day of honoring our veterans and instead become a day when vets are expected to show up so everyone else can show off their patriotism. I’ve been told that I simply must be part of this parade or that pancake breakfast.
Then, after one full day of enduring hundreds of obligatory “Thank you for your service” pronouncements, we get to go back to being used as human shields. Veterans are often used as weapons and martyrs. We are the trump cards people play to win all manner of political arguments, from kneeling on a football field to justifying trillion-dollar deficits to privatizing the VA.
For many veterans, being left alone on Veterans Day is all the thanks we need, but there are also plenty who like the attention. Many vets, though, would love it if people really knew what Veterans Day was about. Every veteran I know has been told “Happy Memorial Day!” at least once every year. Some explain the difference, some just roll their eyes. For the record, Memorial Day is meant to honor those we lost in battle. There is nothing happy about Memorial Day.
There is just something about Veterans Day that feels less than genuine. Holding parades once a year and telling veterans “Thank you for your service” so many times that it has come to feel like lip service just seems patronizing from my side of the situation. If you really want to thank a veteran, consider supporting veterans all year round. Give us a chance to thank you for your service!
Here are some ways to do that:
Support veteran-owned businesses. Veterans hire other vets at higher rates, giving them better job opportunities.
Volunteer for Veterans organizations. Meet real vets in need and help them find a home, a meal or a job.
Support veterans running for office. Instead of using vets to win debates, elect some and let them do the debating.
Hire veterans if you can. Give a vet an opportunity other than working at Starbucks or Walmart.
Happy Veterans Day, everybody.
The Santa Clarita Valley Proclaimer’s opinion section does not represent the official opinions of Radio Free Santa Clarita, its board and its supporters.
Gretchen Zovak is a veteran living in the Santa Clarita Valley.