Once while on a walk with the little guy during Clay’s second deployment, I came across an elderly gentleman handing out fabric red poppies with a handful of lines from “In Flanders Fields” typed on card-stock attached with string. While traditionally an emblem of Remembrance Day in Great Britain, the red poppy has also been adopted as an unofficial symbol of Memorial Day here in the United States. But because Remembrance Day and Veterans Day fall on the same day, it’s not uncommon to see red poppies on November 11th here in the states. I forget exactly when I encountered the red poppied man, but I do know that it wasn’t on Memorial Day nor Veterans Day. It was just a day.
My husband is a quiet man about his military service. He’s not one to boast about his experiences or achievements overseas and there is nothing on his car or license plate indicating he is a soldier. Not that he isn’t proud to serve his country, but he prefers to do so by focusing on the task at hand and not fixating on accolades from the general public. It’s just one of the many things I admire about him.
Perhaps in effort to counteract the horrid treatment Vietnam-era Veterans received upon their return, the general public currently holds military members in fairly high esteem, at least at face-value. Mediocre chain restaurants advertise free meals on Veterans Day, many businesses provide military discounts year-round, and military homecoming videos become viral at record speed. But when it comes to actual support – such as advocating for mental-health services, hiring Veterans who have since left the military, and helping combat the staggering number of homeless Veterans – well, the vast majority of the American public would rather just say thank you. And I’m certainly guilty of it too. And let’s not even get started on politicians using military members as pawns to further advance their political aspirations…
Additionally, the hero-worship that surrounds the ‘Support Our Troops’ movement only adds to the problem. The men and women who volunteer to serve in the military are doing a job many people are not willing to do themselves. Many are brave, courageous, and seek to make the world a better place. But those who put on the uniform are still human. They’re flawed individuals, just like the rest of us. And there are also a handful of cowards within the ranks, as evident by various news reports over the years. The military is filled with some of the best people I’ve ever met – but they’re not all heroes. Rather than place military members on a too-high pedestal, we should recognize they’re human and simply doing a job not many do and aim to assist with the transition once the job is done.
I think that is why the picture I chose to include in this post is one of Clay not in uniform overseas while holding a weapon (don’t worry, I shared one of those on Facebook). My husband is a soldier. He has experienced war and it is inevitable he will deploy again to far away lands. He is a Veteran. But more importantly, he is a fantastic father, a loving and supportive husband, and just an all-around spectacular person.
So while saying thank you on Veterans Day isn’t a bad thing, it’s shouldn’t overshadow that there are some Veterans who truly need help. It’s probably easier to thank a well-groomed Veteran with a stable job and a nice house. But we shouldn’t forget about those found sleeping on street corners, those working multiple part-time jobs trying to make ends meet, and those battling debilitating mental scars from their time doing a job they were called to do – either voluntarily or not. I am willing to bet that the old man passing out fabric red poppies hasn’t forgotten about them. And he is probably out there right now, on this day after Veterans Day.