“What have you done for us lately?”
I don’t think the average American military veteran has the time or the temperament to spend 51 weeks a year asking such a question, but a reasonable person could hardly blame him if he did.
Veterans Day can be like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day – an occasion to heap praise upon individuals whom we spend the rest of the year ignoring, tolerating or circumventing. A week’s worth of bumper stickers, newspaper interviews, special discounts and grade school essays soon give way to the daily grind.
I don’t think our veterans are expecting a “We’re not worthy!” routine from civilians (as in Wayne and Garth kowtowing to Alice Cooper in the “Wayne’s World” movie), but there are lots of little ways to show appreciation during the year.
Are you glad for the religious freedom we enjoy in this country? Don’t take it for granted. Go out and be the most gung ho (insert your religious affiliation or non-affiliation here) you can be!
Are you grateful for freedom of speech and freedom of the press? Exercise those rights. Stay informed, and not just by surrounding yourself with “yes men” radio/TV commentators, bloggers and columnists. Military service has opened up new horizons for millions of insulated kids over the years, and there’s no reason for civilians to box themselves in with dogma.
Glad you can vote? Be sure you register and actually show up on election day. (No excuses, such as TV’s Edith Bunker trying to defend husband Archie’s non-voting with the lame “I think he had to mail a letter once.”) Educate yourself and vote for solid, non-frivolous reasons.
Glad the nation as a whole isn’t speaking German or Japanese? Try speaking and writing English correctly.
Take five minutes to learn flag etiquette before displaying Old Glory.
Let the veterans in your family, workplace or neighborhood know that they are always welcome to relate their wartime experiences – or NOT, depending on their situation.
Don’t practice knee-jerk reactions of any political stripe. Don’t callously advocate sending service people into harm’s way just because some foreign bureaucrat ticked you off. But neither should you cost us valuable time by unrealistically insisting that “Diplomacy ALWAYS works.”
Hold your government’s feet to the fire when military personnel’s lives are on the line. Make sure our military has a clear mission, proper equipment and a reasonable exit strategy.
Help the veterans in your life with a year-round project of scrapbooking, journaling or connecting with old comrades.
Visit a Veterans Administration hospital and see what you can do to uplift the spirits of those who have sacrificed so much for their country.
If you see your children or grandchildren (or yourself) getting too wrapped up in desensitizing, violence-glorifying video games, ask a combat veteran to intervene and bring them down to earth.
Be wild and crazy and use Arbor Day or the Ides of March as an excuse to donate a veterans-oriented book to the public library.
In the coming year, I hope we will be able to break the cycle of “feast or famine” for attention to veterans. I hope that the nation’s veterans can say of civilians, “All gave some.”
Danny, son of WW II veteran Lewis Tyree, welcomes reader e-mail responses at email@example.com and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades”.