I want to lump the two together and focus on the “honor” part. What does that mean exactly? What does honoring vets, living or dead, look like? Fly the flag, say the pledge —that’s what I do. Post on Facebook old photos of family members who served? Lots of that. Share stories of military bravery on social media, waved under the noses of other people, almost as a rebuke. I double-dog dare you to share this!
And all this honoring helps ... who exactly? It certainly feels good for the person doing it. Nothing wrong with that. I like flying the flag. Going through the motions of respect has gravitas and the illusion of significance.
It’s also easy for the holiday’s purpose to be overlooked entirely.
This at a time when the military is more important than ever. You can argue whether the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq made us safer. But I believe to the bottom of my heart that the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Gen. Mark Milley, and other career soldiers saved American democracy last fall. They never fired a shot, but they stood shoulder to shoulder and kept us from becoming a dictatorship. We don’t know the full scope yet. But we will.
In the meantime, entertain the idea that all that moist-eyed flag waving might wound the very people it is supposed to uplift.
“It upsets me when so-called Americans go and fly these flags on these various holidays, Memorial Day and Veterans Day,” said William Hooks, who served for 20 years in the Marine Corps. “They play the game, when the time to be compassionate toward veterans is when one needs bus fare. Who needs a second chance or a job."