Veterans Day, for me, is typically comprised of doing my best to ignore the non-stop slew of celebratory Veterans Day posts on my various social media feeds. I find myself biting my tongue (or more literally, sitting on my hands) so that I won’t make somewhat negative responses to the kind of upbeat posts you’d expect on someone’s birthday.
Don’t get me wrong, I love that people are appreciative and of those who have served but I simply can’t get away from the nagging idea that Veterans Day should feel a lot less like the celebration of a birthday and a lot more like the somber reflection of a funeral.
Veterans Day reminds me of the more than 800,000 U.S. solders who have lost their lives in war – some of them in wars that may not have needed to be fought. When I see intensely political people posting their “thank yous” to soldiers, I can’t help but wonder if they supported the latest cut in food stamps which impacted the families of 170,000 veterans. I wonder if they are doing anything to help the nearly quarter of a million homeless veterans. I suspect, our hungry and our homeless veterans would feel much more appreciated if we fed them and gave them a dry place to sleep than they do when someone puts up a flag-speckled “thank you” post on Facebook.
So, I guess I am coming out today as a person who really doesn’t like Veterans Day. It’s not that I don’t appreciate our veterans as much as it is that I don’t like what Veterans Day has become. I say “coming out” because most of us who feel this way don’t feel like we have the liberty to say it out loud – or at least not if we’d rather not spend our day responding to attacking and negative responses suggesting we are anti-American, liberal fascists who wouldn’t know a “real” patriot if they came up and gave us a good ass-kicking. (If you need reference material for this, check out the comment section below once this post has been up for a few hours).I’m a minister, so it may not be surprising that one of my favorite Bible verses tends to ring in my head on days like today. It’s actually not a direct, one-to-one, correlation but the neural connection my head makes seems to always have me quoting it on Veterans Day, “I hate, I despise your festivals… but let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
If we want to truly thank our veterans, we need to give them justice when they return home, we need to remember the real cost of war and we need to grieve with their families.
In my mind, today should be more of a day of mourning than a day of celebration. I’m not advocating to turn it in to another Memorial Day as much as to be more aware of its realities. We need it to be a real reminder of the real costs of war. We must not forget. We must not forget the lives lost. We must not forget the limbs lost. We must not forget the mental stability lost. We must not forget the veterans on the streets and those who pull up chairs to empty plates. War is hell – and frequently the other side of war is a living hell.
We must not forget.