Thank you for your service

May be an image of 2 people, people standing and text that says 'VETERANS DAY HONORING ALL WHO SERVED'

Facebook and other online venues were filled with Veterans Day graphics yesterday. Some people went further and told of their parents’ and grandparents’ service. I like seeing those graphics and stories because they give me hope that a fair number of people see the holiday as more than a day off work and appreciate the work service members do on their country’s behalf.

One poll from 2019 shows that 49% of the veterans surveyed don’t like being thanked for their service. Basically, they feel awkward about it and don’t really know how to respond. I don’t mind if people say that to me, but in a way it’s become a cliche like saying “I’m sorry for your loss” to the family that’s experienced a death.

The consensus seems to be that armed forces composed of volunteers end up with better (and/or more committed) people and less turnover; and then , too, those who serve get help with college and with or without college bring their skills training back into the workplace. Perhaps Veterans Day discussions remind us that while there are many health and related issues suffered by veterans that need to be better addressed, most veterans are not living on the street with PTSD and substance abuse problems.

This day also reminds us that more and more women are being permitted to serve in areas that used to be off limits to them. Personally, I think that everyone who volunteers should have the same rights and opportunities. Reading stories about female fighter pilots and admirals is a positive thing.

Veterans Day focuses our attention on the needs we have for a military as well as on the beliefs of those who feel called to serve.

Malcolm

Good, the U.S.S. Nimitz is finally home

“We the unwilling, led by the unqualified to kill the unfortunate, die for the ungrateful.” – Unknown Soldier

The U.S.S. Nimitz has returned to the United States after a record-setting 99,000-mile deployment of almost a year. Even though our Vietnam-era aircraft carrier deployments lasted nine months, I have a notion of how the sailors on board feel during the approach to Bremerton, Washington.

While carrier deployments are always dangerous, they usually don’t face the risks our ships faced during World War II. Nonetheless, I doubt most civilians have the faintest idea what it’s like to be gone 9-12 months aboard a Navy ship. Some sailors aren’t happy when people come up to them in airports and on the street and say, “Thank you for your service.” It comes down to “thank you for your service” sounds like a throw-away phrase similar to “how’s it going?”

The first time I came back from Vietnam, the ship arrived at the former Navy base in Alameda, California. Those near the pier were happy to see us, consisting mostly of family and friends. The second time I came back from Vietnam, I flew home for a change of duty assignment. As the military got off the plane, we had to walk a gauntlet of protestors jeering at us, spitting on us, and calling us baby killers.

Thank goodness the sailors and marines on board the Nimitz didn’t face that kind of “greeting.” On the other hand, in the 1960s, we came home to a world we knew–people who hated us–while today’s sailors are coming home to a world that’s changed since they left: COVID.

COVID is probably worse because it’s killed more people at home than are dying in most theaters of war. What a paradox.

I remain hopeful that President Biden will bring the troops home from Iraq, Afganistan, and the war of nerves and posturing in the South China Sea. I think the costs of all that in dollars and lives are unnecessary and that our efforts are better applied to problems at home. We need not police the World.

As a pacifist, I wonder why more people don’t feel the same way instead of acting angry, unaware, or ungrateful to those who go in harm’s way.

Malcolm

My Vietnam novel is unlike most because it focuses on the lives of sailors rather than battles. The ship on the cover is a flight-deck photo of the U. S. Ranger. the ship I served on board.