hello to 18 million veterans

Tomorrow is a day for parades that honor the 18 million former servicemen and women who–these days–volunteer to give of their time and perhaps their lives on behalf of the country. Like many people in my generation, I remember when the day was called Armistice Day because that was the name we first heard as kids like Boulder Dam instead of Hoover Dam and tin foil instead of aluminum foil. The name was officially changed to Veterans Day in 1954.

In 2016, President Obama signed the Veterans Day Moment of Silence Act urging Americans to observe a two-minute period of silence at 3:11 p.m. local time. On Memorial Day, the moment of silence occurs at 3:00 p.m. local time. In both cases, the silence honors those who died and those who served.

Many of us are veterans, have family members who are veterans and know others who are veterans. While the day doesn’t lend itself to family gatherings like Thanksgiving, acknowledging veterans in some way seems to be preferable to using the day to attend sales of one kind or another.

In 2019, the Cohen Veterans Network commissioned a poll and learned that 49% of veterans don’t like to be thanked for their service. In general, veterans feel uncomfortable being thanked. Better, perhaps, to ask where the person served and/or what their service branch and job were. One can always donate or provide volunteer support to organizations that support veterans. If you search online, you’ll find many charities focused on veterans, including those trying to help former servicemen and women cope with PTSD.

I think we owe it to ourselves to find out why so many veterans are homeless–possibly 40,000 at this point–and work toward ways of solving this national embarrassment. That number appears to have decreased during the last several years.

Pick what works for you. Being involved serves the greater good, I think.



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.


Veterans, I think, suffer more than the dead


“Thank you for your service.” Veterans appreciate hearing that.

Some people mix up Veterans Day and Memorial Day. I know this because official ceremonies for November 11 often occur in or near cemeteries. Photographs often feature gravestones. While well-intentioned through their inadvertent odes to the dead, these mixed-up commemorations are a faux pas because–to the cynical viewers like me–they show that people are too busy shopping and otherwise enjoying a holiday to get the reason behind the holiday right.

Today is for those who came back, not those who didn’t.

In my fiction about war, I have said that the dead are often the lucky ones, for those who come home to be thanked for their service once a year often have physical and mental wounds that will never heal. They often live under bridges, suffer through years of PTSD, lose sleep for the nightmares of war that cannot be erased from their memories, create dysfunctional families when they cannot re-acclimate into civilian life, and–if they fought in a war after WWII and Korea–they will hear that nobody wanted what they fought for and that it would have been better for them if they’ never come home.

Personally, I would rather my family see my name on the Vietnam War Memorial than on any list of heroes or in any photographs of soldiers receiving awards. Why? The survivors pay too much for having served. Death is so much better, so much more peaceful, and so much more blessed than being condemned by fate to become a living casualty whose dreams remind him/her of the worst human being can do to each other.

I salute the veterans who have triumphed over their memories of war, memories that will never be fixed by the words, “Thank you for your service.” They are braver and stronger than I am.

On this day, we support our troops, the ones who came home who will forever hear the sounds of artillery and rifle file in their nightmares and who will forever see the dead in the field in their mind’s eye. The dead in the field are, in my view, luckier than those who came home with memories of what they saw and what they heard in the war.

In spite of my anti-war cynicism, I’m glad the country steps aside from the more mundane moments of life long enough to celebrate a Memorial Day and a Veterans Day. These days remind us of the sacrifices of the living and the dead.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the anti-war novel “At Sea”






Mixed feelings about Veterans Day sales

Can we best honor our veterans by getting a price cut on a bottle of Viagra or a quart of fresh whitewash?

I have mixed feelings about this.

According to Newsweek, “Black Friday may be the most well-known day to find great sales, but Veterans Day also brings major discounts and promotions.”   The magazine’s feature article lists major stores and sales in case you can’t find them yourself.

While Memorial Day sales and hi-jinks are more out of line with the sacred quiet of the day that those who died deserve, I have often thought that veterans and their memories of moments nobody else dares imagine are the true casualties of war. As such, they deserve more respect than a trip to the store to get a sweet deal.

I’m a veteran and a conscientious objector, so I’ve seen the clouds of the war issue from both sides. Since my pacifism is based on my religious beliefs, it would be presumptuous of me to advocate pacifism for men and women with different religious beliefs.

I believe as mystic Ralph M. Lewis believes: “Peace manifests externally but begins internally–that is, in the thinking, idealism, and mental discipline of each individual. Peace must begin with the individual and work outward.”

Yet, I support our troops because they sacrifice their sanity and their lives to do what they believe is right on behalf of our country. I don’t support the politicians who lead the country into meaningless wars. But those who fight in those wars, have my admiration and gratitude.

I don’t propose that we spend Veterans Day in a church or with many hours of mediation in front of a candle in the sacred center of our homes. If that helps you, then it is good. It doesn’t help me. But looking for sales doesn’t help me either. In fact, I think it’s an insult to veterans. Nonetheless, I can’t fault anyone who loves a sale any more than I can fault a veteran for fighting a war that I think is a stain on the world’s psyche. Perhaps there are more gods out there than we can shake a stick at, so truth be told, there are numerous ways of seeing the issues that bring me mixed feelings on this day.

What I want to do on Veterans Day is this: the same thing I would do on any other day. That is to say, I appreciate the freedom and safety veterans have helped us achieve and maintain. So, I will fix dinner, read a book, work on my novels, watch some television, play with my cats, and remain in awe of a wife who loves me in spite of my faults. I don’t have any mixed feelings about that kind of holiday “celebration.”