Please don’t thank me for my service. Saying thanks is what you do when someone holds the door open or passes the salt. It is not engagement.
Saying you support the troops is not actual support. It’s a description about your actions. Saying I paint houses, doesn’t make it so. It’s a statement about the actions I do, namely painting houses. So if you want to support veterans, then actually do something. Join habitat for humanity and build a house because homelessness is an issue for veterans. Vote for social welfare programs that provide food, housing, schooling, training, mental health and legal support because many veterans and service members are on the supplemental nutrition assistance program. Veterans are dealing with mental health struggles. Twenty-two veterans a day commit suicide. Veterans require job training, work assistance, and improved access. Veterans are students, and programs that assist all college students assist veterans. Improved access to healthcare not tied to a job or ability to pay for everyone will also help veterans. Social welfare programs are veteran welfare programs.
Pulling out a gigantic flag at a sporting event while we applaud veterans is not helping veterans. Sports are a distraction and when we attach political engagement about veterans and issues about war fighting to sports we equally turn these issues into distractions. Much like “thank you for your service” and “I support our troops” are distractions. Just like strong, lasting relationships are not accomplished by a box of chocolates and flowers once a year on February 14, but are built and forged through the difficult and fruitful work and love enacted each and every day, so too it is with veterans. Superficial displays of patriotism and support will not accomplish the job. Hallmark cards and edible arrangements will not do the work. We don’t need another parade. Stop having me stand before kickoff.
Get informed. Vote. Learn about world affairs and the wars we are fighting. Don’t just thank me for the wars I have fought in. Get involved when wars begin and prevent them from happening. If you don’t, you’re only response to me should not be “thank you,” but “I’m sorry.” And you can’t just say it to me in a greeting card.
Some places you can go to learn more, get involved, and contribute to change
National Coalition for Homeless Veterans – learn about legislation directed at reducing veteran homelessness: http://nchv.org/index.php/getinvolved/
Service Women’s Action Network – learn about issues surrounding military sexual assault and service equality: http://servicewomen.org
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America – learn about ways for veteran empowerment, not just support: http://iava.org
Veterans for Peace – learn about peace movements and ways to prevent the creation of future veterans: http://www.veteransforpeace.org