We civilians send them to kill and to die for us; their actions are our actions and the consequences of those actions are our consequences. We like to duck and deny those consequences because, you know, they're expensive. At the same time, we feel the need to increase those consequences; we feel the right to order our servicemembers to go anywhere and kill anybody that we decide is a threat to us or to "our interests". Our interests include anyone we decide is our friend, no matter how awfully they treat their neighbors or their subjects, and our economic system. We are, in a word, arrogant.
We civilians are the ultimate Pointy-Haired Boss.
So on this November 11, let us wax sentimental about those we send in our name to do our killing for us. Give them nice uniforms and nice speeches and the most expensive equipment money can buy (whether or not there is a military need for it.) Let us spend hundreds of billions of dollars on airtankers to protect us against ragged men with AK-47s who aren't entirely clear on whether the Earth is round. Let us spend trillions of dollars on flotillas that burn huge amounts of oil, to protect our access to oil (which is sold into a world market.) Let us spend more money than all the rest of the earth put together protecting "our interests", as defined by the corporations that make the flotillas, airtankers, and possibly even the AK-47s.
But when it comes to "serving those who served", let us be economical. While our VA gives pretty good care for service-connected injuries, when it comes to matters than cannot be proven connected to service, we treat our veterans like every other American: badly. Our one-time foes Germany and Japan treats their every citizen better than we treat our veterans when it comes to ordinary medical care.
“On this Veterans Day we should not only honor the nearly 500 soldiers who have died this year in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also the more than 2,200 veterans who were killed by our broken health insurance system. That’s six preventable deaths a day." - Public Health, Nov 10, 2009Likewise, when it comes to higher education opportunities for our veterans, even with the new GI Bill, are inferior to that offered every civilian in Western Europe. And housing? Transportation? Legal aid?
If we don't think we can afford to treat our veterans well, maybe we should consider being just a little less arrogant in the world. Then we'd have fewer injured veterans to heal, and need fewer troops to protect our "interests".
So let us honor our veterans on Veterans Day with ceremonies and speeches. Then let us decide whether we are just all talk.
See also: Warriors for Peace portrait series