Thank a Vet?
Updated: Mar 17
*Used by permission
So why should a Vietnam veteran be proud? He was typically young, ignorant, deceived, and drafted. He may have fought obediently, valiantly, selflessly, and fearlessly, but since he had no business fighting in Vietnam in the first place, I have nothing to thank him for. And I certainly can’t thank him for preventing the Viet Cong from turning America into a socialist republic. Besides, LBJ beat Ho Chi Minh to that anyway. Many Vietnam veterans have written me and expressed shame, remorse, anger, and resentment — not pride — for having been duped into going thousands of miles away from American soil to intervene in another country’s civil war. In fact, I have found that it is those who are not Vietnam veterans who are the most vociferous defenders of the war in Vietnam.
The most undeserved and oftentimes disgusting outpouring of thankfulness I have ever seen is over those who have fought or are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The praise and adoration of those fighting in “the front lines in the war on terror” reaches its apex on Veterans Day, which has become a day to defend U.S. wars and recognize all things military. These soldiers certainly have done nothing worthy of thanks. Sure, they have rebuilt infrastructure — after bombing it to smithereens. They no doubt removed a brutal dictator — and unleashed American brutality in the process. And yes, they have rescued orphan children — after blowing their parents and brothers and sisters to kingdom come. What is there to thank our soldiers for? They are not defending our freedoms. They are not keeping us safe from our enemies. They are not protecting us from terrorists. They are not guaranteeing our First Amendment rights. They are not defending U.S. borders. They are not guarding U.S. shores. They are not patrolling U.S. coasts. They are not enforcing no-fly zones over U.S. skies. They are not fighting “over there” so we don’t have to fight “over here.” They are not avenging 9/11. They are not safeguarding the American way of life. Oh, and they are not ensuring that I have the liberty to write what I do about the military.
What, then, should we thank our soldiers for? Should we thank them for fighting an unconstitutional war, an unscriptural war, an immoral war, an offensive war, an unjust war, or a senseless war? Should we thank our veterans for helping to carry out an aggressive, reckless, belligerent, and interventionist foreign policy? Should we thank the military for sucking $1 trillion out of the federal budget? But, some will say, these soldiers are just doing their jobs. They can’t help it if the U.S. military sends them to fight in an unjust war in Iraq or Afghanistan. They are just following orders. They didn’t enlist in the military to kill people. What would any sane man think about a doctor who takes a job at a hospital knowing that the hospital instructs its doctors to euthanize old and sickly patients — and then says he was just doing his job, following orders, and didn’t take the job to kill people?
Why are soldiers treated so differently? Why do they get a pass on committing or supporting those who commit murder and mayhem? But, someone else says, the military has lowered its recruiting standards and is scraping the bottom of the barrel. Many soldiers are ignorant about the true nature of the military and U.S. foreign policy. Why should we fault them for their ignorance? Why should they be criticized for unjustly killing Iraqis or Afghans or Pakistanis? They are just following orders. Let’s go back to the doctor I mentioned. Suppose that after he takes a job in ignorance at what he thinks is a reputable hospital he is instructed to euthanize old and sickly patients? What should he do? I don’t know of anyone who would say anything else but that he should quit his job or at least refuse to euthanize anyone. Again, why are soldiers treated so differently? Why do they get a pass on committing or supporting those who commit murder and mayhem? But, comes another reply, soldiers have a term of enlistment. They can’t just quit their jobs. Doctors can walk away from their jobs at any time. Then I guess it all comes down to morality: Be a mercenary and kill for the state or refuse to do so and suffer the consequences of dishonorable discharge and/or imprisonment.
It is high time that Americans stop holding veterans and current members of the military in such high esteem. It is scientists, engineers, inventors, businessmen, industrialists, software developers, and entrepreneurs that made America great — not veterans of foreign wars. It is doctors, iron workers, taxi drivers, bricklayers, writers, electricians, and cooks that positively contribute to society — not soldiers.