Today is Veterans' Day in the US.
Veterans' Day is a weird sort of day for me to recognize, because I don't feel like I'm honoring our servicemembers to treat them as a monolith with an easy catchphrase like, "I support the troops."
I remember seeing a segment on CNN, on Veterans' Day several years ago, about a young man getting the Medal of Honor, who said quite candidly that he was angry to be getting it, because it comes at such a cost. Some generic, feelgood, unqualified, blanket statement about supporting the troops doesn't get at that complicated reality; its vagueness feels like cowardice.
On the other hand, I don't feel like I'm particularly honoring them by pointing out that among the troops are war criminals and thieves and miscreants who harm their fellow soldiers, whose behavior I categorically do not want to support, or by using this day to talk about my objections to the multiple wars and not-wars we're currently fighting, even as I acknowledge the soldiers who honorably staff those wars don't have a choice where they're sent.
It's easy to politicize this day, especially during a presidential election, to talk about which candidates are putting forth meaningful proposals to begin to address some of the ways in which we've let down our veterans, and which candidates are engaging in more of the bellicose grandstanding that suggests we will never not be at war, ever again. But I don't want to do that, either. Not today.
Which always leaves me not really knowing what to say.
So I'll just say this: Thank you to all the women and men who have served this country with decency in a military capacity, who have been willing to risk their lives to defend its borders, resources, and people.
And this: When I write about social justice issues every day, I'm advocating for veterans.
I'm advocating for veterans whose bodies and/or minds were changed by war when I write about disability and healthcare access. I'm advocating for veterans who were sexually assaulted when I write about the rape culture. I'm advocating for veterans who are not allowed to serve openly when I write about LGBTQIA rights. I'm advocating for veterans who are denied opportunity and equal pay when I write about gender equality. I'm advocating for veterans when I write about visibility of people of color. I'm advocating for veterans who are not getting adequate healthcare, who are homeless, who are unemployed, when I write about funding a comprehensive social safety net. Whenever I'm writing about people in need in the US, I'm necessarily writing about veterans.
If we center that idea, if those of us who are not veterans or active military ourselves vigilantly remember that veterans are part of our community, not a community separate from our own, and that when we advocate broadly for social justice we advocate for veterans, every day really is Veterans' Day.
Please feel welcome and encouraged to drop suggestions in comments for how to teaspoon on behalf of veterans today and every day.
I will suggest making a donation, if you can, to the Pets for Vets program, which trains and matches shelter animals with veterans, for companionship and/or service.