A civilian salute

Holly Mayer
Holly Mayer

As Americans, we are fortunate not to have mandatory military duty. Although I think that it would do a lot of us good, I recognize that some people are just not cut out for that type of service.

However, considering that the wars that our generation has experienced have not had the same level impact as the wars of two or three generations ago, the respect and gratitude for those serving seems to have faded.

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From having day to day conversations with people and watching and reading the news, I find that there is a lot of disrespect, disregard and lies being spread about our veterans. I have come to find out from fellow students that some people do not know what the word ‘veteran’ means.

Why, I wonder, is this the case? Is it because we do not have to ration our milk and sugar? Is it because we do not have taxi drivers delivering death notices? Or is it simply because we do not care?

It is a little bit of all three. America is a very safe place compared to a lot of countries. We do not have to live in as much fear of our own government or having nations constantly bombing our country as some. With everything out of sight and out of mind, including the war in Afghanistan, it is so easy to slip into our own little worlds.

Despite the politics, the War on Terror is a real war, and there have been hundreds of our soldiers killed. Our society has decided that it would rather pay attention to celebrities than the people who choose to defend and save our lives.

Slightly over 40 years ago, this country was having its men drafted for the Vietnam War. It caused uproar in this country, and the aftershock is still being felt to this day. The soldiers were considered traitors, ostracized from society and their mental and physical health deteriorated as the civilian world metaphorically spat at them.

We still struggle to get our vets proper health care, housing and employment. For some reason we blame them, instead of focusing our distaste on the way humans have decided to resolve issues.

These soldiers are some of our country’s biggest assets, and it is time we start treating them as such.

Returning soldiers are treated like monsters, as if they are to be feared instead of honored. The media has made such a spectacle of PTSD that the audience is lead to assume that every soldier comes home messed up and ready to snap at any moment.

They are not aware that the military takes great measures to ensure that mental health of their soldiers, and while some do have PTSD we don’t put enough faith into the soldier who has been trained for duty.

When you look back at your graduating class, you probably did not even think to note that more graduates were going on to college than to the military. During my parents’ generation, it was the opposite. And perhaps it is my parents’ older generation’s influence that has me in such awe of our service members. Their selflessness carries over into every aspect of their life whether that is their job, their family or their community.

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Not only do I cry at every single soldier homecoming I see, but I also fell in love with a veteran myself. He is not the PTSD maniac that you see portrayed in the media. He is a diligent student, a compassionate individual and an amazing father. Did he have issues coming back to the civilian world? Of course. But wouldn’t anyone who had just come from a world that demonstrated just what humans are capable of?

It is time that America does its part to give back to our service members. There needs to be more health care available to them throughout their entire lives, not just a few years after their service. Employers need to be aware of the opportunities they are passing up every time they do not offer employment to a vet.

And as individuals, we need to recognize that vets are people too, and although they may have a tough exterior, they still need the same love and support that anyone requires.

It does not take much to show your support of vets. You can hate the war, but do not hate the individuals who put their country’s safety before their own. So the next time you see a vet or an active service member, a simple ‘thank you’ may do more for them than you could ever imagine.

Holly Mayer is a junior English major and ethnic studies minor. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com