Archived Opinion

Speaking too loudly sometimes belittles the message

op frMy father is retired Navy, and I lived on military bases until I was 10. My stepfather is retired Army Special Forces with several tours of Vietnam under his belt. My wife’s dad served in the Army and did duty in Vietnam and elsewhere. My brother served and has spent his career working as a civilian on a military base. I have a nephew in the Navy and my own son, 14 years old, right now says he wants to go into one of the military academies.

The U.S. military has been a part of my life since I can remember. Every Veteran’s Day and every Memorial Day that passes drags up some strong emotions, especially since my father passed away a few years ago.

That said, the almost party-like public fawning toward those who have served that we are subjected to these days seems somehow hypocritical. It happens all year, but sometimes it seems that everyone is trying to “out-patriot” everyone else come Veterans’ Day.

Whether it’s politicians, television news anchors or local businesses trying to scare up business, too many today want to wear their support for the armed forces on their sleeves and proclaim it a little too loudly.

It hasn’t always been like this. Ask almost any vet older than 35, and they’ll have stories of being ignored for jobs, treated disrespectfully by neighbors or strangers, getting little or no help with stress disorders related to combat, or having been subjected to some other kind of prejudicial behavioral because of their military past — especially in the immediate aftermath of Vietnam. It’s only been in the last two decades that the public that is in no way connected to the military has taken up the incessant drumbeat to deem every soldier a national hero.

Perhaps today’s over-the-top celebrations are a reaction to the despicable way we treated veterans just a few years ago. Maybe the nation’s collective guilt has led to beating the patriotism drum really loud and really often. Perhaps.

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What sticks in my craw is that many seem to think that wearing a flag pin on your lapel should win you some kind of brownie points for patriotism. It doesn’t work like that. Too many of today’s so-called patriots are like those who call our newspaper during the holidays to get publicity about their act of charity. Is that really what charity is about? Or like some who preach that they know which political candidate is more Christian and will tell you who to vote for. Please.

I’m OK with treating today’s volunteer soldiers as heroes. They have each pledged their own life if the call should come. There’s nothing more honorable.

But I’m also very sensitive to the mostly somber and stoic soldiers I’ve spent time around, especially when it comes to public accolades. It’s a terrible task they do, taking human life, and they do it to protect some very valuable freedoms. Perhaps we should all remember to treat that commitment with the dignity it deserves.

(Scott McLeod can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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