I'm a veteran. I served in the USMCR, active duty 1968-71. Yes, *that* war. I spent it as a REMF (rear echelon mother f*cker) at Headquarters, which wasn't as far from conflict as you might think.
I'm married to a veteran (U.S. Army, 82nd Airborne and 101st Airborne in 'Nam.)
If you care about the service rendered to this country by veterans, here's what I think you should do. Contact your Senators and Congresscritters and tell them "No tax cuts until all veterans have adequate medical care, including psychiatric care, until all veterans are off the streets [a quarter of the homeless are veterans, according to a recent survey], until all military personnel and their families are living at a reasonable level."
Tax cuts mean fewer social services--fewer veterans' services (as well as less health care for poor kids and families, less help for those who lose a job and have the bottom drop out financially.) Not only veterans of my war, but veterans of more recent wars, are suffering because they aren't getting the health care they need, the job counseling they need, anything...
The President will no doubt lay wreaths on soldiers' graves today and talk about their "sacrifice" and how they should be honored.
How they should be honored, Mr. President, is with the care you and your Administration and your party have so notably failed to provide as you gave tax cuts to the rich.
How they should be honored is with deeds as well as words--with decent health care, with psychiatric services, with top-quality prostheses if they've lost a limb, not the cheapest thing you can tack on. How they should be honored is with jobs so they can earn a living, laws that give their families some security in case that job goes away.
They should be honored in politics by having their voices as veterans respected by all, including veterans who do not agree with them. For you reading this, and for politicians...I am sick and disgusted by the way that people who served have been disrespected and dishonored because they were in another political party or held different views. Republicans sneered at Chesty Puller's son Lewis, seriously wounded in 'Nam, when he ran for office just at the end of the war. They sneered at Al Gore (who served in 'Nam) and praised Bush (who hid out in the Texas Air National Guard at the time it was nationally known for sheltering the sons of rich and politically connected Texans--the Texas governor would not let it be called to service.) They sneered at John Kerry, whose combat record was impeccable, because, after experiencing that war, he came to a different conclusion about it than they did. John McCain is one of the few prominent Republicans who actually served in 'Nam (not Cheney, not Rove, not Bush, not Gingrich, etc, etc., etc.) and you don't see Democrats dissing his military service. Where the f*ck (I was a Marine, remember) do these armchair generals, these let's-send-someone-else-to-fight -our-wars wonders get off dissing Puller and Gore and Kerry for theirs?
I grew up in a community that admired and respected veterans of all political stripes--which is why I found the attacks on veterans by people who hadn't ever risked their own bodies so disgusting. I still think it's disgusting. Veterans--all veterans--men and women, every race and creed--have earned the right to express their opinions and questioning their patriotism--*their* patriotism!--is so much lower than a snake's belly that you'd have to be squirming along the Moho discontinuity to get there. (Oh, and by the way--people who hung out in the draft-safe corners of the National Guard--which was by no means all the National Guard--should at least be as honest as Dan Quayle, the guy who admited that the reason he'd joined a particular unit was to get out of going to 'Nam. I honor the former National Guard units that actually served, and those who presently serve. For the years that the old rules and politics turned a few NG units into safe havens for rich and politically connected draft dodgers, and for those who chose that route while pretending to support the war...ptooie. I would spit on you but it's not worth the effort.)
I have damn well earned the right to think what I think and say what I say without anyone questioning my patriotism. Anyone who does it going to get it right back at them, in spades and with Vocabulary. I don't want speeches on Veterans' Day. I don't want little plastic flags stuck in the ground along the highway to "honor" me and other veterans (in fact, that's a violation of flag courtesy and if I ever find out who does it I will give them a talking to!) I certainly don't want the politicians who didn't have the gumption to put themselves in the military wrapping themselves in the honor of those who did, and making speeches.
I want veterans in need (I'm not one of those) to be taken care of. I want politicians who never served to shut up and show respect for *all* veterans.
I want us all to go read the Constitution again and understand what it is that we veterans took an oath to uphold and defend against all enemies foreign and domestic.
Semper fi to fellow Marines. I hope it was a good Birthday for you.