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Thank You for What Service?

Summary:
Veterans Day should be renamed. It happened once before. Veterans Day was originally termed Armistice Day. It commemorated the signing of the armistice on November 11 that ended fighting on the Western Front in World War I. But because the “war to end all wars” didn’t, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day after World War II. President Eisenhower signed the legislation making the change on June 1, 1954. Since the first U.S. invasion of Iraq in 1991, and especially since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11, Veterans Day has taken on a new meaning: Military Appreciation Day. Although there are other national holidays (Memorial Day and the Fourth of July) that have degenerated into Military Appreciation Days,

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Veterans Day should be renamed.

It happened once before. Veterans Day was originally termed Armistice Day. It commemorated the signing of the armistice on November 11 that ended fighting on the Western Front in World War I. But because the “war to end all wars” didn’t, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day after World War II. President Eisenhower signed the legislation making the change on June 1, 1954.

Since the first U.S. invasion of Iraq in 1991, and especially since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11, Veterans Day has taken on a new meaning: Military Appreciation Day. Although there are other national holidays (Memorial Day and the Fourth of July) that have degenerated into Military Appreciation Days, Veterans Day is the ultimate day to celebrate all things military.

On Veterans Day, veterans and active duty military personnel can take advantage of special discounts at many places of business and free meals at restaurants. Many cities have parades in honor of the military. Both public and private schools have programs featuring local veterans and military personnel.

Churches have “patriotic” services on the Sunday before Veterans Day where veterans and active duty military are encouraged to wear their uniforms to church, military anthems are played, the names of veterans are listed in the church bulletin, veterans are recognized and applauded during the Sunday morning church service, the church sign has the Scripture on it replaced with something about the military, and more prayers than usual are offered for “the troops.” Some churches show a video tribute to the troops, have a military color guard march down the main aisle to open the service, or have a military chaplain as the guest preacher.

But above all, everyone in the country is bombarded with exhortations to find a veteran and say: “Thank you for your service.”

Service in the military is called being in the service. But what “service” are we supposed to thank a veteran for? How did a veteran serve me or any other American by being in the military?

I can see the point of thanking a waiter or waitress for their service because they actually served me, but the same is not true of a veteran of the U.S. military. Those in the military do many things, but serving me or any other American is not one of them.

How were Americans served when veterans fought unjust and unnecessary wars?

How were Americans served when veterans went to countries they had no business going?

How were Americans served when veterans obeyed immoral orders?

How were Americans served when veterans fought wars that were not constitutionally declared?

How were Americans served when veterans maimed and killed foreigners who had never threatened any American?

How were Americans served when veterans fought senseless and immoral wars?

How were Americans served when veterans bombed foreign countries?

How were Americans served when veterans unleashed sectarian violence?

How were Americans served when veterans destroyed foreign industry, infrastructure, and culture?

How were Americans served when veterans bombed, invaded, and occupied countries that posed no threat to the United States?

How were Americans served when veterans carried out a flawed, reckless, and belligerent U.S. foreign policy?

How were Americans served when veterans killed civilians in error (or on purpose) and dismissed it as collateral damage?

How were Americans served when veterans made widows and orphans?

How were Americans served when veterans carried out inaccurate drone strikes?

How were Americans served when veterans fought wars of offense not defense?

How were Americans served when veterans took sides in civil wars?

How were Americans served when veterans acted as the world’s policemen?

How were Americans served when veterans acted as a global force for evil?

How were Americans served when veterans acted as the president’s personal attack force?

How were Americans served when veterans traveled the world, met interesting people, and then killed them?

The answer is: I wasn’t, and neither was any other American.

However, there are people and organizations that veterans have served.

Presidents have reason to say to veterans, “Thank you for your service.”

Secretaries of Defense have reason to say to veterans, “Thank you for your service.”

Army generals have reason to say to veterans, “Thank you for your service.”

The Joint Chiefs of Staff have reason to say to veterans, “Thank you for your service.”

Navy captains have reason to say to veterans, “Thank you for your service.”

Air Force commanders have reason to say to veterans, “Thank you for your service.”

The military-industrial complex has reason to say to veterans, “Thank you for your service.”

Defense contractors have reason to say to veterans, “Thank you for your service.”

Most Americans don’t belong to any of the above groups. Why, then, should they thank veterans for their service?

Laurence M. Vance
Laurence M. Vance is an author, a publisher, a lecturer, a freelance writer, the editor of the Classic Reprints series, and the director of the Francis Wayland Institute. He holds degrees in history, theology, accounting, and economics. The author of twenty-four books, he has contributed over 700 articles and book reviews to both secular and religious periodicals.

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