Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Thank You Veterans - What Can We Do For You?

With all the rituals designed to thank our military veterans, we may wonder what our vets would actually want in appreciation. Or do we?

You’ve seen the patriotic scene before. A moment before a professional hockey, baseball or basketball game, a service man or woman - in full fatigues or uniform - arises and comes to the center court, center ice or the pitchers mound. There are a few words over the loud speaker from a boomeranging voice informing us of this person’s service to our country. There is perhaps the National Anthem. And he or she is the token military we are to thank in that very moment.

And so we do ... normally in a rousing applause as we stand.

We follow that by sitting down - having done our own patriotic duty - before enjoying a hot dog, a beer and the game in front of us.

With all the various ceremonies, rituals and parades designed to thank our war, military and service veterans, we may wonder what our vets would actually want in appreciation for that service. Or do we?

I don’t think we do.

I do think we believe it’s enough to stand up and applaud at the game. We may believe it’s enough that there is a visit from the Commander in Chief in his own photo op standing in front of a chosen platoon. We may believe the parades, full of flags and pomp and circumstance, do suffice. Or we may think the benefits the people returning from war receive is an adequate compensation for their hard work and dedicated service.

Either way, it’s interesting to consider that during these times of acknowledgment and appreciation, on Veterans Day and other days, we never seem to ask ... "So, how would you like to be thanked?”
This does not happen. No. Nowadays, we aren’t even convinced the health and living benefits are covering the needs of those returning. We know that there is indeed damage to those returning from their service, especially in war-torn landscapes. But we don’t see much of it. We don’t see the hidden and unhidden wounds, and we definitely do not see the coffins, the symbol of the greatest damage of all. Nowadays, we don’t call service men and women “humans” or even “soldiers,” but rather ”boots on the ground.”

Nowadays, the military is only viewed as visitors to the pitcher mounds and center courts, or in maudlin TV commercials surprising their mother or child upon their glorious return.

But what is the reality for these soldiers, officers, military men and women who serve a country that is supposed to serve them as well?

And how can we - as citizens who do appreciate their efforts and sacrifices - truly thank them? Perhaps instead of making up our own way by waving a flag or a momentary applause, we can approach them and simply ask, ”What can I do for you?”

James Anthony Ellis is a writer and producer living in Lemon Grove, CA. He hates war and those who send men and women into needless battles. But he loves the human spirit and wants those service people to receive the very best. He can be reached at

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