While everyone is arguing about standing versus kneeling and playing public relations expert for Nike, homeless veterans neglected by their country sleep on the streets right under our noses.
See ... it’s easy to type a few lines in your Facebook feed, or retweet a clever meme about Colin Kaepernick and feel like you’ve done something positive for America. But when’s the last time you called your legislator when veterans benefits or VA funding are up for votes? When was the last time you fed the homeless in your community or donated your time or money to veterans organizations? When was the last time you did anything for a vet past the obligatory “thank you for your service” comment when you see one of us with a T-shirt or cap on?
A combat veteran myself, I’m not at all begging for recognition — in fact, I loath the spotlight and service thank you’s make me uncomfortable, though they are appreciated. What I am doing, however, is calling out the laziness and hypocrisy of those who I call social media warriors.
Millions of Americans are hardened in battle. Bloodied each day on the front lines of Facebook, Twitter and the far shores of Reddit, they lower their sense of humanity towards others and type things they’d never say to someone’s face.
It’s easy to pretend you care about your country behind a keyboard, but it’s harder to do something. If you really want to show respect for veterans, keep your government accountable and try and make sure they don’t get hastily sent off to unnecessary foreign conflicts. Help ensure service members are well paid, well fed and well housed during service. Help make sure veterans have the care they need here at home when their wars are over. This, my friends, is how you respect those who served.
Obviously I realize there are millions who actually would like to think they care deeply about America, but caring should be doing. We don’t just care about our children, we do for them. The same goes for our friends and extended family. Without the doing, the caring isn’t tangible and it certainly isn’t believable.
"The Star Spangled Banner" is a special song to me, and in my mind it in part represents my friends who I saw lost in battle. I stand — and teach my children to stand — by explaining to them why I think it’s important. What I will never do, however, is tell them they absolutely must do so. Hopefully they’ll never feel the need to protest in this way, but if they do, I’ll support their decision. The beauty of freedom is that it’s not just reserved for what’s easy, popular or beautiful. Freedom is also for what’s hard, what’s unpopular and for what’s sometimes ugly. Freedom is for me, the middle-class white combat veteran just like it’s for the rich black quarterback.
Feel free to not buy Nike’s. That’s how the free market works. Feel free to not watch the NFL, or whatever else you want to do. What you shouldn’t do, however, is pretend that’s good enough. In fact, that’s nothing. If you want to really show respect for veterans, there are millions upon millions suffering with the scars of battle every single day in every single community in this country. Veterans of all colors, creeds, income levels and backgrounds need us to do more than argue about shoe companies or spokespersons. We can do more. We should do more, and arguing has never been the answer.
Blake Silvers is Roman Record editor for the Rome News-Tribune