This sentiment is probably something that all of us in the veteran and military community have expressed before. To be honest, we all probably feel this way every now and then. Yet, when I first read Stephen Kinzer's article "Joining the military doesn't make you a hero", I thought to myself "Who is this asshole."
The truth that we so readily remember but that civilians seem to forget every time that they bash America’s “military hero worship culture” is that those of us in the military and veteran community are the ones who stand up against stolen valor, that the vast majority of veterans are humble,
As Weird Al once said “I know I’m one hundred times more humble than thou aren’t”.
and that by and large it isn’t our community asking for handouts, free tickets to baseball games, or special parking spaces. In fact for the majority of the time during the most recent wars, our community has been fighting for basic recognition of our community’s needs. We have been fighting to help National Guardsmen keep their jobs when deployed. We’ve been fighting to help student veterans not be discriminated against at universities across the country.
One university in Virginia used to fail service members if they were deployed after the university’s drop date.
In fact, for the past decade our community has been fighting, not to be treated as heroes, but to be treated as human beings; to be treated as a community who has sacrificed so much in wars that our nation decided to fight.
It’s easy for Stephen Kinzer to state that our community is being treated as heroes, because the vast majority of his career has been directed towards outlining the perceived foreign policy mistakes taken by the United States. The lenses through which Stephen perceives the military allow him to state that “If we believe our soldiers are superheroes, it makes sense to send them to faraway battlefields to solve our perceived problems in the world.“
I must have missed the comic where Superman was diagnosed with PTSD or all of the X-Men were presumed to be unstable ticking time bombs.
And yet, even though Stephen admits in his article that “society has transferred the burden of war to a small, self-contained caste…” he doesn’t claim that returning to a draft during times of war would be beneficial to ending American involvement in wars. Rather he states, “Our communities are full of everyday heroes. These are the nurses, schoolteachers, addiction counselors, community organizers, social workers, coaches, probation officers, and other civilians who struggle to keep Americans from slipping toward despair, sickness, or violence.”
Anybody else notice that he didn’t mention police officers? I wonder why.
At the end of the day Stephen’s article is one more article that cloaks itself in concern for veterans while at the same time whitewashing a past of acceptance by America for those who serve. He presumes that the dictates and desires for publicity by corporations reflect American sentiment at large. He forgets that behind the cheers, behind the idea that the military is one of the most trusted professions in America, lies the desire by most Americans to not have their children serve in the military. What is most egregious is that Stephen, a journalist, forgot that logic matters because he ends the article by stating that if we really thought those who served are heroes we would be doing more to help veterans. Yet his whole article's contention is that America treats the men and women who serve as heroes. Therefore by using his own logic, if we were treating those who have served as heroes, we would already be doing everything that we are supposed to be doing for them, therefore he would not need to rail against the lack of services provided to the men and women who have served.
We know that we aren't all heroes. But those of us who served also know that we did something that 99% of Americans today were unwilling to do.