Veterans Day 2013 - A Starbucks Moment?

Veterans and spouses of veterans, Starbucks is recognizing your service with a free drink today.  A veteran and spouse can sit in their local Starbucks and commiserate about their and others’ service.  Yes, this is an opportunity for a Starbucks moment.  The only spoiler is that this offer is limited to one drink per customer.

Over the last few years, Veterans Day seems to be making a comeback.  For some period of time -- I am not sure exactly when -- Veterans Day was a forgotten holiday.  It was not recognized by employers.  The media gave it short shrift.  Few cared about the day anymore.

But the United States has been at war since “Operation Enduring Freedom” in October 2001.  Despite proclamations of victory and troop withdrawals, we still are at war and have a generation of veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Maybe, this has revived Veterans Day.

Today’s Sacramento Bee showed the age range of veterans to be honored this Veterans Day.  Having a current war always allows the media to feature smooth-faced young people who become adults under extremely difficult circumstances.  The soldiers, sailors, and Marines involved in Afghanistan and Iraq today often are freshly out of high school or college.  The Bee thus could feature the veterans in camouflage fatigues returning to celebratory families of school-aged children

The Bee also included an article on World War II veterans.  Their numbers are dwindling.  After all, a new conscript or recruit -- 17 or 18 years old -- in 1945 is 85 or 86 today.  The Nazis surrendered in March 1945, and the United States launched the “nuclear age” in August 1945.  Once smooth-faced, wide-eyed innocents, the survivors of World War II are winkled and clearly no longer innocent.  They have replaced the seemingly elderly veterans of World War I -- and even the Spanish-American War -- who marched in the Armistice Day Parade when I was a child.

Originally, Veterans Day was Armistice Day.  On November 11, 1918, at 11:00 a.m., the Allies and Germany signed the armistice to cease hostilities on the Western Front.  That marked the beginning of the end of the “War to End War.”  That, however, was a fanciful and short-lived dream.  War did not end.  A little more than 20 years later, the Nazis were in full flourish unleashing World War II upon Europe.  A couple of years later, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.  World War II ended up being fought in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Pacific.  In the end, that war brought on the nuclear age and the Cold War.

After World War II, some politicians wanted to make Armistice Day more inclusive.  In 1954, it became Veterans Day.  Since World War II and in addition to wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Kuwait and invasions of Grenada, Panama, Iraq, and Afghanistan, we have had “wars” on poverty, drugs, and terror.  Seemingly, since World War II, we have had never-ending war.  Even the Soviet Union’s self-destruction in 1991 did not bring an end to war.

Never-ending war means a never-ending need for soldiers, sailors, and Marines.  Young men and women fill that need.  They take on a job created inevitably by events and philosophies that were beyond their control.  At times, they were conscripted.  Some times, they were forced into service by judges, poverty, or unemployment.  Often, they volunteered out of patriotism, a sense of duty, or the desire to serve their fellow Americans.  We even have offered them incentives in the form of signing, re-enlistment, and post-service education bonuses.

No matter how they became soldiers, sailors, or Marines, they gave up some part of -- or all of -- their lives for what somebody thought was the greater good.  They did what we as an electorate ordered them to do.  Nearly all did so honorably.

Today is a day to remember the sacrifices made by young men and women who served us and the sacrifices also made by their parents, spouses, partners, and children.  But while you are remembering veterans’ sacrifices, you might give some thought to what we should do for them.  And a light bulb just might go on:  A Starbucks moment is minuscule in the big picture.


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