Some Questions About Veterans Day

I served in the Army as a tanker. I got out in 2004 and then rejoined in 2014 because I felt an obligation to help service members get better mental health and addiction treatment. I am proud of both my past and current military service, and I have a strident hope that I can raise awareness about problems and influence military/veterans’ policies. I can be a harsh critic of how the government has treated veterans, and I am also concerned about how the Army celebrates alcohol. I recently wrote a piece about the relationship between divorce and suicide in the military.

People send me articles, share photos, tell me stories, ask for advice, seek guidance on resources, and express gratitude for what I am doing.Today, I will answer a few questions from the proverbial mailbag.

I hear people say “Thank you for your service” to veterans a lot. I read an article that said “Please don’t thank me for the service.” I don’t want to offend anyone. What should I say or do?

“Thank you” or “Thank you for your service” and offering a handshake is a wonderful gesture. I always appreciate it. Most veterans do too. On the rare occasion that a veteran responds negatively, I suggest you say, “Sorry. I did not mean to offend.  While I can’t understand or fathom what you’ve done or been through, I just wanted to express appreciation.”

Are there resources you recommend for helping service members and veterans?

Yes. This is a link to my page on resources. It can help with medical care, treatment, education and housing. If there is something that you can’t find or need help with, email or call me and I’ll do everything I can to assist you.

Why is it ‘Veterans Day’ and not ‘Veterans’ Day’?

Awesome question. Just amazing. Grammar nerds are doing a little dance. The VA’s Office of Public Affairs has a great answer to this:

Veterans Day does not include an apostrophe but does include an “s” at the end of “veterans” because it is not a day that “belongs” to veterans, it is a day for honoring all veterans.

Their website also answers a host of other really good questions.

Are businesses being supportive of veterans?

Very much so. Uber and Lyft are offering free rides to veterans to job interviews. Dozens of national chains are providing free food, coffee, haircuts and other services on Veterans Day. A lot of businesses give discounts of 5 to 15% for service members and veterans throughout the year (I bought some trees and plants at Barton’s Nursery in Edison, NJ on Monday and they took 15% off). It takes about five seconds to ask someone if they provide a discount to veterans – if you are a veteran, I urge you to ask.

What do you think about the Department of Defense paying professional sports leagues to celebrate soldiers?

For those of you that are unaware about this sad topic, Vocativ can fill in the blanks:

The Department of Defense spent a total of $6.8 million in taxpayer money on sports marketing contracts since fiscal year 2012 that included items labeled “paid patriotism,” according to a recently-released joint oversight report by Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake. In total, American military services reported a whopping $53 million in spending on marketing and advertising contracts with sports teams from 2012 to 2015, with more than $10 million of that paid to NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS teams.

(Senators) McCain and Flake found that the majority of contracts they analyzed included “paid patriotism” items ranging from on-field color guard and national anthem performances to ceremonial first pitches and wounded warrior tributes.

The whole thing embarrasses, saddens and angers me. I like being at a stadium and watching a young girl hug her father after he surprises her by  returning home. It’s an awesome moment. Now I have to wonder if the NFL teams did that to be part of the community and celebrate the US Armed Forces or were they paid. It is tremendously disappointing and increases my cynicism (and I don’t like being cynical).  Senators McCain and Flake (both Arizona Republicans) recently introduced legislation that would ban the tax-payer funding of “paid patriotism.”

Any books or TV shows or movies that you think are accurate and would recommend?

I’m a huge fan of Band of Brothers and Generation Kill. I thought American Sniper handled the return home exceptionally well.

Phil Klay wrote a fantastic collection of short stories entitled Redeployment. It won the 2014 National Book Award for fiction. This is from my review of the book on Amazon:

Mr. Klay is from Westchester, NY and went to Dartmouth. He was a Marine Captain and served in Iraq during the surge. After he left the military, he got his MFA from Hunter College. This is a collection of 12 short stories that all deal with America’s last two wars and how they affected the soldiers and their families.

From “Redeployment,” the first story in the collection:

“Most everybody else stays orange, all the time. Here’s what orange is. You don’t see or here like you used to. Your brain chemistry changes. You take in every piece of the environment, everything. I could spot a dime in the street twenty yards away. I had antennae out that stretched down the block. It’s hard to even remember exactly what that felt like. I think you take in too much information to store so you just forget, free up brain space to take in everything about the next moment that might keep you alive. And then you forget that moment, too, and focus on the next. And the next. And the next. For seven months. So that’s orange. And then you go shopping in Wilmington, unarmed, and you think you can get back down to white?”

There are several other top notch short stories, but my favorite is probably “Money as a Weapons System.” Major Zima is a supporting character in it, and he steals the show with his realpolitik solutions. He is an absolute all-time classic character.


I’m far more comfortable carrying a book instead of a gun. Plus, books are more powerful. This picture was taken at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX in August of 2015.

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