Thursday, November 17, 2011

How should we give thanks?

My grandfather flew Chinooks during Vietnam, and as a civilian he now works with the military to teach younger Army pilots the ins and outs of the new F model.  He was lucky – the Army taught him a skill that allows him to continue to work after retirement.  But unemployment is extremely high for most ex-military and vets, and according to the Washington Post’s “Troops feel more pity than respect,” civilians have an awkward tendency to pre-judge and pity those who have served our country. 

This from the article:
“America has unwittingly accepted the idea that its warriors are victims,” Lt. Col. John Morris, a chaplain for the Minnesota Army National Guard, told the Rotary Club of St. Paul in August.
Morris visited the Rotary Club to encourage business leaders to offer internships to veterans who face an unemployment rate that is almost twice the state average. “Why are we unemployed, after we have done one of the greatest things in our lives, and that is serve our nation in combat?” he asked. “I think it is because America has bought into the notion that we might be damaged goods.”
And this:
Troops who eat out in uniform are routinely treated to free food by fellow diners. Lt. Col. Mark Weber joked that he recently “scored a twofer” while dining out in uniform. Two sets of anonymous donors picked up his $20 lunch tab. Weber used the extra cash to leave a giant tip. 
“It’s kind of bizarre,” said Weber, who has a master’s degree from Georgetown University. “People want to help, but they don’t know how. They feel powerless.”
To some soldiers, who are better-paid and -educated than many Americans, the charity can strike the wrong chord. The giveaways can seem like acts of atonement, designed to make up for many Americans’ indifference to the wars and their reluctance to serve.
“Don’t thank me for my service, don’t give me 5 percent off my Starbucks, don’t worry about yellow ribbons,” Lt. Col. Michael Jason, a battalion commander at Fort Stewart, Ga., wrote on his Facebook page on Memorial Day. “Do me this one favor: tell your children that there is another calling out there. . . . Talk to your kids about serving their country and their fellow citizens.”
I thought this was a great article outlining a social attitude that permeates the entire country.  Articles like this are interesting and I would expect difficult to write, because it deals with an abstract concept.  It was a great editorial choice to include voices from different states, and the anecdote about the “twofer one” was strong.  

But the article doesn’t really answer the basic questions it raises: for those of us who don’t want to serve, how do we give thanks to the military without the pity, without the condescension?   And not all troops hold degrees, never-the-less Master’s degrees from prestigious universities, or have the capacity to go to college.  So how do we go about equipping those soldiers with the skill-sets necessary to land a civilian job?  Do giving soldiers jobs and giving thanks go hand-in-hand? 

1 comment:

  1. Really interesting post. I responded to that article much as you did.