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It’s Time To Show Our Veterans Some Love

Memo Pad National News

It’s Time To Show Our Veterans Some Love


“I want a love I can see. That’s the only kind that means a thing to me. Don’t want a love you have to tell me about. That kind of loving I can sure do without.” — The Temptations, 1963

A few days ago in an airport restaurant, I saw a scene that has become commonplace in recent years. These soldiers were sitting there talking, waiting for their meal. And this guy on the way out detoured over to them. “Thank you for your service,” he said.

They nodded, thanked him for thanking them. He went on his way and they went back to talking.

“Thank you for your service.” I wonder sometimes how military personnel feel about hearing that everywhere they go.

I mean, I went with my wife once to pick up a nephew, an airman returning home from overseas, and we could hardly get out of the airport for all the people stopping him to thank him. I asked what he thinks of that. He shrugged and said something noncommittal.

“Thank you for your service.”

Maybe I’m wrong, but I’ve always suspected that if I were a serviceman, I might get a little tired of hearing that. Not that it isn’t earnest and not that it isn’t well meant. It is both. Indeed, a nation that treated homecoming veterans of the last long and controversial war with something less than gratitude seems determined to prove it has learned its lesson. That’s laudable.

But at the same time, in the context of how we actually treat our veterans, the greeting has also come to feel, well … facile. For me, at least, it calls to mind the Motown chestnut quoted above and the distinction between a love made manifest and one that is only words.

What would it look like if we gave our service personnel a love they could see? Well, here is what it would not look like:

It would not look like Veterans Affairs facilities across the country requiring sick and injured veterans to wait months to see the doctor, then falsifying records to make it appear they were actually being seen much more quickly. This, of course, is the scandal that has roiled the White House and put Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki on the defensive.

Leonard Pitts Jr.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a nationally syndicated commentator, journalist, and novelist. Pitts' column for the Miami Herald deals with the intersection between race, politics, and culture, and has won him multiple awards including a Pulitzer Prize in 2004.

The highly regarded novel, Freeman (2009), is his most recent book.

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  1. ORAXX May 26, 2014

    With the exception of WWII, ‘the good war’, America has a long, ugly, history of throwing it’s veterans under the bus. A little rah rah for the troops on Memorial and Veteran’s day is cheap. Genuinely taking care of the people who put it all on the line is expensive. You don’t have to look very hard to see the option far too many choose.

    1. Johno007 May 26, 2014

      There is no good war. People get hurt or killed. I agree with your point re rah rah. In cases with a backlog, private facilities ought to be used with a “veterans discount”. Get the job done and not so much political jaw boning.

  2. pisces63 May 26, 2014

    I watched a lot of WWII movies over the weekend. As a black woman whose father served in WWII navy, you are so correct. This is on going. They are remodeling the VA hospital in University Circle here, in Cleveland. We have seen our vets waiting for buses in wheelchair s and on prothetics heading to the Eastside facility from Brookpark on the Westside. Years ago as a high school senior, 1967, we took field trips there. It was NOT a good place to visit. Then, it had a lot of Nam vets and injured. In fact, either CNN or 20/20, one of the shows showed this years sgo. They interviewed the vets. One spoke of his long wait, then authorized, prearranged transportation never showed, also part of the appointment since the VA facility was a couple of hours away. He had to reschedule. I also wish movies would depict more black service. It is amazing how many nationalities are depicted in the. Longest Day and not one black face. They were there also. My father and others aren’t appreciated, period.

  3. Rachele Gibson May 26, 2014


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  4. ps0rjl May 26, 2014

    I get the “Thank you for your service;” a lot now. When I got out of the marines I cannot tell you how many times people looked at me like I had done something wrong. I don’t know if they were scared of me or just tired of the Vietnam War and I happened to just be a reminder. For over thirty years I like most Vietnam vets hid our service. It was about the time of the first Desert Storm that most veterans began wearing their hats and coats identifying their units and that they were Vietnam vets. I am proud of my service in the Marines and wear a service cap showing the Marine Corps emblem. However I refuse to identify myself as a Vietnam veteran. No matter how many times people thank me for my service I still can’t forget how I was treated when I came home. I just thank them and tell them it was a long time ago.

    1. wjca May 27, 2014

      And that, I think, is the source of the “Thank you for your service” campaign. All those Baby Boomers, especially among the commentariate, who were nasty to returning service men during Viet Nam. And so over-compensate now . . . especially when the wars are ones that they were enthused about.

    2. sleepvark May 28, 2014

      It just angers me to hear all this pusillanimous thank you for your service stuff. I agree that folks should just shut up and put up. Talk is so cheap. Taking real care of us requires real commitment.

    3. dpaano May 30, 2014

      Unlike you, I wear my uniform proudly each and every Veteran’s Day (although it’s getting a little tight in places). I enlisted in 1964, and I served both on active duty AND in the Army Reserves for a good 26 years. I’m proud of each and every year of that time, and I am proud to wear my uniform. I will continue to do so and plan to until I can no longer get it on!!!

      1. ps0rjl May 30, 2014

        I never said I wasn’t proud of my service. I am very proud of it. I just don’t like to advertise I am a Vietnam veteran because of the way I was treated when I got home. And that is coming from someone who first went to college, joined the anti-war movement, and then when I was drafted proudly showed up to serve. I didn’t believe in the war or what my country was doing over there, but when I was called I went. Of course I was under the illusion that when I get back people would listen to me. Boy was I dumb.

  5. wjca May 27, 2014

    Of course you know why VA facilities are so run down, not to mention inadequate in size to the current problem. They are like every other piece of infrastructure we have.

    First, maintenance doesn’t provide fancy new buildings which politicians can get their name on, so it gets cut first. And second, actually doing maintenance, or otherwise supplying services to veterans, would require money — and raising taxes to actually pay for the wars, let alone their aftermaths, is anathema to a majority of the Congress.

  6. plc97477 May 27, 2014

    A gratitude we could see would not include cutting spending for the veterans at every turn.

  7. Gele Eerie May 30, 2014

    Most Americans are starting to recognize that Hussein Obama is a menace to mankind.

    1. dpaano May 30, 2014

      MOST Americans??? Can you name a couple of million for me? I doubt it because you don’t know what you’re talking about! Please don’t put words in the mouths of people you don’t know! I HATE it when someone says “most Americans” when they have no idea!

  8. Zork May 30, 2014

    Liberals just want your stuff.

  9. dpaano May 30, 2014

    As a veteran myself, I never get tired of being thanked, but I hurt inside to see what our government (the GOP) have done to keep our veterans from getting the care and attention that they need after coming home from battle after battle. I will fight until my dying day to see that the veterans get what is owed to them by our Government even if it means I have to CRAWL to the voter booths to vote our anyone that doesn’t agree!


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