On this Veterans Day I find myself on the couch after a three-week work marathon catching my breath, and all over the news, Facebook, even next door, there are signs of thanks and appreciation for our fighting forces. Check that. People are just plain gushing over soldiers, to the point where one fellow I know once said, "Dammit, I wasn't a hero, I pushed paper and screwed around a lot, stop thanking me."
It's hard for me to join in on the celebration. It's not that I don't appreciate veterans. A lot of the men I grew up with, including my father, served somewhere in Vietnam, and they weren't average grunts. My father was a Ranger; my ROTC drill sergeant, for another example, was First Air Cav. My father doesn't talk much about the war but Sergeant Gomez would never shut up about it. He always had a story to tell about that place, either when shooting the bull or including the anecdote in a lesson. I actually think he enjoyed being there.
But as I sit here watching a television program called Vietnam in HD, thinking of my father and Sergeant Gomez, the contrast between now and then is more clear than ever.
What makes it hard for me to join in on the verbal masturbation over today's fighting forces and, allegedly, those of the past, is that I believe we are seeing the left and anti-war forces trying to correct their atrocities of the past. The way Vietnam vets were treated upon their return is one of the biggest black eyes in this nation's history, and, oddly, something they took in relative silence. The Vietnam vet never needed a Jesse Jackson to tell people they should be treated better, but, somehow, over the years, regret for that treatment has boiled to the surface. Who knows where or when it began, but you can probably say that as soon as some dumb hippie's son went into the army, the hippie thought, "I hope nobody spits on him when he comes back." And then, "Uh-oh, isn't that what I did?"
When the first Iraq War ended, we saw the first of the Appreciation Thing begin to take place, and it has grown since. Yeah, it's a Thing. It's Cool to Like Soldiers, stinky. Problem is, the wrong people think it's cool, and they think it's cool for the wrong reason. (They also think it's cool to say they support the soldiers but not the policy, which you can't do, but that's also another column.) I don't think, deep down, these people really appreciate anything, they just don't want to feel bad like their parents. This Thing is all about not feeling bad.
The Right Wing isn't any better, as they try to distinguish themselves from the left by being Uber Patriotic 'Muricans. And their efforts to overcompensate for the left is equally disgusting in my eyes. I'm looking at you, Sean Hannity.
But let me try and communicate some genuine appreciation today, not just because our fighting forces defend the country. They also put up with a lot of crap, from the 90 Day Wonders of West Point to the bureaucratic dip-dunk pencil-necked REMFs to the idiot Lt. who's old man pulled strings for his cushy assignment to the overall insanity of military life that makes you want to scream because It's Like Nothing Else and those of you who know, know exactly what I mean. I should have gone myself, but at the time I didn't want to work for a draft dodger who would inevitably ask me to make a sacrifice he refused to make. At least I had the choice, and the Veteran gave me that choice. The Veteran gave me a lot of choices, actually, starting as far back as a cold day in April, 1775, and even if we've never served, our duty is to make sure those that follow have the same choices we did.
BRIAN DRAKE is a 20-year broadcast veteran in California and the author of The Rogue Gentleman, a thriller in the tradition of Vince Flynn and Brad Thor. Follow him on Twitter.