Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

Worship of military getting out of hand

Pretty much every national holiday has turned into an orgy of military worship, and while I think it’s good to show respect for the troops and their stellar service to our nation, it’s getting a bit out of hand.

I’m biased because when I was in the Marines from 1978-1982, the U.S. was in a bit of a hangover about the military. Vietnam was fresh in people’s minds then and men in uniform were not viewed with the respect they get today. Progress has been made, and that’s a good thing.

When I see someone in the uniform, I make sure to call them by their correct rank and let them go ahead of me in the store. It’s just good common courtesy. One time, when I was at The Bradenton Times, I went to a fast-food place and there were two Air Force recruiters there. I let them go in front of me and chatted with them. I told them I had thought about going into the Air Force when I was young but ended up in the Marines, and that if I weren’t 49 years old, I might do it again.

The recruiter laughed and said they might be able to get me in, but I assured him that I didn’t have the many skills the Air Force needs. “I bet every veteran comes over like me and starts telling you stories about 30 years ago,” I told the recruiter, and he said that was right.

I think though that stories gain much over the years and even minor indignities visited on the troops decades ago take on the size of brutal offenses that are way out of proportion to reality. Just because one person said something negative or offensive to you about your service 35 or 40 years ago doesn’t mean it was a common view then or now.

Many people play the veteran card, and deal with every setback as if they were being denied because they were veterans and because of Vietnam and because people hate everyone and everything in the military. I think it’s unfair because the veterans who have served our nation and the troops who are serving it now are getting better treatment and more respect than ever before.

Part of the reason for this is because civilians demanded it. Military folks demanded it, too, but civilians could make it happen. Politicians have bent over backwards to make sure that the military wants for nothing, and they have even given the military things it doesn’t need. Nothing’s too good for our troops. I believe that and I believe that American society believes that.

The trouble is that all that love and respect is very costly, and there is a vast potential for abuse, mainly by civilians and contractors.

In the U.S., defense budgets have ballooned and the Department of Defense keeps having to come back for supplemental appropriations in the tens of billions of dollars for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the civilians in Congress approve them all, and often add in more stuff.

Our country spends billions on the Department of Veterans Affairs and maintains a network of hospitals and medical offices solely for those who have served in the military. Those places are very busy with current war-fighters who have just left the service, many with injuries and illnesses, and I don’t begrudge them a penny.

People and organizations have stepped up and – despite the recent Navy Veterans scandal, as reported in the St. Petersburg Times – have selflessly given of themselves so the troops receive even more help. We are a caring, giving nation and the many groups that have sprung up to help veterans is evidence that this nation takes a lot better care of its veterans than many others.

What I do find frustrating, though, is that all the help and all the respect is accompanied by the constant refrain that “we’re not doing enough for the troops” or “no one really respects the troops.” True, it’s not all about money, and I know that telling a member of the military that he or she is doing an important and appreciated job is just as important as taking good care of them and their dependants, but how far do we have to go?

On the website, you see stories that the site’s managers have investigated about supposed offenses committed against troops in uniform, and the declaration that the insults or the offenses are somehow a sign that the whole society hates the military. Virtually all the stories have turned out to be apocryphal or rumors, and I think many of the stories are spread to do harm to a business or company, or to those with whom the inventor of the story has a beef.

I remember back when I was in the stories that went around about mistreatment. Here are a few:

  • When there was talk about the MX missile, people came out to protest the prospect of a base being built near their community. They said they didn’t care about the economic boost because military bases brought men who’d be on the prowl for women and booze. That was then. Today, people are eager to have a military base near their town, and fight like mad when a base is targeted for closure.
  • Many of us received paychecks, though direct deposit was available then. (It was called check-to-bank then.) One service member in North Dakota had a military paycheck but no one would cash it (a not-uncommon occurrence back then) because they said they didn’t cash military checks. He had to sleep in his car, and lost fingers to frostbite. Today, there are laws about cashing checks, and you can get one cashed just about anywhere, albeit for a fee.
  • The idea of giving credit to a service member was considered crazy back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Fortunately for me, I was rejected for credit cards left and right. Today, everyone wants to give the military people credit, and maybe that’s not totally a good thing, though.
  • And I’ve told in other locations here the efforts to relieve me of my money for churches, jewelry, etc.

Do a search in the news section of Google for “disrespect” and “military” and you’ll see that everything that isn’t total worship of the military is going to be taken as disrespectful. A lot of these statements are made by people who are civilians and have appointed themselves as guardians of the honor of the military.

But the military and its civilian torch-bearers have been howling about being “dissed” for so long, it’s starting to become the same tired refrain over and over again. And that overuse of the respect card could lead to real disrespect and the perception that military people are whiners and complainers who think they can just demand things to get what they want.

Respect is a two-way street. Civilians’ tax dollars go to the military, and as I mentioned before no one questions defense budgets. Personally, I find it offensive when a corporation uses military imagery to buttress its own reputation and try to get people to support its latest unneeded weapons system, as if opposition to the spectacularly expensive weapons system is opposition to the troops and their safety.

Those who have served our nation and are serving it now deserve the best of everything, and the proper response of those in the military is “thank you,” not “you still hate me.” Many who have served, me included, realize that the past is the past. By the way, I never got negative reactions to my service, either in the service or afterward. Sure, people tried to scam me, but that also happened with people who didn’t know I had served. It happens to us all.

The military needs to get over its persecution complex. We civilians care, we respect the service and the uniform. And we’ll never let the troops down. If that’s not enough, I don’t know what is.


June 20, 2010 - Posted by | Living in the modern age | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. “When I see someone in the uniform, I make sure to call them by their correct rank and let them go ahead of me in the store. It’s just good common courtesy.”

    Errrr, I appreciate that you see some excesses as excesses, but THAT is an excess. It’s not common courtesy. Common courtesy would be letting ahead an elderly person or a pregnant woman.

    Comment by Juan Castro | December 14, 2010 | Reply

  2. I have a brother in the National Guard, my uncle was in the Army, my Grandpa was in the Army during the Viet Nam conflict, and my Great Grandpa took a bullet in the lung at the Battle of the Bulge. Coming from a long line of soldiers, I have a good perspective of the military mindset, and I am not a fan. While I appreciate what my ancestors had to do to secure the freedoms I enjoy, I am appalled that humanity has not progressed further than the need to solve national disputes with catastrophic violence. My general view of our soldiers is then this: they are doing a dirty job that unfortunately must be occasionally done. While I honor those who contended in operations which genuinely protected my freedoms, I do not give universal adulation to all who don a uniform, and especially not to those who behave as though I owe them some special service. It disturbs me greatly when certain people make comments suggesting that I am undeserving of my citizenship in the USA simply because I don’t defer to those in uniform. Yes, that has happened. Most recently because I did not chip in to buy a free meal for a Guardsman who could clearly afford his own. So, I agree that worship of the military is grossly out of hand in this country.

    Comment by David | January 18, 2011 | Reply

  3. In general, I agree. However, its not just the civilians and the contractors taking advantage. Many people in the military are also cashing in. They leave the military for lucrative jobs in the defense industry and their incentive is to keep those opportunities coming. Many who leave are hired for the connections they have in the services and the quid pro quo for the inside assistance on contracts is that the connected people get jobs with those companies when they leave.

    Personally, having worked in the defense industry and witnessed the self-serving behavior of many service and ex-service members, I have a lost of respect for the military. Most will never see any action and yet they financially benefit from the sacrifices made by those who actually saw combat, mostly the very young. The work they do is, in many cases, no different from that performed in the private sector except they wear a uniform. In return, they get the type of socialistic support that they claim is incompatible with their political beliefs. Hypocrites.

    Comment by Mike | April 24, 2012 | Reply

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