So I’m a little late with this, but I have to tell you about my experience at our local Veteran’s Day ceremonies. I say ceremonies because our town is made of several small communities and five of them have memorials, so every year on Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day, a group of folks, including veterans from the American Legion, VFW, Biker Vets (I don’t know what they’re called but that’s what they are), Rifle Squad (or whatever they’re called – I suck at this), ladies Auxiliary groups, and boy and girl scouts make rounds to each of the memorials for a ceremony. Since the boy is a scout, we always go.
Four of the memorials are smaller, and the ceremonies go pretty quickly, but the “main” one in town is generally a little larger. Usually I enjoy the ceremonies – the laying of the flags, reading of the names, and the 21-gun salute are touching. Taps makes me cry every time. But it can be a little boring after you hear the same prayers, the same speech, the same poem at each and every ceremony. But you suck it up and pay your respects. This year, however, it was a little irritating.
The lady who read the poem started off by giving a little speech about honoring veterans. It was mostly nice until she started bitching – I mean raised voice bitching – about the low turnout. She went on and on about how years ago more people turned out and now it’s sickening that people don’t. I have a couple of problems with this. First off – years ago, it was a big deal – I mean – there were bigger ceremonies – they were publicized. Now, unless you’re in the groups that are a part of it, you don’t even know about them. And if you don’t know, you can’t come. Two – with Veteran’s Day especially – people work. I am lucky enough to be off that day, but I know plenty of people who couldn’t come if they wanted to because they are working. And finally – hello? Preaching to the choir! We’re here. Don’t bitch and yell at us about apathy because each and every one of us dragged our asses (and often our kids’ asses) out of bed at the buttcrack of dawn, got dressed and ready, and stood outside in the cold listening to the same speeches over and over again. Don’t bitch at us! Write a letter to the editor or something, but please – shut up.
But the thing that really pissed me off this year was the main speaker at the “big” ceremony. We got done with the 3rd one and it was early, so I figured we had plenty of time to attend the 4th one (the “big” one) and still make our plans for the day. It was only about 10:00 when we headed out on the less than 5 minute drive to the next memorial. It got started about 10:30, and went through the same speeches, prayers and poem, and then they had a speaker. And I wanted to punch him in the face.
He started off talking about honoring veterans. It was nice. And then…oh, and then he got political and religious. He started going on and on about what a terrible country we have become and how all the veterans who gave their lives were rolling over in their graves over what was going on in this country. That they would be so disappointed in our leaders, and so on and so on and holy fucking shit, he is still going on. Rush Limbaugh couldn’t have done a better job at being an asshole.
I was absolutely offended. And not because his politics clearly differed greatly from mine – I would have been pissed if he agreed with everything I believe, too. I was pissed because this was supposed to be about honoring veterans. This was not mean to be a political rally. And it’s offensive that you should assume that everyone in the audience agrees with your views. It’s a slap in the face to the men and women who have served and/or given their lives for this country to use their day to do this. I have known a lot of veterans in my lifetime, and at least half of them would have vehemently disagreed with his political views. And it is incredibly ignorant to claim that they are or would be disappointed in this country currently. I’m getting awfully sick of the assumption that Conservative=Patriotic and Liberal=Country-hating, veteran-mocker.
His speech went on and one and on. At this point, it was at least 30 minutes – 25 of which had nothing to do with Veteran’s Day and everything to do with watching Fox news too fucking much. And just as we thought it was going to end ( he kept saying, “in conclusion” and then going on and on some more), he decided to shift from what a commie pinko country we have become and focus on what godless heathens we are. He talked and yelled and railed on about the loss of God in public schools, the lack of mandatory prayer, the abandonment of Jesus.
Again, this was a huge slap in the face to the many, many men and women who have fought sacrificed for our freedom – for his freedom who are and were Jews and Muslims and Buddhists and atheists. Does their sacrifice mean less because they didn’t die praying to the same god? Or any god?
I walked way at this point. I know it wasn’t the most respectful thing to do, but I couldn’t take any more. I was so offended I was actually in tears. I was just waiting for the god hates fags chorus to kick in and I didn’t want to be there to hear it. By the time he was done, he had spent 45 or 50 minutes raining his fire and brimstone down on us and maybe five to ten minutes had anything to do with the actual purpose of the day.
When he finally did finish spewing his nonsense, both he and the man who took the podium after him offered information on his youth group, inviting people to join. Yeah, I’ll get right on that, hater.
So, a little late – I want to say that I have a huge amount of respect and awe for the people who have served this country. I am not nearly as brave. I am not nearly as noble. They may not all be perfect, but they are willing to defend me and this country and for that, I honor them. They make little money. They don’t get nearly enough respect. They spend time away from their families and homes. They lose hope and limbs and precious, precious time. And for those who gave their lives – there is nothing I could do that could equal that sacrifice. Even when I don’t support the war, I always, ALWAYS, support the soldiers. I don’t care who they pray to, or if they pray at all. I don’t care who they voted for. And I hope that next time, the town finds a speaker who doesn’t care either.