Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Do Something Real

This post may come off as a bit snarky.  It's not intended to be.  It's hard to explain some levels of annoyance without it sounding churlish, and I don't ever mean to mock someone who is being sincere in their expressions.  But you can't do better until you know better, and this is my space for sharing what I know, so here goes.

I am irritated with empty gestures on Veteran's Day.  The latest one is a "green light campaign" where people are supposed to screw in a green light bulb to let veterans know... I'm not sure what.  That they are thought of?  In what way?  Don't flags already do that?  Are we done spending money on yellow ribbon magnets and we need to spend money pointlessly on something else?

I'm glad people want to thank veterans.  Ian is always gracious about people thanking him for his service.  I don't have a problem with memorials or parades to commemorate the sacrifice soldiers have made.  As a family we appreciate organizations that provide him with discounts or free admission to places as a small acknowledgement of his hard work for our country.

I do have a problem with people being given an easy assignment that does more to make themselves feel good than benefiting whatever cause it is they profess to care about.  If all you do to help veterans is screw in a green light bulb, then you have missed the mark.  Frankly, there is no way for a veteran to know by your green light bulb if you mean something genuine by it, or if you just want to project a certain image of yourself to look good for the neighbors.  Symbols are unreliable that way.

Do you really want to do something for veterans?  Then do something real.  If the yellow ribbon or green light bulb money went to organizations like the USO it would do some actual good for soldiers.  If there is a military family in your neighborhood that could use support there are a myriad of ways to be helpful that don't cost anything but your time.

But the best thing you can do for veterans is to make this country a place they can be proud to have served.  They have sacrificed for our way of life.  We must live it in a way that those sacrifices aren't in vain.  Feed the hungry.  Inspire a child.  Help people.  Yes, that's much harder than the empty gesture of the moment.  It's also the point, because you should do it every day, not just on Veteran's Day.

Veterans appreciate when their service is acknowledged, but what they really want is for their work to have been meaningful whether it's acknowledged or not.  They didn't do it for the accolades.  They did it in the hopes of making our country safer and the world better.

Go help make it better.


  1. Excellent post. I had the exact same thought about the green lightbulbs- "Now how does that do anything?!" The only thing I can think of is that I've had a few patients with severe PTSD who might like the simple visual signal of support from neighbors, without having to have someone unexpectedly stop by / ring the bell / etc. But even in that scenario, if all you do is put in a green lightbulb you've still missed the mark, because it's going to take more than a simple showing of solidarity or whatever the light is supposed to "say" to really help a vet in that situation.

  2. Yep. I found it interesting that a couple of my friends acknowledged on Facebook that they don't understand how other people's sacrifices meant they got a day off work.

  3. I feel similarly about the pink ribbons in October. If only all the money that goes to corporations as a result of pink product sales went to research. Or, as you pointed out, do something good in honor of someone. Make the world a better place, not a Pinker/greener place!

  4. Beautifully said, Korinthia. I think "Do something real" is a good mantra for all of us.