Daily Archives: November 11, 2011

A Salute to the Un-Sung Veterans

But not these:

I don’t expect anyone to like this post. 

Veteran’s Day is one of those days to indulge the self-elevating act of patting ourselves on the back by  public expressions of thanks to military veterans for protecting our freedoms.  A day we mutually endorse a falsehood:  that the endless series of military adventures US presidents have indulged in since the end of WWII contributed to freedoms we enjoy today. 

Any sincere effort to thank those who actually sacrificed serving this country would involve visits to VA Hospitals where those doing the sacrificing are found.  But nobody will see you and praise you for doing it because nobody else will be there, either.  Aside from a few politicians looking for news bites the place will be as empty of thankers as any other day.

We veterans who served in the US services from the end of WWII until now did so for a lot of reasons.  Conscription was one of those reasons until the end of the Vietnam War.  Many of us volunteered, but to suggest we’d have done so if we hadn’t been threatened by conscription is ludicrous.   The Vietnam War would have ended by 1967 or sooner if they’d had to rely on volunteers.

To go further and pretend the vast majority of men and women who’ve served in the all-volunteer military following Vietnam did so for patriotic reasons is equally ludicrous.  Many, many did so because it provided a high paying career, excellent benefits, early retirement on a scale they could never have achieved outside the military. 

True, some tiny percentage risked their lives in the pursuit of the careers they chose which involved being sent into harms way to further political interests of US presidents without Constitutional declarations of war by the US Congress.

I pondered all this in an earlier post, Abdicating Personal Responsibility to Politicians.

So today, this old vet says to you, “Thanks, but no thanks for your thanks.”

Instead, I’m offering thanks to a group of people who have actually done something positive, but who’ve not been thanked in living memory.

You won’t see any parades for these heroes today.  Nobody will be patting them on the back, giving them hugs with self-aggrandizing acknowledgement of the sacrifices they make daily for this country.

You won’t catch them waving flags and posturing, strutting over their health risks constantly encountered for the service they’ve chosen.  It’s their jobs.  They volunteered for it, same as military volunteers chose the jobs they do.  Even though on average their jobs are a lot greater threat to their health and the duration of their lives than those of cops and military servicemen.

The difference is, they can’t retire after 20 years with generous pensions.  They don’t get free health care for life.   And fawning patriots don’t ask them to pretend they’re John Wayne, gulp staring into the distance to voice-moving news bites.  Nobody asks them for orations to give the gathered admirers something to pat themselves on the back about.

They can’t even get anyone to listen when they do say anything that might make their lives easier.

“We literally have tens of thousands of these beach whistles lying in the rip-rap around the lagoons. And tens of thousands more get screened out of the composted biosolids when we dredge the lagoons. Ladies, these aren’t biodegradable and belong in the trashcan, not the toilet. The basics of what should get flushed distills down to this: if you haven’t eaten it, or used it to wipe off something you’ve eaten, it goes in the trash. That also applies to the device that these applicators are designed to insert. Wrap ’em with a wad of Charmin if you are embarrassed by them, but please, please, please don’t flush ’em.”


But what I respect most about them is they don’t posture or swagger to call attention to themselves, they don’t whine, they don’t beg for acknowledgement or thanks.  And they don’t believe they should be showered with benefits and high salaries for the service they voluntarily perform daily without complaint or thanks.

They’ve done more for this country every day of my life than any military service member I’ve ever heard of.

This old military vet’s hat goes off in salute to the men and women who work in the sewage treatment plants and pump the septic systems of this great nation this Veteran’s Day.

Thank you for your service.

Old Jules