SPECIAL TO THE CALDWELL JOURNAL (November 11, 2017)…It is soon Veteran’s Day according to your calendar. My calendar looks a little different. I show 365 Veteran’s Days on it. That’s because in America every day is in fact, Veteran’s Day.
So, the national news lately has been dominated by stories of overpaid athletes and others taking a knee during the presentation of the American flag and the singing of the national anthem at their games, “in protest.” The fallout of these actions has generated even more news stories and a whole lot of emotional distress on all sides. So, let me solve it for both groups right here.
Let’s begin with the NFL player/protestors—after all they are the ones who started the issue to begin with. I understand their misguided desire to obnoxiously use their fame to push for a cause, but America sees it differently. What most of us see are grown men who are among the most privileged class the world has ever seen. Millionaires who wear colorful costumes and play a children’s game, responsible for nothing, thinking that what they do for a living even matters. They have no more right to express themselves than anyone else does, and the problem they have is that the target of their “free expression” is frankly misguided from the start.
Never mind that they are at work, on company time and on private property during their protests—and that they insist on violating existing league rules. No, even that’s not the issue. Their problem is the American flag. At the root of this problem lies the fact that it simply does not belong to them and as a result disrespecting it—while it may be technically legal—is not an example of proper American citizenship.
“What do you mean they don’t own the flag—how can that be right?” You say, incredulously. Well, neither do I, actually. Sure, I have a few flags, I fly them, keep them around and so on—but I don’t own them. Not really. Ownership of the American flag is not that complicated a thing. It does not belong to our statesmen who framed the nation, nor to the politicians and bureaucrats who today run the government. The flag does not belong to patriotic businessmen who fly the flag outside their buildings and shops. All of us are free to use and fly the flag without a doubt—but we cannot claim ownership for that unique and beautiful icon of Liberty, Justice, and Freedom.
The American flag simply belongs to those who paid for it, and the only people who have done that are the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces. They have won this flag time and again with their courage, commitment, discipline, and that rarest of all earthy commodities—American blood. They are selflessly committed to the service of their country, generation after generation and they graciously lend their prize—the American flag— for use by us, a grateful nation.
So, all American civilians owe a debt to our servicemen. It’s a fact. We owe them for use of the flag certainly, but we owe them for so much more—even if they may not see it that way themselves. So, what do we owe them exactly? Again, this is not that difficult to discover.
Think for a moment about your own life and your day to day, month to month experiences. Often our servicemen are denied these things. We owe them Thanksgiving Day with their families; Christmas mornings at home with their children; New Year’s with their spouses; birthdays and weddings; their children’s ball games, cub scouts, and school plays. We owe them so much.
Some veterans gave their entire careers over to service, others sacrificed their health, others gave limbs in battle, and still others will give their lives. The list of what we owe our veterans here could go on for pages and while veterans ask for little or nothing of us, they would settle for perhaps a bit of simple, quiet respect. So, to use the American flag in a “protest” is in fact to disrespect those who earned it and defend it.
With all this “protesting” going on, I thought I might protest a bit on my own—starting with how veterans are mistreated in America. As civilians, we have to accept our duty as American citizens to set clear standards and high expectations to our elected representatives on how we want our veterans cared for. As taxpayers, we have a right to hold government accountable for how it spends our money. After all, we elected them—hired them to do a job—and we also help fund the government. So, I have a few policy recommendations for our politicians:
1. The words “homeless” and “veteran” should never be able to be used in the same sentence in America. This has to end. America lawmakers send billions and billions of taxpayer (and borrowed) dollars to foreign countries as aid year after year while veterans at home are often left to shift in the wind. It’s not just wrong, it is an inexcusable injustice. While a great many veterans do just fine on their own without any help at all, the ones who do need our support and assistance for whatever reason—must receive it, for as long as it takes. They don’t leave their wounded on the battlefield, and we civilians must not leave them to live on the streets. Period.
2. Either completely reform or privatize the entire VA Hospital system. Because I have little faith that those bureaucrats who run the organization today either have the desire or capacity to fix it, I’m going with privatization here. For the benefit of my fellow civilians taking this in, I want you to understand what it is often like for a veteran going to a VA hospital for treatment. What if every time you wanted to visit your doctor you had to 1. call months ahead, 2. do your taxes for the year, and then 3. on the day of your appointment drive some 45 miles and 4. stand in line at the DMV office? When your appointment is finally done, they send you to another DMV office for some reason or other and you wait there for another three hours to see some bureaucrat about more paperwork. Well, our veterans have their own DMV office and it’s called the VA hospital.
3. Lastly, it is my desire that no active duty serviceman in a forward combat position overseas should have to pay or file federal taxes for their earnings for that year. They are voluntarily putting themselves at risk in service to their country. I say, “paid in full.”
Our military makes all others on the planet look like the Cleveland Browns by comparison. You see, unlike those man-children in their NFL costumes carrying a football around in a “gun-free” zone for millions of dollars, our veterans wear an actual uniform when they tread into harm’s way, carrying and defending the flag of their country proudly and they complain to no one about their circumstances. They have done this because they believe in American exceptionalism—not demanding American perfection. They understand what it means to be a part of something larger than themselves, and because of that they truly are a part of the greatest team of the finest men and women on Earth—the American Armed Forces. We thank you!