OPINIONS

Why Care About Veteran’s Day?

I entertained an interesting thought experiment the other day: If I had been 22 years old on 9/11, a recent graduate of Stanford University, would I have raised my hand and volunteered to enlist in the U.S. military in defense of a nation that had just been attacked? Abandoned my comfortable lifestyle at a decent entry-level job?

I imagine not. And I imagine many of us still wouldn’t today. But there were those who did. And there are those who still do. And so, for me, next Monday carries a special personal significance as I progress through my senior year and reach a point where some of my peers continue to raise their hands and elect to pursue a career defined by personal sacrifice.
Next Monday is Veterans Day, an opportunity to thank those men and women who have served in the U.S. military. It would seem, however, that Americans, and young people in particular, have a hard time relating to veterans, let alone celebrating them, and for good reason.

Our culture today increasingly portrays veterans as a group of mostly conservative, uneducated, ornery white men afflicted by a variety of mental illnesses and unemployment. While problems such as mental illness and veteran unemployment are real, the stereotypes they perpetuate do not present an accurate illustration of the veteran population as a whole, which is made up of countless groups that together are representative of the United States; students and professionals, gays and straights, immigrants and 10th generation Americans, liberals and conservatives. Only through meeting veterans, both at Stanford and off campus, can the existing misperceptions of veteran identity be changed.
Beyond the cultural stereotypes, domestic politics have made it even more difficult to relate to the veteran population. The politicization of war has had unfortunate spillovers into our civilian views of veterans, as people increasingly and erroneously place the responsibility for war on servicemembers themselves, failing to dissociate the policy maker from the public servant whose only commitment is to the defense of a country, not to a particular figure.

As I’ve come to realize in the past few years, you don’t have to be pro-war to be pro-military. And you need not endorse a war’s mission to honor those who made sacrifices in the course of it. Indeed, no one can provide greater cautions about the dangers of war than those who have borne its personal costs. Again, only through meeting members of the veteran community can we begin to understand their role in society and see them not as subjects of a political debate but rather as paragons of service.
For these reasons and more, as civilians we must make a concerted effort to engage our peers who are veterans. And so, on behalf of the Haas Center’s Military Service as Public Service Program, I would like to invite all readers to our annual Veterans Day Event on Monday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. at the Clark Center Lounge, immediately following a talk by Prof. David Kennedy on Stanford’s colored history with Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (ROTC), also located at the Clark Center.

Whether this is the first time you are cognizant of Veterans Day’s existence or you come from a military background, I urge you to come discover why Veterans Day is for us all, particularly civilians.
On Memorial Day this May we will mourn the loss of those servicemembers who are no longer with us to share their stories of service. And so on Veterans Day let us be grateful for the ones we still have around us, young and old, and join in thanking them for the thankless commitment they made however many years ago to serve a nation, humbly and with no ambition of their own.

Matthew Colford, Class of 2014, is a student coordinator for Haas Center’s Military Service as Public Service program, and can be reached at mcolford@stanford.edu

  • Harrison Ford

    Peace is not the absence of war, but the presence of justice.

  • http://vato21stcentury.blogspot.com/ Jim S.

    In a grossly under funded agency, a certain political ideology seeks to privatize for corporate profit, it dictates the care as the need for grows rapidly especially during and after our wars!!!

    Those served loves their wars for free, they like everything for free, while waving them flags and their hollow phony speak of ‘support’ for those who serve them and the Country:

    RM: “We got a huge round of tax cuts in this country a few weeks before9/11. Once 9/11 happened and we invaded Afghanistan, we kept the tax cuts anyway.

    How did we think we were going to pay for that war? Did we think it was free?

    Then, when we started a second simultaneous war in another country, we gave ourselves a second huge round of tax cuts. After that second war started. The wars, I guess, we thought would be free, don`t worry about it, civilians. Go about your business.” 23 May 2013

    But Especially the decades of needs after as to those sent into:

    “If military action is worth our troops’ blood, it should be worth our treasure, too” “not just in the abstract, but in the form of a specific ante by every American.” -Andrew Rosenthal 10 Feb. 2013

    “12 years also is a long time. We now have a lifetime responsibility to a generation of service members, veterans and their families.” Dr. Jonathan Woodson 11 Sep. 2013: With 9/11 Came Lifetime Responsibility

    These two recent wars of choice, cheering on the abandoning of the missions of why we sent our military into that region after 9/11, have yet to be paid for and the VA stays grossly under funded from said wars, DeJa-Vu all over again!

    In the Presidential Proclamation — Veterans Day, 2013: “As we pay tribute to our veterans, we are mindful that no ceremony or parade can fully repay that debt.”

    Just like those of the decades and those wars previous, since Korea, with the under funded responsibility the Veterans Administration, who they love to attack as the under funding brings on problems which cost much much more to fix!

    USN All Shore ’67-’71 GMG3 Vietnam In Country ’70-’71

  • lovestohike

    This writer should be ashamed of herself.

    For Americans who care we respect our veterans

    We especially care about our Wounded Warriers once they serve our country so proudly.

    America is one nation under God.

    It is a military of loving men and women who are serving their nation so stupid people

    Those students who even think that the miliatry is uneducated,d ornery white men

    are so wrong. There are good men and women and gays of all etnicities serving our country.

    Many grandparents of students or great grandparents gave so much so you can even be alive.

    If this is how Stanford students think, then we must assess if any professor or faculty member should ever ask for a government grant again.

    It shows that there is lack of respect, no love towards the constitution, left on campus.

    The editorial should have been unnecessary
    and how it was written shows how stupid our classmates are.

    Each student should call a veteran not just on Veterans day
    but should thank one every single day that you are alive.

    Yes, we have a bully nasty President in Office – a man we all must hate for his lies and more lies
    and his hatred of so many americans

    but this should not be carried to our brave Veterans.

    Stanford students who do not support our veterans should think of leaving not just Stanford, but the country where before obama, we had a country that respected each other and the constitution.

    The faculty at Stanford should give thanks for the veterans each day also.