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Today’s “People Making a Difference” post is a little different. In this piece, I highlight ways each of us could do a little more, and why it’s so important.

support our troops
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You see it all the time. Bumper stickers, signs in restaurant windows, magnetic ribbons, even on license plates. “Support Our Troops.”

I think it’s safe to say that 99% of us support the troops … and their families. Who could be against the troops?

But while most of us know someone who serves or who is related to someone who serves, the fact is less than one-half of one percent of Americans currently serve their country in uniform. That means most of us don’t have a personal stake in all that our military does to preserve our freedom. So, if we really support our troops, I believe we have to do more than say thank you.

Now, don’t get me wrong. If you feel inclined to offer your hand and thank a person in uniform, by all means, do so. It won’t hurt anything, although some current and former members of the military have told me it makes them feel a little awkward. One active-duty service member said to me, “What am I supposed to say? You’re welcome?” A sailor I know always responds with “Just doing my job.” One friend, a veteran who is now in a wheelchair, told me that although he doesn’t usually display any indication of his prior service, strangers will sometimes thank him anyway, apparently assuming he must have been injured in war. He wasn’t.

michael moore
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Michael Moore

Several years ago, Michael Moore wrote a piece about supporting the troops, and it went something like this: Do you support the troops? I don’t. 

Now, that sounds pretty bad if you stopped reading right there. But Moore went on to point out that most people offer a thank you or a restaurant may offer a small discount, but how many of us have ever taken the time to visit a vet in the hospital? How many of us have offered to babysit for the woman whose husband is deployed? Be honest. When is the last time you used your day off on Veterans Day to actually honor veterans? Moore was acknowledging that he never does any of those things, and the truth is, most of the rest of us don’t either.

michael moore tweet
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In a piece last May, veteran Chris Otero wrote in The Havok Journal about a tweet from Michael Moore in 2016 that sparked outrage among veterans groups. “All that cheering the troops stuff — it’s all fake, right? Cause if we really loved our troops, they wouldn’t still be in Afghanistan, right?” Otero goes on to say that, while he has little use for Moore (for the record, I am not a Michael Moore fan myself), the tweet didn’t make him angry, because he couldn’t logically disagree with him.

veteran's funeral
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Chet and Beverly Wisniewski receive the American flag that was draped over their son’s casket. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Gina Chiaverotti-Paige/Released)

 

Otero goes on to say that he does regard “Thanks for your service” as a patriotic expression — despite the fact that some people don’t even bother to look him in the eye when they say it — but there has been precious little in the way of real support from the 95 1/2% of Americans who do not currently serve in uniform. No one was “standing next to my wife the day the casualty notification officer showed up at a house on our street,” he says, and he saw no community support “at the last veteran’s outreach center meeting I was at . . .”

What both Otero and Moore are suggesting is that the vast majority of people who claim to “Support Our Troops” offer nothing more than lip service. They make no sacrifice and invest nothing in terms of time and money. They say they support the troops, but they don’t encourage their sons and daughters to serve.

Both men contend that true support must go beyond saying “Thank you.” There must be “shared sacrifice and personal investment in the outcome.”

“I support our troops” has become the polite thing to say — dare I say, the politically correct thing.

I am not for a moment suggesting that the people who say it do not genuinely support our troops. What I am suggesting is that we put a little — or a lot — more action with our words and do something tangible to demonstrate our support.

Here are some ways you can do that:

  1. Sign up with the VA’s Volunteer Transportation Network to help a veteran get to his or her medical appointments.
  2. Contact your local VA facility and arrange to visit a vet. The VA staff will be happy to connect you with a veteran who could really use a friendly visit.
  3. Donate and/or volunteer to help homeless veterans by contacting the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans or Homes for Our Troops.
  4. Help out a veteran in your neighborhood or at your church. Many vets could use some help with chores or repairs around the house or someone to prepare their tax returns or help with a computer problem. Invite a vet for lunch or other social function. Invite them to accompany you and your pet when you go to the dog park. Or simply take them a home-cooked dish or a batch of cookies.
  5. Do a Google search for “veterans organizations near me” and contact them to find out what volunteer opportunities are available.

Really getting involved with veterans who have sacrificed so much for our freedom is beneficial for everyone. And remember it’s not just vets who need support. The spouse of a deployed service member or the parent of a fallen or injured soldier deserve our encouragement and assistance, as well.

Do you know an organization or individual who is going beyond “Thank you” when it comes to supporting our troops?

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