A few days ago there was a poster on a friend’s Facebook wall suggesting that a veteran should never be homeless, hungry, unemployed, in need of medical care, etc. My initial reaction was that America wouldn’t be doing our veterans any favor by treating them like it treats American Indians – i.e., as helpless dependents who must be taken care of – but I wasn’t in the mood for arguing or defending that position, so I let it pass.
Today, on Veteran’s Day, Facebook as well as various other media outlets are filled with similar sentiments. In a USA Today article, the CEO of Starbucks suggests that America should honor vets by giving them jobs, his company will give vets 10,000 jobs in the next five years. But CEO Howard Schultz provides additional insights into why this hiring priority is appropriate:
- “Schultz… says service in Iraq and Afghanistan has becomeahurdlerather than an asset for many veterans seeking civilian employment. It’s one reason the unemployment rate for vets is higher than that among those who haven’t served in the armed forces.
- ‘The irony there is that there is a stigma attached to many of them about either PTS (post-traumatic stress) or brain trauma or things of that nature when in fact I can personally demonstrate through the hiring of people at Starbucks who have been veterans that they have done extraordinary things.’
- “Employers are sometimes skeptical, and veterans often have little experience with such basic job-seeking skills as writing a résumé and going on an interview.”
A few months ago, the San Antonio City Council revised its non-discrimination ordinance to protect not only the GLTB community, but also the military veterans. At the time, I thought the proponents of the ordinance were unnecessarily including veterans in the ordinance only because of crass political motives. Really, who would discriminate against veterans? But based on this argument put forward by CEO Shultz, perhaps there is merit to creating legal protection for vets. And there is also reason for companies to go out of their way to give vets an opportunity. Eventually, however, vets need to be responsible for themselves. Service should not create a comprehensive set of lifetime entitlements. (Incidentally, the staggering percentage of vets who file for disability based on PTS and brain trauma might be connected to this lifetime-entitlement mentality.)
One final note on thanking vets for their service. My oldest son is a captain in the Army and has served in Iraq. He tells me about being often embarrassed by all the people who treat his service like he is Mother Teresa. Yes, he is patriotic, but he also considers military service to be a challenging, enjoyable, and rewarding career. And he believes that most soldiers are in the service for the same reason.
The military may be a calling, like doctors, lawyers, teachers, and preachers, and most of those people are doing well while doing good.