08 November 2016

2016 Veterans' Day Rant

I attended a luncheon recently meant to honor veterans, in anticipation of Veteran’s Day,
November 12. It was held in a small town, and the event was organized largely by local students. So one might excuse the occasional slip-up. But I had a few problems with parts of the program. First, the person singing the National Anthem was a last minute substitution, I think. She was not the person listed on the program, at any rate. She sang this difficult-to-sing song moderately well, but she sang, “…for the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming.” There was a poem printed in the program and read by a student. The printed poem referred to a “steal helmet.” Then there was this flag folding ritual, which has been popularized lately, which ascribes meaning to each of the thirteen folds of the U.S. flag. This is pure fiction. It is not listed in any officially approved flag etiquette, and I find it offensive. First, its emphasis is on Christianity and the Christian god. Second, one fold each is dedicated to “womanhood” and the “American father,” carrying on gender stereotypes that need to be examined. There are men, married to women who serve in the military, who also exhibit “faith, …love, loyalty, and devotion.” And it is not just the “American father” but also the mother who gives “[her] sons and daughters for the defense of our country....”
But the most offensive part of the ceremony is the representation of the 11th and 12th folds, for the “Hebrew citizen” and the “Christian citizen,” respectively. However, there is no fold for the Muslim citizen, no fold for the atheist, the Bahá'í, the Sikh, the Wiccan…. While it is remarkable that the “Hebrew” is accepted into this ritual, it is the only instance in the ceremony that diverts from traditional white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, cisgender “normality.” (http://www.snopes.com/military/flagfold.asp)

Finally, at these kinds of ceremonies, the various services are often recognized. When one’s branch is announced, one stands so those gathered can see which branches are represented, and so one can honor the branch in which one served. There are often a few Marines, who usually receive the most enthusiastic applause, as they should. On this occasion, when the U.S. Navy was announced, I stood, as did an older gentleman at our table who wore a Seabees cap. To the best of my knowledge, I was the only woman veteran there.

My husband likes attending these ceremonies. He is a lifetime VFW member and tries to recruit younger veterans to support this town’s dwindling post. But when we attend, most people assume I am there because I’m his wife, not because I’m a veteran. There was a debate on Facebook the other day when someone noted that if Trump was a draft dodger, Clinton had never served, either. Another person responded that back “in her day” women weren’t “really allowed to serve.” And that’s the attitude: unless you were in harm’s way, you didn’t serve. But I gave the service five years of my life – voluntarily, not because I was drafted. Ask a young person today if giving just two years of any kind of public service is a good idea, and he or she will howl like a wounded moose. So what’s my point? It makes me sad, and a little angry.

Next time, I’m wearing my sweatshirt that has emblazoned on it, “Never underestimate a woman with a DD214.”

Veteran’s Day – November 11, 2016. Remember that.