Rendering Honor, The Wrong Way

By Adam Braatz


What does it mean to truly support our military members?

You may be surprised to learn that the average civilian's vision of what "veteran friendly" embodies can be vastly disparate from the average veteran's. The chasm between the two matters. Unfortunately, when uninformed the best of intentions can often do more harm than help.

For example: many veterans don't feel supported by the magnetic "support our troops" ribbon industry. Many roll their eyes at the sight of them; some are deeply insulted. I'm not suggesting you run out to the garage immediately and rip the thing off of your Toyota, rather, ask yourself if the extent of your support ends abruptly at the $2 magnetic ribbon mark. Moral support is lovely, but means very little to those who are really struggling.

Another example: a company advertises their patriotic dedication to hiring veterans, which evokes warm and fuzzy feelings in their non-veteran target customers. You can practically hear the cash registers chiming merrily in the background. But what if that company only considers veteran talent for entry-level, labor-wage positions? Underemployment is not veteran friendly, and patting oneself on the back for offering a veteran with 20+ years of service and experience a poverty wage as if they should be grateful for the opportunity is offensive.



A final example: sharing social content which polices the "correct way" to recognize military-centric holidays like Memorial Day, or juxtaposing veterans' plight against other social issues: "why are [insert political affiliation here] suggesting we spend millions on [insert policy/social issue here], when we still have homeless vets?" If the only time one can bring themselves to unearth outrage over the plight of homeless veterans is to argue some other unrelated point, well...

I can't speak for all veterans, but man, I am awfully tired of the typically apathetic leveraging our demographic for attention, marketing, or unrelated political arguments under the guise of defending our honor. We're good. Thanks.

See, things aren't always as they seem. 

As we approach Memorial Day, I contend that one of the best ways to render honor to the fallen is to support those who were fortunate enough to return home. And if you want to truly provide support, you can't make assumptions. Go straight to the source. Ask a veteran. Contact a veteran-serving organization.

Your good intentions will not matter if the end result is harmful.

It's much easier to buy that magnetic ribbon, share a meme, or shop at the "veteran-friendly" underemployer, but hey, that's your choice to make. What does supporting our military members truly mean to you?

Adam Braatz is the Vice President of Communications and Programming for the Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce, and a veteran of the United States Air Force. 

Connect with Adam via LinkedIn.