Why Do We Love Veterans So Much?

There is no doubt that veterans occupy a special place in the heart of any true American. Facebook feeds are seemingly always inundated with stories from the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan of men and women who displayed remarkable degrees of courage in preforming their duty. Thanks to Youtube, we can watch hundreds of videos of service men and women surprising loved ones with an unexpected homecoming filled with tears of unimaginable joy (these are my personal favorites). 

The number of views on these articles and videos are a testament to the fact that Americans love our troops. This should come as a surprise to no one. The question, however, still remains: Why do we love our troops so much?

The simple answer here is that we love our troops because they volunteered to defend our country. While this is true, I don’t think it is a full and proper explanation. I think support for our troops stems from the fact that they are committed to something greater than themselves. They are dedicated to a purpose which allows them to transcend the constraints of self interest and serve not only as protectors but also as honorable men and women that ought to be revered. As an oft forgotten line of “America the Beautiful” proclaims: veterans are people “who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life!”

At this point in time I think that Americans are especially in need of our veterans. Somewhere along the line our country has seemed to lose its spirit. Americans seem to be lost in the woods, desperate for a higher purpose and hope for the future. Life seems to have devolved into petty calculations of pleasure versus pain, with people trying to numb themselves to the outside world by burying themselves in social media and technology. For too many people life consists simply of a nine to five corporate job followed by endless hours in front of ever expanding plasma screen televisions. Churches are no longer full and even when people do come together they hardly ever look up from their smartphone. It is now considered perfectly normal to declare that you have no interest in marriage or even having children because these traditional institutions simply hold you back from “enjoying” your life. How is one supposed to travel the world and fulfill their hedonistic desires if they are tied down by a spouse and children? The lowest common denominator in these cultural developments is selfishness, denying that there is anything more to life than your own calculus of maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. 

Some try to buck these dehumanizing trends in our culture by searching for meaning and purpose in their lives through religion, but they are often misled. For instance many young people declare that they are “spiritual, but not religious”. This means that they believe in God, but they don’t like the idea of belonging to a church. You shouldn’t need a Thomas Aquinas to figure out the flaw in this logic: God is about love and community, therefore you can only truly find God by communing with and loving your neighbor. No one can tackle life on their own. It is good that people feel a natural inclination toward God, but they must realize that God requires us to come together as a church is we wish to truly find solace in him.  

So where do veterans come into this situation? They posses what many Americans wish they had: meaning and purpose in life that is beyond calculations of pleasure versus pain. Veterans are examples of selflessness in the face of danger and embody the idea that life is truly about the spiritual, not the physical. Humanity is not defined by cells in a biology lab but rather by the spirit of man, expressed in its fullest by a soldier who dies defending his comrades, or a spouse who cries hysterical tears of joy when they see their loved one step off the plane from Afghanistan, overwhelmed by the realization they are finally home. Life is essentially a struggle to be human, and deep down we all know that the sentiments embodied by service men and women are what truly define humanity. This is why I believe we love our veterans so much.

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2 thoughts on “Why Do We Love Veterans So Much?

  1. rollingfred

    Yesterday I came across your article, “Why Do We Love Veterans So Much”. As a veteran I was intrigued and read the piece. This morning I read it again and thought I’d post a few thoughts.

    • Early in the article you seem to use “troops” and “veterans” interchangeably. I understand a “troop” to mean a group of soldiers or historically a unit of cavalry. I was Navy and we always thought Army when we heard “troop”. A veteran in the US is generally considered any former member of the Armed Forces. I’ve never heard Marines, Airmen, Sailors or Coast Guard personnel referred to as troops.

    • In your third paragraph you say, “…we love our troops (veterans?) because they volunteered to defend our country. While this is true…” It is not true. That statement disregards the deaths, maiming of thousands of young Americans who were drafted in most wars including about the first half of Vietnam. I understand that the 1960’s are ancient history to a young college student of today but it is important not to forget those who did not want to go but did. These men deserve the truth.

    Your post continues with a summary of your views on what is wrong with American society. When I was getting combat pay, the prospect of working a nine to five job sounded pretty good. I volunteered for the Navy to avoid getting drafted into the Army or Marines. This was common in 1967. I wound up in Vietnam anyway but that was the way it was back then. I read where you think that Americans need veterans to rekindle some kind of spark to revive American spirit. Will we ever hear, “Thanks, you’ve done enough”?

    Mr. Crupi, I believe your article is well intentioned but you are saying some things that are not factual. Veterans are as varied as any other group of Americans. Veterans are first and foremost humans. Most of them I know are good people. Speaking for myself only, I’m uncomfortable being considered some sort of example for anyone just because I did not want to be in the Army or move to Canada.

    Finally, I want to thank you for thinking of veterans and taking the time to express your feelings. I’ll be 66 soon. Few things make me feel better than a young person recognizing me as a vet, offering me a handshake and saying, “Thanks.” I want you to know that I appreciate your interest, Mr. Crupi. I wish you success in the years to come.

    Fred Jenkins

    Reply
  2. michaelcrupi Post author

    Fred,
    I very much appreciate your comments and seeing as you are an actual vet and I have only the honor of knowing vets, I figured I would respond to your comments. First off, I thank you for your service and hope you forgive me for my careless use of terms regarding vets/service members. I write these blogs very informally and I didn’t count on having a viewership as sharp as you!

    As for the fact that many did not volunteer, I understand this. This article is a commentary on the fact that many young people (who were not even alive for the last draft) fill Facebook and social media sharing heroic stories of our men and women in uniform, mostly from America’s most recent wars, which were fought by volunteers. This is why I talk of volunteers. My grandfather fought hard in WW2 but also made it a point to say that he was drafted, and did not volunteer. Regardless, he served his country, much as you did. I also lost an uncle in Korea who was drafted, but still died volunteering for one last patrol before he was set to come home. I know I didn’t mention those who did not volunteer, but one thing I have learned blogging is that writers should often be given the benefit of the doubt. Blogs can only be so long!

    Lastly, I know that veterans and service members are a diverse group of people. But when talking about how they serve as an example of transcendence beyond self-interest, I deliberately ignored those who are less than honorable in order to focus on my argument. Again, my inspiration for this post was reading an article about Medal of Honor recipients, so that is who I had in the back of my mind. And when I talk of vets rekindling the American spirit, I am not calling for them to take action. I am calling for non-vets like myself to take action by keeping in mind those who sacrifice more than most would even conceive of,

    I really appreciate you taking the time to read my post and comment on it, and especially appreciate your service. My response to you is to acknowledge your criticisms and hopefully show you that I certainly have not forgotten those who were drafted. God Bless.

    Reply

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