"Veterans Day ribbon?" I chimed, holding a little red, white, and blue ribbon into the unceasing flow of noontime traffic through the Reynolds Club. Each time it sounded more like a plea. I think I could have passed out free whiskey at Brigham Young University faster; only the tiniest fraction of the mass of people streaming by took one. More common was the people walking by giving me that polite Barbie or Ken smile one gives while refusing to give a homeless man some spare change; however, I was expecting that reaction. Even more people simply walked by, in some cases with their eyes focused straight through me. I was expecting that, too. I wasn't expecting partisanship and current politics to interfere with the celebration of our veterans.
As I offered a ribbon to one passer by, I got the reply, "I'm not a Republican." Huh? Since when did Veterans Day become a Republicans-only holiday? Since when did you have to be a Republican to display appreciation for what our former soldiers have done for us? November 11 recognizes our veterans and their service to this country. When did that celebration of our veterans become a partisan issue? These men and women fought, not for some political party, but for all Americans. Why shouldn't we all honor them?
In my mind that refusal seems to translate to, "I'm not going to appreciate veterans from any of the wars in U.S. history because I don't support President Bush or what he is using the military for." It doesn't take a philosophy major to see the faulty logic in that sentence. I don't understand how our current political situation has anything at all to do with honoring our veterans who stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-day or the Doughboys who fought at Chateau-Thierry. Nevertheless, I got often got responses similar to this.
Yet among that sea of passersbys some people enthusiastically embraced a chance to honor their veterans. One man in particular caught my attention. "My father-in-law," he said as he attached a ribbon to his jacket, "is an incredible man." He proceeded to explain that his father had fought in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, and had received six purple hearts in the process, while managing to live to tell the tale to his grandchildren. This man, like so many others, took more than one bullet for his country in more than one war. He risked his life many times for all Americans of all parties. How could anyone turn down an offer to celebrate this man's life?
As United States Marine Corps Chaplain Fr. Dennis O'Brien put it: "It is the soldier, who saluted the Flag, who serves beneath the Flag and whose coffin is draped by the Flag, who allows the protester to burn the Flag."
These men and women have given all Americans, even those they didn't agree with, their freedom, and deserve to be remembered. Let's not let partisanship get in the way of paying our respects to great deeds of the guardians of our way of life.