Approximately 1.8 million Californians are military veterans (http://www.va.gov/vetdata/veteran_population.asp). I know many military families including those still on active duty. Of these families, I don’t know any quite like ours. Besides Rambo and the occasional visits from his Army brothers, I don’t often have the opportunity to discuss the realities we experience. Our family and trusted friends have some understanding of what that has been and is but the average acquaintance has no clue.
There’s no yellow ribbon magnet on my car. I don’t have an Army wife hoodie. We don’t fly a flag near our front porch. I have nothing against these well-meaning gestures. But I do have a problem with the social media frenzy we will see today on Veterans’ Day and again on Memorial Day.
I blame Bradley Cooper and his baby face. It’s true he gained 40 or more pounds but that earnest look of his warmed the hearts of many as American Sniper became the movie to watch in 2014. Rambo and I had already decided we would not see the film; we avoid triggering material. Facebook status updates and Instagram posts urged everyone to see the film, wear or fly the Stars and Stripes, and love our vets. I cringed each time. I never addressed anyone via inbox message or text or phone call. Instead, I complained to Rambo about the person’s ignorance or insensitivity. Rambo encouraged me, as he does day in and day out, to address my friend or acquaintance and share my frustrations. After the Oscars, the movie buzz died down along with “veterans” trending online.
Loving a vet isn’t a meme to be shared; it is my life. So much has happened in eight years. No Hollywood blockbuster could ever effectively present our truth. On this Veterans’ Day, I would encourage folks to reach out to a veteran and learn about the reality of having served in the US military—and coming home. What you learn won’t be pretty, glamorous, or particularly heartwarming. But you will have a deeper understanding of who these men and women are