A few weeks back, Senate Republicans blocked passage of the $1 billion Veteran Jobs Corps Act of 2012 that would put veterans to work in the country's federal lands and would increase the number of first responders in local police and fire departments. The legislation was blocked because the bill violated spending limits Congress agreed to last year. With unemployment among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans hovering around 10 percent, it is surprising that Republicans, a group that has traditionally received strong support from veterans, would block the bill.
It speaks to a broader issue that is happening in our country and that is "Patriotic Pandering." Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the pain our country felt during that time and the guilt over the treatment of our Vietnam era veterans, has led to a wave of patriotic support for veterans not seen since World War II. Unlike World War II, where all citizens sacrificed in some manner for the country, today's patriotism too often rings hollow. Politicians, business leaders and members of the media realize now that it is fashionable and downright cool to publicly thank the troops, visit them in theater, and to wear a yellow ribbon. Unfortunately, this outward sign of support or Patriotic Pandering, which costs nothing, pales in comparison to the ultimate price that all that answered the call to serve faced or could have faced in service to our country.
When it comes down to it, it is easy to start wars and to show support for them, but difficulty arises when it comes to actually paying for the negative consequences of sending our nation's men and women into harm's way. Nowadays, everyone is in on Patriotic Pandering. A prime example is a major beer company that was providing veterans with a chance to live the good life -- get this -- if you purchase their product and drop off bottle caps. The beer company will donate 10 cents to a fund that will allow returning veterans a chance to live the good life. One would think it would make more sense to give a returning veteran a chance to find work.
Local and state governments are in on the act of Patriotic Pandering as well. Nobly, 38 states have passed or have pending legislation to provide veterans a designation on their driver's license or even a veteran ID card. This designation would enable veterans to obtain discounts at local retailers, since healthy discharged veterans do not receive any identification for serving, only discharge papers. Regrettably, some major retailers only provide military discounts to veterans on major patriotic holidays (Veterans Day, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July) while others don't honor the card at all. In some states, veterans have to pay a fee to receive the card or designation.
Is there a large-scale veteran backlash from Patriotic Pandering? Surprisingly, "no," says Terrence Thomas, CEO of Military Service Rewards, which owns and operatesmilitaryandveteransdiscounts.com. According to Thomas, a majority of veterans still feel that answering the call to serve is honorable in and of itself and there is a sense of gratitude for the benefits provided as a result of their sacrifice, but veterans are not easily hoodwinked. "More than most, veterans appreciate how great this country is and cherish our nation's freedoms. They keenly understand the difference between politicians and businesses advocating for their interests in meaningful ways versus that merely curry short-term favor," says Thomas.
Here lies the irony in Patriotic Pandering: Veterans that answered the call for service did so with no strings attached. Patriotic Pandering, on the other hand, always has strings attached, and unfortunately, it is our veterans who answered the call for service who are the ones that end up paying the price for this tactic. In my opinion, if our veterans are willing to pay the price to serve our country, then it is time for our politicians and business leaders to do their part as well. Then and only then will we end Patriotic Pandering as we know it.