Honoring the Heroes

Printable_American_Flag_Clipart-01LGOver the past several years offering free or heavily discounted meals and merchandise to veterans & active duty personnel has become popular, especially on Veterans Day. I for one am glad to see it. I served, but was never under fire. I understand the complex feelings of my brothers and sisters in arms. However, I will never be able to completely empathize with those who’ve come under fire in the service of their country. I salute you.

Today my husband (also a US Navy veteran) and I shared a delicious dinner at a restaurant offering free meals to veterans and active duty personnel. We were greeted at the door with smiles, “How are you” and “Are you military?” We responded in kind, knowing the questioner meant well. The ‘are you military’ question is intended to honor the heroes and discover if we were entitled to the discount (although no one ever checked for IDs or our DD214s i.e. our discharge papers). The phrasing of the question is fast and efficient and therefore appropriate for a busy restaurant setting. However, in some ways this question diminishes individual service. As a veteran, I am not ‘military’ but former ‘military.’ And even that distinction fails to recognized the specific and varied types of service performed by the veterans and active duty personnel of our great nation. Better to ask, did or do you serve in a branch of the US military? Which allows a simple response of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and opens the opportunity to elaborate with specific detail about the service given. Now this is a niggle. Despite the opinion of some grammarians, nothing is wrong with ‘are you military.’ But I’d like you to think for a moment if you were an autoworker, how would you feel about being asked “are you an automobile?” How would an electrician feel if asked “are you electric?” Sounds a bit absurd doesn’t it. But those are comparable questions. No, I am not ‘military.’ I am a US Navy veteran and proud of it. Thank you for the opportunity to serve my country and be recognized. Leave a comment let me know what you think about this very small phrasing choice.

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2 thoughts on “Honoring the Heroes

  1. Language is so powerful and can either unite or divide us, depending on phrasing and word choice. Knowing that large numbers of Veterans and/or active duty personnel and their families would be patronizing restaurants, attention to detail by those in charge of branding and marketing is key. Asking someone what branch they served in would suffice.

    It is the same type of missed opportunity when the “pink” campaigns for breast cancer awareness first took off, effectively leaving male breast cancer survivors and/or patients out of the loop.

    I am also happy that more is being done to recognize folks who served our Country, but we need to be inclusive as we do so. There’s always room for improvement.

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