There’s something wrong our relationship to Veterans today. It’s too commercialized, sleek, and too, for lack of a better term, branded. "Supporting veterans" something people turn to when they want to look noble and good-hearted, yet when they actually have to do something, it’s a bit of a different story.
Take for example our leading Republican Presidential candidate, Donald Trump. I will point out that he has raised millions of dollars for veterans groups, and donated more money than I’ll ever be able to worthy charities. However, he seemed to want to get the goodwill from his words, rather than be held accountable for his promises. He only delivered on a million-dollar promise after a reporter raised questions about it.
That just bothers me. It’s look-at-me patriotism that requires no effort (or at least until he is proded to make an effort.) He’s smart enough to know that running “for” veterans is probably the easiest game in the book. Yet, he thinks it’s just about money. It’s not just about money.
Take for example the dozens of other charities that don’t really have veterans at heart. They lose focus of their mission and end up taking advantage of genuine goodwill from donors.
I thought about those things today as I attended Mass at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Minneapolis. Memorial Day isn’t about supporting the troops when it’s advantageous to your career. It’s not about taking advantage of other people’s generosity. It’s not just about words and stickers.
It’s about sitting in plastic folding chairs in the sun, and saying prayers to those who have fallen when it would be more comfortable to be by the lake or in air conditioning.
It’s about those people who show up with walkers or wheelchairs because while it might be painful to get out of the house, this is one event they cannot miss.
It’s about the barrel chested men sweating through their Knights of Columbus Uniforms who treat the mass with the respect and the dignity, even though it's sweltering out.
It’s about the sitting, contemplating, and meditating on what sacrifice has meant in our country, and not just accepting the statistics.
It’s about the guy who wore a full suit to the cemetery because he believed that he should look sharp for this service.
It’s about the laying of wreaths, the giving of flowers, the trimming of grass around gravestones, and the quaffing of root beers.
It’s about showing up. Showing up to pray, to listen, to reflect, to support, to honor. It’s not about doing all of those things when it serves to help you in the polls or add to your bank account.
I wish our society invited more room for quiet reflection and honor. That’s not enough anymore. You need to give more money than the other guy, you need to have a bigger flag pin, and you need to talk big. Remember that you cannot buy honor, and that patriotism shouldn’t come with a (dollar) price. It’s about more than that, Mr. Trump.
This day would not be complete without a mention of my cousin, Philip, who was killed in Iraq in 2004. God Bless you, Philip.