It is customary on Veterans Day to speak of supporting our troops and honoring the service of our military. It is in fact a point of family pride that my father served in the Army in World War II, my uncle in the Navy, and I have a nephew who is an Air Force Colonel. Military service was/is a defining event in each of their lives. Love of country has been a prominent part of the motivation of each.
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
And I wonder, how well is that dream being realized for the many veterans of color who return to our cities from hazardous places where they have put their lives on the line? A good friend of mine wrote on this in her blog, By Their Strange Fruit, today. The truth is, from the Revolutionary War on, persons of color have served in our military, showing themselves bright enough to carry out orders, brave enough to face enemy fire and not flee, and human enough to shed blood and die. My friend observes that we often speak of “supporting our troops”. Do we support these troops when they come home just as we would wish our own family members to be supported?
I’m troubled when troops who have acted with courage and integrity are racially profiled by our police and store security. I’m troubled when those who have done the job for our country return home and have a difficult time finding a job. I’m troubled when for-profit schools eat up veteran benefits without providing a real education leading to a good job. I’m troubled when our wounded warriors of whatever race fail to receive the health care they need to recover from the physical and mental scars of battle.
We contend that “liberty and justice for all” is something worth fighting or even dying for when it is too often the case that the reality of our system is liberty and justice for some. To speak of honoring service or supporting troops is hollow language if we do not strive for the kind of society where all our returning troops are treated equally under the law and enjoy equal access to the opportunities of education, healthcare and employment that all of us need to provide well for ourselves and those we love.
Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Whites, and others have served side by side on behalf of a nation they together have made great. How much longer will these veterans have to wait to realize the dream they’ve fought for? Hasn’t that time come?