A Reflection on Veterans Day by Adam Dowd
I was economically drafted into the United States Army when my family went bankrupt after the Dot Com Bust in the early 2000s. Without any other economic support available to me, I joined the military to pay for college. At the time, it seemed like the right thing to do; many of my family members had joined the armed forces and a Dowd had fought in every US Conflict since the Revolutionary War. I wanted to help people, to be a hero. But those romantic notions quickly dissipated once I was Active Duty. Seeing the reality of what the military was really like, coupled with reading some anti-war Christian Thought, changed my views completely. When I was a Casualty Assistance Officer and helped families journey through the loss of a soldier by suicide, I was confronted again with the horrors of war and how we treat the people our society lionizes as “heroes.” Once I got out of the military I joined Veterans for Peace, a group committed to ending militarization and US Imperialism by telling the truth about the real cost of war. I began to see that while soldiers were often perpetrators of atrocities abroad, they were also victims as cogs of a powerful capitalist killing machine.
This Monday is Veteran’s Day. But it wasn’t always called that. This day was originally known as Armistice Day, a day established at the end of the First World War to work for peace. Instead, it has become a day where we put soldiers on pedestals in order to assuage our guilt about the ways that our country uses us up and spits us out, discards us once we are no longer useful in protecting the United States’ imperialistic economic interests abroad. Many of us feel conflicted when you say things to us like, “Thank you for your service.” Those empty words only serve to make the people who say them feel good while ignoring the underlying issues. Some of my comrades in Veterans for Peace will say in response, “What I did wasn’t service,” and point towards teachers and firefighters and social workers who truly serve communities. We feel horrible about the things we participated in. We weren’t serving anyone but white supremacist capitalistic greed. We were being used.
This Veteran’s Day I urge you, that if you truly want to support veterans, to stop putting us on pedestals as “heroes” and furthering a narrative that leads many of us into conflicts based on immoral premises, causing us to kill, be killed, or suffer irreparable moral injury. If you want to support soldiers, create pathways out of poverty and towards education that aren’t paid for by blood money. If you want to support soldiers, dismantle the cis-hetero patriarchy which tells veterans they can’t show weakness by getting help for things like PTSD that drive up substance abuse, domestic violence, and sexual assault in military communities. If you want to support veterans, support diplomatic relations between countries. Dream of a world without arbitrary borders. Share global resources freely, end the commodification of basic necessities.
If you want to support veterans, end war.