Monday, November 12, 2012

Serving (Some) Veterans

Yesterday I received what has become an annual gift in recognition of my two years of honorable service in the U.S. Army. A few days earlier I received my annual insult from the American Legion.

The gift was a delicious free meal at Applebee’s. The place was packed with veterans and their families.  Every vet who entered was presented with a nifty little red, white, and blue lapel button. The air was filled with “thank you for your service” wishes courtesy of the restaurant staff. 

Veterans young and old were having a ball. Some wore caps identifying their service. Not surprisingly, a few brought along a little barracks humor. We overheard one old geezer greeting another with, “Tom, I didn’t know you were in World War II.”

“I sure was,” Tom said. “And I even was on our side.”

On Tuesday, a thick packet of information, including a dozen free address labels, arrived from American Legion headquarters. The package also had a temporary membership card, a “certificate of nomination,” and a personalized letter. The letter congratulated me for doing military duty and said if I “qualified” I could become a member of the organization and receive numerous services.

To “qualify” all I had to do was certify that one day of my two years in the Army fell within certain time periods dating back to April 6, 1917. I already knew there would be no fit.  My two years of active duty don’t count, because the U.S. theoretically was not at war. Some of the guys from my unit who were sent to Viet Nam as “advisors” probably would be amused, or perhaps enraged, to learn that.

Once again, the Legion had the audacity to remind thousands of us “peacetime soldiers” that we are considered second-class vets. (for some details about this outrage, click on “Upon Further Review” under Most Popular Posts in the right-hand column on this page.)

Applebee’s considers every honorably discharged veteran a first-class vet. They serve all of us on Veterans Day. May the restaurant chain grow and prosper.

May the American Legion leaders, who sign their letters “serving veterans,” march straight to . . . .


Big John said...

Here in the UK we have a government department which deals with veterans' affairs and all ex-servicemen (my 'conscript' self included) are presented with an official veterans' badge to be worn on civilian dress.
BTW .. Members of the American Legion marched in our big Rememberence Day parade in London on Sunday.

Dick Klade said...

Good to know all UK vets are "first class." Maybe we'll wise someday and remove the inequality.

Vagabonde said...

Wow! I did not know veterans could get free meals. My husband was in the army for 6 years but has never received anything free because of it – he was in the US Army that is, stationed in Arizona at the Mexican border (in the early 1960s.) I’ll have to tell him. I don’t know much about the American Legion – I thought it was like the one we have in my home country, the French Foreign Legion.

JHawk23 said...

I guess I'm eligible but to tell the truth, when I mustered out of the Army after Vietnam (1971, as I recall), I would never have considered going within 100 feet of an American Legion post - we considered them old and irrelevant.

Reminds me Groucho Marx's old remark, "I would never be a member of a group that would have me a member."

PiedType said...

What a wonderful thing for Applebee's to do! More businesses should follow suit.

I don't know much about the American Legion. I guess I always assumed all veterans were automatically members. Shame on them for their distinctions. A veteran is a veteran. Period.

Dick Klade said...

Vagabonde: Your husband may be missing out on all sorts of small benefits. Several places give free meals on Veterans Day. Others have discounts all year. Do a search on "Veterans discounts." That should lead you to all sorts of goodies.

Kay said...

My husband was in the Air Force and didn't go to Vietnam. Instead he was part of the satellite surveillance arm. No, he wasn't in actual combat, but he served our country proudly. He is a vet. I'll go eat at Applebees next time we're on the mainland.

Bill Hamilton said...

This blog brought my heartbeat up past normal for a few hours. We share unbridled lack of admiration and respect for the Legion, believe me!

My period of service was 13 months (all of 1951 and a month of 1952) during the Korean War. I had just commenced my junior year at Wyoming when I was called to active duty in the Naval Reserve. President Truman did allow deferment on the basis of my educational commitment, but extended my enlistment while I was on my way to Treasure Island to report for duty. My duty station was the Naval Station in Sasebo, Japan, where I served until I was sent home for an honorable discharge.

I didn't save any of the correspondence, but it denied my admission to the Legion on the grounds that I had taken
advantage of my college enrollment to avoid full active duty and then came back home at the end of the extension! The Legion inferred that my duty was less than a full tour in the war zone (but I don't remember the reasoning)!

Much to my Dad's dismay, I never had a second round of correspondence with the Legion! I too hope the Legion's leadership enjoys its march to . . . .

joared said...

I never knew any restaurants offered free meals to veterans on Veterans Day, though my bro who served in WWII may know about it.
I didn't write a special tribute post this year though I always had before, so glad you made note.

I know anytime I have ever provided therapy to a service person, whatever their condition, I always tell them "thank you" on these special holidays. Recall one older man who'd had a stroke, unable to talk -- he cried when I thanked him which caused me to become quite emotional, too. I don't think others had paid any attention to the day's significance and he may not have realized what day it was either.

I recall when my bro was overseas being actively involved as an elementary age school girl raising funds for the Legion selling Buddy Poppies. They were a highly respected organization then. Hadn't heard there were actual vets in subsequent police action/wars that weren't recognized by the Legion. I do vaguely recall years later hearing of some sort of competition between the Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars -- about the Poppy, maybe, not sure -- and then think the VFW was allowed to sell the Poppy. I really don't understand how the Legion could possibly not consider you a vet. I don't hear much about the Legion any more.