Life on the homefront: our veterans deserve better

Laurel Mcdermott

When you see a person in uniform who has served, what is the initial thought that pops in your head? Respect, honor, courage or maybe freedom to name a few? Now consider this: you’re walking down the street and you just so happen to look at a random person, maybe they look like a drunk or perhaps they’re shabby-looking, even homeless. What’s the difference between what you thought originally about the stranger on the street versus the person in uniform?

Initially, we judge others when we look at their appearance. However, that shouldn’t always determine the amount of respect we give people when judging them. While we can’t exactly go around thinking that everyone is a veteran, we should still be able to give the same amount if not even a greater amount of respect toward people in general due to the fact that we don’t know them or their background. On any given basis, we might encounter or walk past more veterans than we realize who are in a precarious situation, and it does a disservice to simply write them off as just another bum.  We can’t be completely biased on just veterans and people who’ve served, though. We need to do a better job of treating all people equally in our society, regardless of their social class.

I recently watched a video on how a soldier (not in uniform) was in a restaurant and asked if there was a discount for people in the military. A woman behind him furiously disagreed with this man’s right to ask the question and caused a scene. To quiet the upset customer, another woman in the line payed for this ex-soldier’s meal, and that was the end of the commotion.

Not only did this video go viral, but it showed how much lack of empathy there is in society toward people, especially those who sacrifice their lives to help us maintain our daily routines.

No one is asking for sympathy when they ask for a discount after serving in the military, but if people generally practiced showing more empathy, the video wouldn’t have gotten as big as it did, and no one would take notice of this issue.  A uniform shouldn’t be what dignifies anyone for the level of respect they deserve as a fellow human being.

Furthermore, we should make special considerations for veterans being underrepresented and even mistreated when returning to the homefront. In January 2014, it was identified that 8.6 percent of the homeless population in America was war veterans. About 11 percent of that population consisted of veterans who were over the age of 30.

You may be wondering what these numbers even mean, but essentially, we have over 1.4 million veterans living in America, and  over 47,000 of them are homeless today. With these facts, it is best to keep an open mind when judging people who seem less fortunate and more distinguished than others.

You never know who that person could be and what they might have contributed to this country, no matter how big or small the contribution. Some indicators of a veteran in today’s society may be their level of respect and mannerisms when communicating with others, or they can be identified by their service hats. Although the hat itself isn’t what makes a soldier respectable, it certainly seems like one is required for what should be standard patriotism in our country.