You could call me an “accidental” Naval Officer who served on active duty during the Vietnam Era.
I wasn’t in ROTC in college. I didn’t aspire to an appointment to the Naval Academy. I didn’t come from a long line of generation after generation of Navy men tracing family roots back to John Paul Jones or Admiral “Bull Halsey.”
To be sure, my father served proudly in World War II as captain of a “crash boat,” a nimble sister craft of PT boats whose primary mission was to rescue downed flyers and their crews.
He was a so-called “90-day wonder,” college graduates who were given accelerated Naval training at various colleges and universities across the country to ramp up the Navy Officer corps to wartime strength (his program was at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire).
But, back then, volunteers flocked to the armed services with patriotic zeal to fight the spread of Nazism. It was a noble cause and those disqualified from serving for physical reasons were disappointed or angered or both. It was a difficult time, and members of the “greatest generation” answered the call to arms in droves.
The Vietnam War was different. Many of those who served did so reluctantly. My own case is an example. I never would have “gone Navy” but for the Vietnam War, the Draft, and drawing a totally unlucky number in the draft lottery. That combination of factors was the “perfect storm” that led me to serve for almost four years on active duty in the United States Navy.
No, I didn’t serve in combat. In fact, I never set foot “in country” in the war zone in Vietnam. My service to our country was on an aircraft carrier deployed to the Mediterranean, half a world away, and out of harm’s way.
It was an embarrassingly cushy posting, but I proudly wore the uniform as a Navy officer and I gained immeasurable respect for all those experienced combat veterans who were the real heroes.
With that background, I’ve always look forward to Veterans Day, when we pause to say thanks to those who served this country in our armed forces.
But, this Veterans Day, as we honor all those who served our country so bravely, I am really angry… no, make that furious about the monetizing of patriotism.
I was absolutely stunned to learn that, in the past few years, the Pentagon spent $6.8 million to pay for patriotic displays during the games of professional sports teams. What a disgrace!
According to a joint Congressional oversight report recently released by Arizona Republican Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain, since 2012, the Pentagon has signed 72 contracts with teams in the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, and Major League Soccer that amounted to “paid patriotism.”
For example, taxpayers paid $49,000 to the Milwaukee Brewers to allow the Wisconsin Army National Guard to sponsor the Sunday singing of “God Bless America.” In another contract, the New York Jets were paid $20,000 to “recognize one to two New Jersey Army National Guard soldiers as hometown heroes.”
What a disgustingly deceptive scheme has been foisted on the American public. Shame on the Defense Department for paying for these patriotic displays. But, equal or more shame on professional sports for accepting federal payola, while feigning that the pre-game performances are generous showings of honest respect for our service men and women. Is that something you should expect to be paid for? Of course not!
I totally agree with Senator McCain who complained about the disgraceful arrangement, “Fans should have confidence that their hometown heroes are being honored because of their honorable military service, not as a marketing ploy.”