We the People

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Politics and civil commentary with community columnist John Eyster.

Do you know what 11-11-11-18 means?

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John W. Eyster
Monday, November 11, 2013

11-11-11-18 – Do YOU think college students should know what these numbers mean?

Do YOU know what they mean?  I this as a question for a BONUS on a study quiz for my “American Government & Politics” students @UW-Whitewater last week.  A handful of the students accurately earned the FULL bonus credits.  A few noted “Veterans Day,” but that was NOT the correct answer.  Most did not respond.  When I taught American History and AP US Government & Politics at Parker High School, I chose to require students to memorize the meaning of “11-11-11-18” and put it on a test as a high point question.  Do you think my practice was reasonable and appropriate?

TODAY is VETERANS DAY!  11 am is the time when many ceremonies are held TO REMEMBER.  I know there will be a ceremony at 11 am today in the University Center at UW-Whitewater which will include a gun salute outside the Center.  I did encourage my students to attend the ceremony.  How are YOU observing VETERANS DAY today?

Reading newspapers online this morning, I appreciated the numerous OpEd columns and articles which focused on VETERANS DAY.

I appreciated Chris Marvin’s OpEd column, “For today’s veterans, service isn’t over when the uniform is put away” published yesterday in the Washington Post.  Chris Marvin is an Army veteran.  He founded “Got Your 6,” a campaign to bridge the civilian-military divide, in May 2012.  I encourage you to read the whole column.

I want to highlight a few points he articulated:

“I fought in Afghanistan. When people learn of my military service, I get a variety of comments — none more common than ‘Thank you for your service.’ My response sometimes surprises people. I look them in the eye and say, ‘You’re welcome.’

“For years, I struggled to find the appropriate response. I felt uncomfortable when thanked because I didn’t know what to say. My friend and mentor Eric Greitens , who founded the Mission Continues, experienced similar feelings. He suggested that I simply reply the way my mother taught me.

“When I began to respond with ‘You’re welcome,’ I was concerned that it shocked people. I wondered if I was being too flippant or prideful. Then I realized that their reaction said something about what ‘Thank you for your service’ now means in American culture. The phrase has become a reflex for civilians who don’t know what else to say. Most people today play a minimal role in national defense beyond expressing gratitude to those who have served on their behalf.

“Many civilians may genuinely wish to have played a larger role in America’s recent conflicts — if only from the home front. In lieu of participation, they offer thanks. Society has normalized this practice, with the result that some Americans consider uttering thanks to be a fulfillment of their patriotic duties.”

How do YOU feel when YOU say, “THANK YOU” to a veteran?  What does it mean for YOU?

Chris provides valuable perspective, “Afghanistan is now our nation’s longest war. Everyone who served in any branch of the military since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks volunteered to do so. Five million Americans knowingly and willfully joined and reenlisted in wartime.”

“Post-9/11 veterans are asking to be engaged, empowered and held to high expectations. We yearn to be told by a grateful public that our talents are still needed here at home.

“This Veterans Day, on behalf of my fellow Afghanistan and Iraq veterans, I say to the country: There’s no need to thank us. You’re welcome for our service. But take a minute to talk with us. Ask us where we served, learn about what we did in the military and find out what’s next in our lives.”

I appreciate Chris’ direct statement about the commitment of service by Afghanistan and Iraq veterans with the STRAIGHT FORWARD ASSERTION THAT WE THE PEOPLE NEED TO MAKE PLACES FOR OUR VETERANS!  Will YOU talk with a VETERAN today as part of YOUR observance of VETERANS DAY?

I read several other OpEd columns which I commend to you to read:

Phillip Carter, “For veterans, is ‘thank you for your service’ enough?”

Paul J. Caplan, “Just by listening, civilians can help veterans heal.”

Mike Mullen and Steven A. Cohen, “A welcome-home gift for veterans: Jobs.”

Let’s make VETERANS DAY 2013 a meaningful day for our VETERANS rather than just an observance of a historic date and time:  11-11-11-18.  What do YOU think?

John W. Eyster lives in the Edgerton area. He is an adjunct professor assigned with the online/distance education faculty of Viterbo University, LaCrosse. He continues his personal mission supporting democracy/civics education in Wisconsin K-12 schools through Project Citizen, We the People, Discovering Democracy (Milton HS). John is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff or management.

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