Don’t forget the others. What does that mean and when? Tomorrow is Veterans Day when we remember those who served our country in the military. This is all well and good, but we must not forget the others – those who wanted to serve but could not, for one reason or another. There were many of those, whose experience of Veterans Day may not be the same.
The card in the photo above is my Dad’s Selective Service registration card. President FDR issued a proclamation in 1940 that required all males of a certain age to register for possible military service. World War II was raging in Europe and Asia and it was seen likely that there would be a draft because the US would have to join the effort. My uncle Phil got one of these also.
My uncle Phil enlisted in the Navy and began pilot training. My Dad, on the other hand, was classified 4-F due to his poor eyesight and thus was unable to serve in the military. I knew this all my life but it wasn’t until the past several years that I realized one impact of this. Dad would not have had the same feeling about Veterans Day.
The vast majority of males of his generation would go on to serve in WWII, including many, like my uncle Phil,, who would die in the service of their country. His own father, my Grandpa Ben, had served in WWI and served in both WWII and Korea. But my dad, who was just as patriotic as them, was unable to serve his country in the military – even though in every way other than his eyes he was physically fit and could have contributed.
He had served in the Civilian Conservation Corp during the Depression, helping in National Forests, which benefit us all. He worked for the Federal Government in Washington DC, and back home in Portland worked for a company that supported the war effort. But he was denied military service.
He was a good father, raising us 5 kids to be good citizens. He loved his country and voted always. But I wonder how he felt on days like Veterans Day and Memorial Day, when veterans were celebrated, and ordinary supportive non-veterans who couldn’t serve were forgotten. I don’t recall him or mom every talking about it, but I wonder how he felt.
I also think of many, many in the LGBTQ community who would have liked to serve their country but who were also denied. I think of Rachel Maddow, of MSNBC, a journalist who came of age during the time of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, who could not serve because she came out at 17 and thus was denied. And there were numerous others like her, as well as many who did serve before the policy was instituted, but served in fear of discovery.
As you recognize Veterans Day and celebrate all the veterans, don’t forget those who stood and waited and were not called but were denied. Understand that their “celebration” of the day might not match yours.