Opinion: No Professor, we DON'T need to expand the definition of veteran

Phil Briggs
October 02, 2018 - 1:31 pm

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In a recent opinion article, Dr. Warren J Blumenfeld, adjunct professor from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice, suggested the term “veteran” should also apply to those known as social justice warriors.

His argument is not only weak but also a closer look at his words (and his Twitter feed) makes me wonder why he would even want to be called "veteran," or "citizen".

He begins his justification for an expanded definition of veteran, by describing how veterans are honored in Washington D.C.’s most revered monuments and memorials (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam).  Rather than simply accepting the fact that these are monuments to deserving men and women, he writes, “Therefore, the symbolic and literal narrative of our nation’s capital speaks only part of our collective story. The fulcrum on which the foundation of this narrative rests represents an important, though incomplete story, primarily about white male leaders with armed conflict as the organizing principle."

He pivots from describing monuments to recognizing that we already do honor many others in the form of, “the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial the National Museum of the American Indian, and soon, the Armenian Genocide Museum of America.”

But for Blumenfeld, it’s still not enough, “But true patriots and veterans are also those who speak out, stand up, and put their lives on the line by actively advocating for justice, freedom, and liberty through peaceful means.”

He continues his argument by saying, “It is unacceptable when one’s love of country is called into question when advocating for peaceful means of conflict resolution. It is also an act of patriotism to keep our brave troops out of harm’s way, and to work to create conditions and understanding that ultimately make war less likely.” 

What he fails to do is prove why words like activist, mentor, leader and the dozens of other words we can use to describe their noble service are insufficient.

There are great athletes who have never won the final game - should we call them champions too?  

Should scientists who have made great contributions to their respective fields share the title of Nobel Laureate even though they never won the prize?

 And when you consider the fact that many service members never had the chance to enjoy their veteran status because they died while earning it, it seems beyond ridiculous, even disrespectful to think we need to expand the definition of this word to include those who have walked in protest marches or supported various social causes.

Look even closer at Professor Blumenfeld’s past articles and you find it almost hypocritical that he claims to value the title.  Take for instance his thoughts on the Pledge of Allegiance:   

“I have long refused to stand at attention, place my hand over my heart, take off head coverings, and recite the Pledge,” he wrote in an article for The Good Men Project.  “I don’t since to do so amounts to nothing more than a hollow gesture of talking some sort of talk.” 

Or consider his thoughts on our nation’s flag as it relates to the pledge, “a mere piece of cloth, and like the words of a pledge, represents merely a symbol, which can signify nothing beyond the threads, the dyes, and the stitches holding it together.”  We could even look at his description of what he thinks America has become, “ … Eurocentric, Protestant and oligarchically-dominated, patriarchal, racist, classist, adultist, heterosexist, cissexist, ableist, ethnocentric stew of ruthlessly mandated conformity.”

As a veteran that took the same oath of enlistment (or pledge) as the millions of veterans who came before me, I don’t see how anyone could feel it's appropriate for non-military people to adopt the status of "veteran". I will gladly respect social activists for their achievements, but you don't get a trophy if you don't play, and you don't get to be a veteran if you didn't serve.    

And, Mr. Blumenfeld,  if you still don't understand the difference between activists and military veterans, who volunteered to actually fight the forces of evil- here's another reminder.

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