Some holidays are celebrated in ways that can make single people feel stereotyped, stigmatized, or ignored. Valentine’s Day, obviously. Christmas. New Year’s Eve. Thanksgiving.
Veterans Day, I think, is an exception. In fact, of the major holidays, it may well be the fairest of them all. That’s not just because veterans are involved.
On most days of the year, some members of the service seem to be chosen as media favorites; they garner more attention, gratitude, and concern than others. Watch the clips of warriors returning home and notice how often they are rushing into the outstretched arms of a spouse.
Listen to the coverage and take notes. I started doing this many years ago. One of my first entries was from a Nightline broadcast from December of 2004 about seriously wounded soldiers. Nightline noted that these soldiers “may not be able to do any of the things they did before. And that means the lives of their spouses are changed forever too.”
There is a risk to selective coverage: It makes the service members who are not married – about half of them – seem invisible or insignificant. Where are the pictures of the friends, siblings, parents, and neighbors anxiously waiting to embrace them? Where is the empathy for the people caring for the wounded warriors who are single?
When I interviewed service members for my book, Singled Out, some claimed that even the perks that were not targeted specifically to married soldiers, such as free phone calls, were sometimes doled out preferentially to them. I don’t know if those perceptions were accurate.
I think there are documented ways in which single soldiers are treated less fairly than married ones, as I argued in Singled Out. In two guest posts, though, Navy veteran Roger Morris drew from his considerable experience to make the case for the Navy as a good place for singles (here and here).
I don’t think single soldiers should get special treatment. They should get the same treatment. When an IED is about to explode, it does not stop to check the marital status of the person in the way, then go offer with a whimper instead of a bang if the soldier is single.
Today, however, I have no complaints. When it comes to acknowledging the contributions of all service members, Veterans Day strikes me as one of the fairest days of all. On that one day of the year, only two questions seem relevant: Did you serve? And, did you serve honorably? If the answer to both is yes, that’s all that matters.
That’s why Veterans Day has a special place in my heart.
Red, white and blue ribbon photo available from Shutterstock
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Last reviewed: 11 Nov 2012