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Asking Veterans How They Want To Be Celebrated


I don’t care much for parades. It’s very much like watching traffic but all cars are bright, colorful, and going as fast as a TV reality star trying to comprehend Latin. The reason always escaped me as to why we throw our nation’s veterans on these floats and waste a good portion of their time for a parade.

Veterans Day itself used to be Armistice Day. A celebration of when World War 1 ended and to honor those who only fought in that war. It wasn’t until 1954 when Dwight D. Eisenhower changed it to Veterans Day to include everyone who ever served in the military.

After going through all that they do, is this what they want for their day? Or is this something we civilians made up and thrust it on them to make ourselves feel better?

I drove to VFW Post 8463 – Harney Point in Cape Coral to ask them how they would like Veterans Day celebrated. Despite showing up unannounced, with a camera, they welcomed me with open arms, excited that a young man wanted to talk to them. Three vets volunteered to conduct an interview with me on the VFW stage. (By-the-way, I was a little bummed out I couldn’t film at their bar. Their staff was the friendliest people I ever met. So, if you’re a vet looking for a place to drink, check it out!)

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I asked them my question, “How would you like Veterans Day Celebrated?”  Their summed up answers are in the video above, but while I was interviewing them, I couldn’t help but notice how humble they all were. One of the vets I interviewed, Tony Mihalovich, (the big guy in blue in the video) tried to explain to me the special bond vets have with each other. They don’t speak about what they saw and did on the battlefield. For most of them, it’s very difficult to do so.

This was reinforced when I asked Bob McCoy, an Airforce serviceman for 23 years, about the scariest time he had in the service.

“Losing friends.” Is all he said.

His answer was a glimpse into the understanding of all the veterans I met at the VFW. Each had and presented a line which civilians shouldn’t forcibly cross but invite the vet over if he/she chooses.

I quickly changed the subject to, “What do you do in a foxhole when you have to use the restroom?”

A subject they were all willing to talk about but the details will not be spelled out here. It’s not very pretty picture.

The men at the VFW represented the generation of servicemen from the Cold War and Vietnam era; a time in our American history where returning Veterans were not as celebrated as they are today. I wondered, is their humility a part of their generation or a characteristic of all veterans? So, I reached out to active service members through Facebook to see what they had to say.

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Alexander, an active service member in the Army currently serving overseas wrote:

“Well when we deployed a lot more, there was a point where you might have a poker buddy that didn’t come back from a mission. Whether he/she got hurt or died. For some of us, we spend they barbequing enjoying the time we spent with those individuals and the friends that did come home.

So, along with the celebratory fun in the sun, it is nice to see some people take time to volunteer at the VA. It doesn’t have to be much. Soldiers love telling stories and anyone willing to listen is a great thing.

“It doesn’t have to be big, it’s just nice to see someone take some time to show that they actually care. Facebook/Twitter posts really don’t mean anything to us. It varies from person to person. Although we all agree actions always speak louder than words.”

Brian, currently serving in the Navy, wrote:

“So I asked the guys in my shop and I got some different answers. Free meal at any restaurant. Having the day off. Having the flag respected. Just being able to get off the Dang Ship for a moment. It’s hard to tell. It really is. Most of us just do our job and don’t expect anything in return. Some of us Say that the parades are nice, others want vets to come and speak at high schools and colleagues to educate kids about what it means to serve in the Military. every branch is different. Each Vet has their own experiences. But I happen to agree with some of the others. A free dinner at a sit-down restaurant will be enough. Good food is hard to come by in the Navy. Doesn’t matter if you are on base or on a Ship. School food is better than ship food.”

As you can see in their words, humility is still there and I think that’s where the parades come from. We civilians vote for politicians who then send these men and women to fight these wars. We feel responsible for them and want to do something that matches our appreciation for them for doing something we will never fully understand. We want to go crazy and bold because having a small humble party doesn’t feel right to us civilians.

There are a lot of ways to celebrate this day but the most impactful to our Vets are the small actions we can do to honor them and, most of all, honor those who didn’t come back.

I still don’t care much for parades, however, one of the Vets at the VFW does like being surrounded by beautiful women on a shiny parade car does make his day.

To all of the Veterans out there, thank you for your service.