Vets worry remembrance being left out of Memorial Day
Children need reminding of the meaning of the day, many say
WASHINGTON – Peter Quinn, a member of the Arizona Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America, said he is routinely approached by people around the state who shake his hand or pat him on the back to thank him for his service.
Quinn said veterans get a lot of support from Arizonans – except on Memorial Day.
“Most of the time it’s for people to have a day off or go to the sales,” Quinn said. “The veterans are all but forgotten.”
Veterans around Arizona agree: The remembrance aspect of Memorial Day is missing from the holiday. Some say that’s particularly true when it comes to younger people.
“The younger generation just don’t give a damn,” said John Link, a Vietnam veteran and commander of a Tucson post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. “All they are interested in is ‘me, me, me.’”
An IBM Social Sentiment Index appears to support Link’s claim. The survey of Americans’ use of social media – such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs and the like – found a “huge increase this year in the amount of people talking about traveling and spending,” up 46 percent from last year.
Many veterans in the state blame the seeming lack of interest in the memorial part of Memorial Day on what they feel is a declining focus on civics and history education in the school system.
Walt Schumacher, a member of the Yuma chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America, said he has noticed children who remain seated when the flag passes, along with several other examples of ignorance of traditional protocols.
He said it is becoming more important to drill the information into children “year after year, so it doesn’t entirely slip away.”
Link agreed, saying children don’t know how to salute the flag. He has also had little success in trying to get young people to come out to Memorial Day ceremonies in past years.
But not everyone is sour on the younger generation.
“There is an element to the younger generation that is very patriotic, because the armed forces are all volunteers today,” said George Cushing, commander of the Arizona Department of the American Legion.
And Joey Strickland, the director of the Arizona Department of Veterans Services, said he believes there is a generally more patriotic spirit in Arizona. Strickland said he’s noticed a “cowboy-military patriotic attitude” since moving to Arizona from Louisiana nearly four years ago.
“I’m real pleased with what we’re doing to support vets in Arizona,” Strickland said.
He thinks there has been a large uptick in veteran support, especially since Sept. 11. Strickland said hundreds of people turned out for an Armed Forces Day parade in Flagstaff last week and he expects 3,000 people to attend a ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona in Cave Creek on Monday.
Cushing also said he’s noticed more flags on display and a larger portion of the civilian population in attendance at events.
There are still challenges: Strickland, who was recently honored by the White House for his work with veterans, said Arizona needs to cut down processing time for vets’ disability claims, increase the veterans’ homes and add more cemeteries.
But he and other veterans still think it is important to observe Memorial Day. Cushing said the older generation needs to pass on the “significance and importance of (the holiday) to our great nation.”
“This is a day to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country,” Cushing said.