Earlier this week I was just about run off the road by a truck driver whilst merging into a highway. They used to be known as the knights of the road – but these days, they are oftentimes amongst the least considerate. It reminds me of a friend of mine who broke her heel walking down an escalator at London’s Waterloo station during rush hour. People actually stepped over her, rather than help her up.
Last week, I was on a flight and a woman was struggling to place her luggage in the carry-on bin of a plane. The bag was clearly too big and too heavy, which deserves a whole other job post, but a serviceman dressed in military garb dropped his bag and helped her put it up. It was only a little thing, but it was notable because the other commuters were too busy going about their own affairs – engrossed in their smartphone or just pretending they didn’t notice. That’s the way of our generation.
Military personnel very often travel on commuter jets in the US, and there is always an interesting dynamic. In Europe, we are distrustful of people in uniforms, and military uniforms in particular make people uncomfortable. In the US, there is a real sense of pride towards those who serve the nation in the armed forces.
National Veteran Wheelchair Games
My favorite example this year was when taking a flight after the National Veteran Wheelchair Games. The result was quite chaotic, with around 700 wheelchairs – and 700 military personnel assisting them – in the airport on a Monday morning. I was flying SouthWest and we had an incredible 21 passengers who could not move their legs.
To add to this, the plane we were supposed to be taking had a mechanical failure. Southwest switched planes so that the veterans could get home faster, and then changed the entire flight schedule so they wouldn’t have to get off the plane during the layover (it was a 2 hop flight). Given that it takes around 40 minutes to seat (and 40 to unseat) 21 passengers, that was a real act of kindness.
But I have seen countless other examples of how the US has a deep-veined respect for their military, including flight upgrades, special treatment, free coffees. What’s more fascinating is the military always seem humble and behave like knights of the road.
Veterans to Work
There is a dark side, which is the number of homeless veterans unable to find a job after their career in the military. The National Alliance to End Homelessness claims that this has reduced by 33% since 2010, but there have been around 50k veterans homeless this year, which is a sad statistic.
Some employers like AT&T and SAP support veterans by having a special recruitment department dedicated to this, and I’ve always been pleasantly surprised when talking to AT&T how good the quality of telephone service is – by any standard.
Veterans Day 2014
Anyhow, today is Veterans Day and whilst you may or may not agree with the US Foreign Policy, I personally find the way in which the US celebrates those who serve their country heartwarming.
Veterans Day is a celebration of all Military personnel who have served, whilst Memorial Day is a celebration of those who fought serving, for those that are interested. It originally was designed to celebrate those who served in World War I and coincided with Armistice Day, but was subsequently expanded in 1954 to all those who served.
You can support the petition for Never Another Homeless Veteran.