November 9th, 2009
10:50 AM ET

What Americans owe to those who serve

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/09/23/afghanistan.strategy/art.soldierafghan2.gi.jpg]

Bob Greene
CNN Contributor

The woman's Halloween costume featured a Third Reich motif.

This was last weekend in a sprawling bar-and-restaurant complex near U.S. 41 on the west coast of Florida. I had made the miscalculation of stopping by in pursuit of a quiet cheeseburger, not realizing that adults in trick-or-treat costumes were making the rounds on this sultry evening.

The woman (or the costume shop from where she had purchased her uniform) at least had the good sense to omit the actual swastikas, but that was the only bit of subtlety. The Heinrich Himmler high-fronted military cap, the boots, the swagger stick she kept slapping against her palm. . .some of the customers, playing along, did little comic goose steps as they passed her.

I looked up from my newspaper and tried to surmise if anyone was going to be offended enough by this odious display to leave. She beat them to it; she and her friends made a few quick passes through the aisles of the place, then returned to the night, ready to continue their revelry elsewhere.

Halloween in the United States is an increasingly odd holiday, no longer child's play, but on this evening I was thinking about another holiday, this one official, that is coming up this week: Veterans Day.

And, having unexpectedly encountered the woman in her getup, I found myself wondering what, six and seven decades ago, they would have made of it: what the 16 million Americans who served in the armed forces during World War II, who were sent across the ocean to defeat a brutal enemy, would have thought about this scene.

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Filed under: Military • Veteran's Day • Veterans
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. A. Smith

    Greetings Bob Greene,

    Americans owe the veterans the very best in health care in treating those that were exposed to deadly chemicals, radiation, and extreme battlefield trauma.

    During the repeated Republican back to back administrations, Veterans have been repeatedly cut off from needed medicines to treat their Iraqi War chemical exposure.

    The Republican party has repeatedly blocked all attempts to treat soldiers that were exposed with the extremely carcingenic agent, known as Agent Orange, 2,4 D.

    The Republican party has repeatedly blocked all attempts to treat soldiers that were exposed to high levels of radiation during the atomic solider testing in the 50's.

    I fail to understand the applause of Veterans for Bush Jr., Dick Cheney, John McCain and others that have repeatedly cut their benefits, pushed them out of their homes and out into the streets where they are currently languishing without homes, health care and without any hope that the US Government to which they so faithfully served will serve and treat them with deserved dignity.

    A. Smith

    November 9, 2009 at 11:55 am |
  2. MAJ Stephen M. Marshall

    I think that Bob truly understands what veterans day truly stands for. I have had the privilidge of working with great Soldiers that have sacrificed so much to ensure the freedoms that we all share. They do what our country asks of them without wanting anything in return. Though the wars in Iraq and Afganastan do not directly affect most of us here in America, I ask that we keep these men and women in our prayers as they reflect the best of what our society has to offer.

    November 9, 2009 at 11:24 am |