Fun, free and low-cost ways to meaningfully celebrate Veterans Day.

In the U.S., today is Veterans Day.

I have a friend—let’s call him “Mike,” because that is his name—who served as an Army Ranger in the Vietnam War. Mike is a sweetheart who hails from Michigan and now lives in Hoboken, NJ. He’s the kind of guy who is always happy to help out a friend. (And he ain’t exactly hard to look at either, if you know what I mean).

We talk about movies a lot. Mike likes the same kinds of movies I do: smart thrillers, clever action-adventure, well-written sci-fi. When Hurricane Sandy flooded his apartment (he lost everything), it was losing his prized movie collection that seemed to cause him the most grief. Since then I’ve been picking up DVDs for him here and there, films I know he loves, plus some of my own favorites.

Mike has told me many, many things about his experiences during the war, and events related to his military service that have happened since. Often his stories are horrifying; occasionally they are hilarious. Whenever he opens up about any of this, I make it a practice to listen to him intently, and try to indicate nonverbally that I welcome hearing whatever he has to say, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me to contemplate it. I’ll sometimes ask questions for clarification, if doing so doesn’t seem too intrusive. I want to listen if he wants to talk. I want to be a safe person for him to open up to, and supportive in the ways that I can be. I want to empathize, deeply, sincerely, compassionately, although I can have no earthly idea what he has been through, not really. It’s the fucking least I can do.

Mike has some painful physical injuries from the war, injuries that are worsening with advancing age. He has other problems linked to exposure to Agent Orange, and he takes a variety of psychiatric medications for PTSD and related issues. Like all veterans I know, Mike has had difficulty obtaining adequate medical care from the VA.

I hope to see him later today, so I can wish him a Happy Veterans Day. Maybe give him a new DVD.

If you have a Mike in your life, maybe you can reach out today. And not just today.

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Here are some things you can do to honor veterans:

Wounded Warrior Project.

Because America’s Owners believe themselves entitled to the sacrifices of these men and women and their families, VA programs are chronically underfunded and veterans benefits are perpetually on the chopping block. Wounded Warrior steps in with counseling, job resources and material support for veterans and their families. Donate what you can, and/or send a thank you note to a wounded veteran via Facebook. There are also volunteer opportunities and other ways to help.

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Veterans for Peace.

veteransforpeacelogoVeterans for Peace™ is a coalition of military veterans and their allies whose mission is threefold: exposing the true costs of war (economic, environmental, human casualties, PTSD & suicide, social); building a culture of peace; and healing the wounds of war, at home and abroad. To that end, it works with other organizations:

  • To increase public awareness of the costs of war
  • To restrain our government from intervening, overtly and covertly, in the internal affairs of other nations
  • To end the arms race and to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons
  • To seek justice for veterans and victims of war
  • To abolish war as an instrument of national policy.

If you cannot afford to donate financial support, you can educate yourself and others with downloadable resources. There is an online store that sells some great stuff (e.g. a “HOW IS THE WAR ECONOMY WORKING FOR YOU?” button, for 50 cents). Why not do some early holiday shopping for a veteran in your life? Or pick up some anti-war swag for yourself, and piss off a Democrat today.

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Chelsea Manning.

Former Pvt. Chelsea Manning is an American hero presently serving 35 years in a U.S. prison for exposing many illegal acts, corrupt and duplicitous practices and war crimes by the United States government on behalf of America’s Owners. Write to her:

Bradley E. Manning  89289
1300 North Warehouse Road
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas 66027-2304

NOTE: Chelsea’s mail must be addressed to “Bradley,” via the U.S. Postal Service, at that exact address. No joke: “The address must be complete and shall not contain punctuation, hashes, rank, branch of service, any nicknames or aliases, or facility and housing unit names: just first name, middle initial, last name, registration number and street address.” All guidelines for allowable mail are here (pdf). The Private Manning Support Network is also raising funds for legal fees, family visits, transitioning costs, and to help her pursue her dream of a college education. Be sure to sign the petition to President Obama urging a pardon for Pvt. Manning, guaranteed to be just as irritating to him as it is irrelevant!

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Contact Your Representatives and Senators.

Why not give them a little ringy-dingy, and tell them exactly what you think of cutting veterans benefits so that the planet-polluting corporations who benefit from our soldiers’ sacrifices can pay low-to-no taxes. Or email your congresscritters a little note, and tell them to cut the defense budget in half and fund single-payer, infrastructure, clean energy and education with the savings. Tell them you’ve been wondering why companies that benefit financially from our wars shouldn’t be run as non-profits.

The ‘defense’ budget is three quarters of a trillion dollars. Profits went up last year well over 25%. I guarantee you: when war becomes that profitable, we’re going to see more of it. –Chalmers Johnson

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Happy Veterans Day.

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