America’s veterans today gave thanks to the U.S. public for its incredible outpouring of support for the nation’s military on Veterans Day. “We are humbled,” said Billy McGuts, USMC retired. “All those Facebook posts mean more than anyone will ever know.”
Cycling in the South Bay, whose Facebook, Twitter, and newsfeeds were overwhelmed by grateful Americans, got on the company bicycle and ventured forth to speak with veterans about this momentous day and about how they feel knowing how profoundly they are loved and respected.
Our first veteran, Sam Stone, a Vietnam War veteran who we met in downtown LA, was effusive. “Those Facebook posts, man, they get you right here,” said Stone as he clapped his remaining hand over his heart, maneuvering himself to sit upright on the curb as he sipped thoughtfully from his bottle of purple wine. “You’re sitting here alone at night, cold and hungry, and bam, Twitter lights up with all those hashtags. Brings tears to your eyes.”
We next rode over to the VA Hospital, where the morning after Veterans Day a long line of wounded and ill veterans stood in a very long line as they waited to enter the building to get reservations for appointments for consultations for case reviews for approval for seeing a doctor for consideration of possible medical treatment. The mood was happy and grateful. “I’ve been waiting for this appointment for six months and to tell the truth the pain was getting kind of bad,” said Tommy Smith, who served four tours in Iraq. “But when I saw how many people posted proud photos of their dads from World War II on their newsfeed, man, I knew I could wait another couple of months before blowing my brains out. I know I can.”
A large group of thankful unemployed veterans crowded around this blogger when he cycled over to the the CalWorks office, each veteran eager to tell his tale of gratitude.
“Jobs? Hell yes we need jobs,” said John Jones, a Specialist First Class who served six combat tours in Afghanistan before mustering out with 50% disability after losing his left leg, an eye, and the lower part of his jaw. “But you know what we really need? We need Americans who are proud of us. Americans who know how to say ‘Thank you for your service!’ in the airport, and who give us a seat on the bus. That means something. Jobs, food, housing, clothes, medical care, education, well, you can’t have it all, you know? But a yellow ribbon on the bumper sticker of a Mercedes SUV? That means more to a veteran than all the food and medicine and money put together.”
Cal Calhoun, who served with the Special Forces in Mosul, agreed. “Just because Americans and Congress wouldn’t send their own kids to war doesn’t mean they don’t value us or what we do. My Facebook feed exploded yesterday. Even if I had a job I wouldn’t have had time to work, scrolling through all those thank-you’s.” Calhoun’s eyes teared up as he spoke.
Finally, we cycled to the LA County Jail, where we were granted interviews with a wide range of shackled inmates, many there for a few months, others simply stopping by on their way to life sentences at Corcoran State Prison. “Jail, it ain’t nothin’,” said Mark Doughty, a recent returnee from Afghanistan. “Fact, it’s kind of like the army. They tell you when to eat, when to sleep, when to get up, and when to shit. Food’s better, too,” he mused. “And the jail’s so full of veterans you don’t ever get lonely, and if you do, on Veteran’s Day we always get a lot of cheering up from Facebook and hashtags and such. I’m hoping one of these days I might even get a lawyer.”
On behalf of America’s veterans, Cycling in the South Bay says, “Thank YOU, America!”