One of the more charming customs the American people have is that of thanking the military for their service. I have seen it in airports, in the streets, during marathons, even in PTA meetings. Setting aside a three day weekend is even more impressive, as is the habit of cleaning up and putting flags on the graves of the fallen. The first time it happened to me, from a young woman in the airport, it confused the hell out of me! Such respect for the armed forces is alien.
The British (and indeed European) habit is to ignore them all, except for Remembrance Sunday. You wear a poppy, observe 2 minutes silence and that is it. Forget about it until next year. Kipling's lament of the treatment of soldiers, so eloquently penned in "Tommy"
is the norm even now.
I think the main difference is most Americans worthy of the name treat the military as patriots, the walkers in the shadows so they can walk in the sun without fear. The front lines in the protection of freedom, liberty, and a way of living and thinking that is both new and precious in the world. In more socialist countries, we're basically just glorified enforcers. Hell, Mob enforcers get more respect in a lot of ways.
Which leads me to the current VA scandal. It is something that a vast swathe of Americans is having problems with, as it goes against every instinct they have to respect and honor those who put themselves in harms way. Unfortunately, it is something we over here are used to. We don't have a VA. You get injured and invalided out, you are treated in one of two military hospitals, then dumped into the NHS when you are no longer bleeding and can breathe on your own. There is no assistance other than what the Regiment can scrape together in an emergency. That usually amounts to a small wreathe and maybe a couple of pall bearers.
There are charities and groups which do provide some assistance for veterans - one, oddly enough, is run by the worst tabloid in the country (the Sun makes the National Enquirer look like Shakespeare) and does masses of good. Private donations of money, time, facilities. Care packages to active duty members. Americans do the same, I know.
So, on this Memorial Day weekend, I want to say "Thank you for your service." Not to my brothers and sisters in arms. But to those of you at home, who got our backs, no matter what.