Millennial Veteran Asks Us To Reimagine Veteran’s Day Beyond Post-9/11 America
What veteran priorities can we be mindful of as we launch into a new chapter of our democracy?
By Army Veteran Luisa Hall Valdez, November 2020
The pandemic this year lit up our world and forced a shift in gaze at all levels and especially shined a light on us during a terribly dark time in our nation. We are witnessing the sunset of a post-9/11 America as well as an end to a difficult/divisive era under the current occupant of the White House, while also anxiously anticipating the hope on the horizon. Like many things this year celebrating Veteran’s Day has a different feel for lots of us–definitely for those of us who put on a uniform sometime in the past 19 years since the events at the World Trade Center and still have some real feels about America to process (in general and particularly so from the past four years).
As a millennial veteran I want folx to reimagine what Veteran’s Day looks and feels like in the context of 2020 and beyond while conceptualizing what supporting our troops of every era can look like through the new lens of this new dawn. Consider the following—
Intersectionality and Representation Matter and as with other conversations in 2020, it is an imperative focus we need to consider when reimagining Veteran’s Day and as we center veterans moving forward. Leaving no veteran behind in this new age of the millennia means including/ amplifying the voices and lived experiences of those that identify as Black/Indigenous/People of Color (BIPOC), LGBTQAI+, are immigrants, have combat and non-combat related disabilities/mental health issues, as well as other marginalized veterans like trans folx, women, anti-war activists and social justice advocates, and those that are not-religious/have religion other than Christianity. This year also illuminated glaringly the stories of missing and murdered service members and the need to better protect survivors of Military Sexual Trauma (MST), whether they are currently serving or a veteran, a family member, or community member supporting the military.
Patriotism comes in many shades other than red, white, and blue and some folx may not identify as veterans for equally as many reasons—consider asking someone instead if they have ever served in the military rather than asking if they’re a veteran. Normalize those of us that are not riding in the parade float of flag-waving, ‘murica rah rah/ dress right dress vets while also respecting that it’s okay to be one of them as well or somewhere in between that spectrum or completely separate from it, too. Veterans are not a stamped out mold that thinks/ feels/ acts/ dresses/ leads/ nor votes the same: it is important however to do a better job of amplifying voices of veterans and their supporting organizations that are rooted in peace, justice, liberation, and love for country while also ensuring that they are resources that are accessible, inclusive, and considerate of all those interested in advancing progress in our democracy. (We’ve seen what happens when groups organized as tools of oppression or that prop up White Nationalism, racism, sexism, bigotry, and fascism have been given “equal air-time” or ample space in the name of freedom—although tact and bearing are always appreciated, let’s agree that moving forward that is not okay to be silent in the face of deplorability and we do not have to offer any respectability politics when calling folx out for harmful behaviors).
Don’t just thank us for our service; act with our best interest in mind and do your best to engage in the civic responsibilities so many have sacrificed for. Support secular efforts that house, heal, and help veterans be their happiest and healthiest selves including trauma recovery, harm reduction, financial and wellness literacy, mutual aid, and other programs supporting creative expression or joy in movement. Learn about key veteran issues and veterans doing the work at the local and federal levels as well as by getting to know veterans in your family, workplace, neighborhood, and community. Advocate for wellness resources outside of/ independent from the VA consisting of holistic health care and alternative medicine that is inclusive of cannabis. Other ways every day folx can support the troops:
- urge congress to pass the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act and believe survivors of Military Sexual Trauma (MST). Help get them, their loved ones and all service members at every level the resources they need to heal from any hurts sustained while in service to our country
- hire vets and help them find work, utilize and invest in veteran-owned business/services
- recruit veterans for boards, commissions, elected office/political staff, training opportunities, and other leadership development
- vote and connect with elected officials and people in positions of power to lobby them on veteran issues
Being mindful that these are just some specific issues that those of us who have served over the past couple of decades have had to navigate helps shape and encourage meaningful action on our behalf. It also aids in transitioning away from the long fixed focus of unit readiness and holds space for individual troop wellness as the foundation for military might—imagine what our strength in service and morale might be if we found reasonable ways to honor troops as humans and not as government property. Imagine if we not only recognized the autonomy of those serving, but also fought fiercely to defend and respect each one of them and encouraged them to foster their most authentic selves for their own radical wellbeing and the wellbeing of our nation. Imagine the generations of healing possible and pain avoided in future conflict if we shifted our priorities along with our gaze moving forward beyond 2020.
I hold space for this vision in honor of my siblings in service on this Veteran’s Day and hope you will, too.
Luisa Hall Valdez (she/her/ella) is a Black/Brown queer millennial post-9/11 veteran with disabilities including cPTSD and is a survivor of Military Sexual Trauma (MST). She graduated high school early as a junior and enlisted as active-duty Army at 17yrs old, serving from 2001-2004 and completed her time with an honorable discharge. Mx. Hall Valdez is a third generation Arizonan and hails from a legacy of over 40 veterans in her family (only two of which identify as women) that have served from all across our country. As a Holistic Healthcare Practitioner and Herbalist she utilizes desert plants and botanical medicine to balance her happy + healthy while helping others to do the same. Creating and educating the communities she centers as owner/CEO of The Herbalista, her brand specializes in in Sex + Drugs + Mind/Body/Soul and is available to support businesses interested in centering veterans and their intersectional needs. www.theherbalista.com @theherbalista on Instagram/ Twitter/ Facebook