If you’re new to Waco, settling in as a new resident, passing through to see the sights or recently enrolled at Baylor University, consider this your invitation regarding one of the most popular events around: Our annual Veterans Day Parade is rich in community pride, celebrating men and women who have served in or in some way supported our armed forces. Beginning at 11 a.m. Monday at 13th Street and Austin Avenue downtown and marching and rolling down Austin toward City Hall, the parade is larger than ever with more than 4,000 participants and 180 units.
Yet once this meticulously organized parade is done, the year-round work of grateful Americans must continue: ensuring veterans among us successfully reintegrate into family, workplace and society — ensuring they’re not just appreciated for dedication and sacrifice sometimes beyond anything the rest of us can fathom but that they continue to meaningfully contribute to a better society for all. A veteran who fails in this represents a failure of society.
This weekend the Trib has sought to single out ways to do this: Texas Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, a Navy veteran, highlights programs offering legal advice to veterans. Mary Duty, longtime champion of veterans causes, touts the leadership skills of many veterans, evident in politics and the daily workplace. University of Texas professor Tom Palaima suggests we all do more than simply say, “Thank you for your service.” Show a sincere interest.
As Starbucks recommends in its commitment to empowering military veterans: “Get to know somebody and take it slowly, just as you would with anyone. Ask questions about who they are, where they’re from and what they like to do.” Respectful conversation starters: Why did you choose the military branch you did? Do you come from a military family? Where was your favorite place to serve?”
John Berry, a former Army officer noted for defending the legal rights of veterans, offers useful tips on how the rest of us can help. Among his advice to co-workers and managers of veterans in the workforce: Don’t make fun of any military branch, especially if you didn’t serve. If a veteran refers to Marines as “crayon eaters” or jokes about the Air Force as “not really being military,” allow them such quips without seconding or refuting. Veterans, Berry says, “greatly frown upon a person who has never served making fun of their branch of service or any other.”
And recognize the wisdom that some veterans offer, especially those who have enriched their intellect while thoughtfully digesting their experiences as active-duty military. One veteran assured a member of the Trib editorial board in 2017 that our nation had nothing to fear from the Trump administration so long as retired Marine Gen. and lifelong scholar Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis was present and accounted for. Today’s sobering opinion column by Marine veteran and local civic leader Manny Sustaita further proves the point. Many such veterans stand ready to similarly engage our society and invigorate our greater understanding of the world around us and even each other.