Editor’s note: In 1993, the late, great Chicago columnist Mike Royko wrote what may be the best column on Veterans Day ever. It’s reprinted below.
I just phoned six friends and asked them what they will be doing on Monday.
They all said the same thing: working.
There is something else we share. We are all military veterans.
And there is a third thing we have in common. We are not employees of the federal government, state government, county government, municipal government, the Postal Service, the courts, banks, or S & Ls, and we don’t teach school.
If we did, we would be among the many millions of people who will spend Monday goofing off.
Which is why it is about time Congress revised the ridiculous terms of Veterans Day as a national holiday.
The purpose of Veterans Day is to honor all veterans.
So how does this country honor them?...
...By letting the veterans, the majority of whom work in the private sector, spend the day at their jobs so they can pay taxes that permit millions of non-veterans to get paid for doing nothing.
As my friend Harry put it:
“First I went through basic training. Then infantry school. Then I got on a crowded, stinking troop ship that took 23 days to get from San Francisco to Japan. We went through a storm that had 90 percent of the guys on the ship throwing up for a week.
“Then I rode a beat-up transport plane from Japan to Korea, and it almost went down in the drink. I think the pilot was drunk.
“When I got to Korea, I was lucky. The war ended seven months after I got there, and I didn’t kill anybody and nobody killed me.
“But it was still a miserable experience. Then when my tour was over, I got on another troop ship and it took 21 stinking days to cross the Pacific.
“When I got home on leave, one of the older guys at the neighborhood bar — he was a World War II vet — told me I was a ----head because we didn’t win, we only got a tie.
“So now on Veterans Day I get up in the morning and go down to the office and work.
“You know what my nephew does? He sleeps in. That’s because he works for the state.
“And do you know what he did during the Vietnam War? He ducked the draft by getting a job teaching at an inner-city school.
“Now, is that a raw deal or what?”
Of course that’s a raw deal. So I propose that the members of Congress revise Veterans Day to provide the following:
- All veterans — and only veterans — should have the day off from work. It doesn’t matter if they were combat heroes or stateside clerk-typists.
Anybody who went through basic training and was awakened before dawn by a red-neck drill sergeant who bellowed: “Drop your whatsis and grab your socks and fall out on the road,” is entitled.
- Those veterans who wish to march in parades, make speeches or listen to speeches can do so. But for those who don’t, all local gambling laws should be suspended for the day to permit vets to gather in taverns, pull a couple of tables together and spend the day playing poker, blackjack, craps, drinking and telling lewd lies about lewd experiences with lewd women. All bar prices should be rolled back to enlisted men’s club prices, Officers can pay the going rate, the stiffs.
- All anti-smoking laws will be suspended for Veterans Day. The same hold for all misdemeanor laws pertaining to disorderly conduct, non-felonious brawling, leering, gawking and any other gross and disgusting public behavior that does not harm another individual.
- It will be a treasonable offense for any spouse or live-in girlfriend (or boyfriend, if it applies) to utter the dreaded words: “What time will you be home tonight?”
- Anyone caught posing as a veteran will be required to eat a triple portion of chipped beef on toast, with Spam on the side, and spend the day watching a chaplain present a color-slide presentation on the horrors of VD.
- Regardless of how high his office, no politician who had the opportunity to serve in the military, but didn’t, will be allowed to make a patriotic speech, appear on TV, or poke his nose out of his office for the entire day.
Any politician who defies this ban will be required to spend 12 hours wearing headphones and listening to tapes of President Clinton explaining his deferments.
Now, deal the cards and pass the tequila.