How Rabid Consumerism and Greed Trump Respect for Veterans

It took 8 years, 4 months and fifteen days to win the Revolutionary War.

In 2014, we at marketing-strategy-management.com launched a change.org petition for ending the retailer practice of holding a sale or sales event in the name of Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

The basic premise is that it defies the core purpose and social mores these two days are meant to uphold. Veterans Day is about recognizing the countless men and women who have honorably served in our nation’s military. Memorial Day has been set aside to remember our fallen. Both days are rooted in the intent to pay gratitude and respect — to them and for them.

How does a sale fit into this scenario? Besides summoning to mind words like appropriation, co-opting and hijacking, it doesn’t.

Let’s face it: a sale is designed to draw attention from this noble gesture, not put a spotlight on it. Why else would a business hold a sale or sales event, other than to redirect people’s attention for its own financial gain? This is the very definition of business terms like advertising and sales. 
 
Considering what these two groups of military personnel have selflessly done — and sacrificed — across the course of U.S. history, it hardly seems like an imposition to ask a commercial enterprise to pause for two days out of 365 to join the nation in honoring our brave and remembering our fallen.

Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks Coffee Company, stands among those who frown at the way America treats its veterans, saying that Veterans Day “has been turned into a weekend sale,” and more needs to be done to understand the military experience.

“That’s not respectful for me,” Mr. Schultz stated, as reported by the Washington Post.

To put an exclamation point on this sentiment, he and former Washington Post correspondent Rajiv Chandrasekaran have teamed up to create a website called Upstanders — an original collection of short stories, films and podcasts sharing the experiences of ordinary people doing extraordinary things to create positive change in their communities.

One such story, A Warrior’s Workout, recounts the inspiring transformation of a severely wounded vet who initially became a throwaway of American society following his return home from a 2011 tour in Afghanistan.
 
Unlike a Veterans Day sale, this video captures the better side of our human spirit by showcasing the essence of human compassion and kindness. It’s about one man putting himself at the service of another in his time of critical need. It’s a model example of picking a person up instead of putting him down.

As the good-hearted fellow repeated this endeavor with other vets over time a bond formed among the group, and they’ve since become a close-knit community. The once cast out vets are outcasts no more.

It’s touching to hear about this experience in their own words. After viewing the video, one YouTube commenter exclaimed, “Ohhhh man!! This is an amazing story of a one [sic] man who is bringing hope to world of broken people. Amazing!”

Watch the video below or read the story: A Warriors Workout

A Disgraceful Trend

Contrast this story to the creeping spread of people and organizations who relegate our veterans and military personnel to second class citizenship status by using them as a tool for serving their shady ulterior motives.

Here are but a few examples.

The VA Controversy

FBI launches criminal probe of VA By Evan Perez, CNN, June 11, 2014

Audit: More than 120,000 veterans waiting or never got care By Tom Cohen, CNN, June 10, 2014

Bad VA care may have killed more than 1,000 veterans, senator’s report says By Curt Devine, CNN, June 24, 2014

The allegations surrounding these reports accused some VA senior managers of massaging data about the quality of care given to Veterans so as to garner bonuses and other compensation. One report confirmed that 78% of them qualified for additional pay in fiscal year 2013, “despite ongoing delay and malpractice controversies.”
 
In one specific case, a former VA Regional Director received a $63,000 bonus in 2013 for infection prevention policies. Only thing is, the VA’s Office of Inspector General concluded that those policies failed due to an outbreak of Legionnaires disease at the VA facility he oversaw. It killed six veterans in 2011 and 2012.
 
The Phoenix VA Director was fired for her role in this debacle, and then sentenced to serve two years of probation for failing to disclose thousands of dollars’ worth of gifts she received from a lobbyist friend employed by a company that secured millions of dollars in VA contracts.

The NFL and DOD Conspiracy to Deceive

As widely reported by the media in 2015, the U.S. Department of Defense from 2011 to 2014 paid $5.4 million for sponsorship deals with 14 NFL teams. Some of this money had been earmarked for the “Salute to Service” honor segment, which routinely got passed off to the public as a charitable gesture undertaken by the NFL teams. Whether you wish to call it an implied message or lies by omission, neither the NFL teams nor the DOD were upfront about the payment plan. Fourteen teams enlisted these salutes to falsely project a carefully crafted public image.

U.S. Senator and former POW John McCain variously characterized this practice with words like “disgraceful, crass, shocked and disappointed.” He pointed out, “The NFL raked in revenues totaling some $9.5 billion dollars last year.” He also alleged that while the Department of Defense was using taxpayer dollars to advertise with the NFL, the National Guard Bureau and Army National Guard announced a $101 million shortfall, and that there were issues with paying soldiers.

U.S Senator Jeff Flake, who discovered the dubious practice during a Federal Government budget review, declared that it “leaves a bad taste in your mouth.”

Wells Fargo Bank Debacle

U.S.: Wells Fargo illegally repossessed 413 service members’ cars By Jackie Wattles, CNN, September 30, 2016

According to this news report, “Wells Fargo will pay $24 million to settle allegations that it mistreated members of the military — including illegally repossessing their cars.

The bank, already reeling from a scandal over fake accounts, will pay $4.1 million to settle Justice Department charges that it seized 413 cars owned by service members without a court order, a violation of federal law.”

An Army National Guardsman in North Carolina claimed the bank seized his car while he was preparing to deploy to Afghanistan.

Wells Fargo then auctioned his car and tried to collect a balance of $10,000 from his family, the Justice Department said.

Veterans Charity Scam

Veterans charity that gave less than 2% of revenue to veterans closes its doors for good By Drew Griffin and David Fitzpatrick, CNN, August 31, 2016

The National Vietnam Veterans Foundation, which was given zero stars out of four by watchdog group Charity Navigator, was forced to close its doors for good. Public tax returns revealed “the Foundation took in $29 million over a four-year period but nearly all of it went to telemarketers and fundraisers. In one year, the charity also paid a parking garage bill of nearly $8,000.”

This egregious breach of trust was further aggravated by the revelation that the man who served as president of the charity also has a full time job as a government lawyer with the Veterans Affairs agency in Washington.

Ending Veteran Exploitation

In an irony of ironies, it’s entirely conceivable these people used their tainted gains to make purchases during Veterans Day Sales and Memorial Day Sales.

But at least these misdeeds could be stopped through the intervention of a regulatory body or watchdog group.
 
Who’s regulating the retailer commercialization of Veterans Day and Memorial Day?

Without formal oversight, it falls on the shoulders of citizens to act as good stewards of society for curbing antisocial economic behaviors.

At marketing-strategy-management.com, we’ve developed a fair amount of material in support of this effort, including sixteen blog posts consisting of either video pleas or written appeals, free downloadable graphics to use on other web sites and in social media, and a change.org petition for people to sign: End the practice of holding a sale or sales event in the name of Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

Our other recent appeal was published on Medium. Com: How is Colin Kaepernick Wrong but a Veterans Day Sale Right?

Despite admittedly lackluster results thus far — not only as it concerns the end of this practice, but also the signing of the petition — we’ve decided to persevere, in part because the Revolutionary War took 8 years, 4 months and fifteen days before it finally ended in victory.

Sometimes, most times, perspiration is just as important as inspiration — especially when the effort stands behind a worthy and justifiable reason, like the knowledge of giving back to those who put their lives on the line for defending our cherished cause of freedom.
 
Regardless of whether it’s your first time for this type of social engagement or the hundredth time, please sign the petition (it has links to additional support materials, including free graphics) and help spread the word on social media.
 
Be extraordinary; help make a positive statement in favor of mutual respect and support.

P.S. For those inclined to argue it’s a free country and these businesses can do whatever they want, our response is: Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. To learn why, read the petition or view the above video.