Anyone in Southeastern Wisconsin who complains on social media about how Veterans are dishonored should have actually made the effort to honor them on November 4.

The ongoing protest by NFL players during the National Anthem has generated a great deal of online controversy. Many in Milwaukee feel that the actions by athletes are a dishonor to veterans. However, for all the time these individuals have to vent their opinions on Facebook and Twitter, they made no time to attend this year’s Veterans Day Parade.

The event’s name was a bit of a clue as to its purpose. Veterans Day Parade. It was an opportunity specifically designed to honor veterans, and communities across region failed these heroes with their absence. There was a great deal of pride and thankfulness from the spectators who did show up on November 4 and stood along the parade route, cheering on veterans in appreciation for their service to the nation. Those voices, however, were far too few.

Standing at a sports event is a lazy expression of patriotism. People are there for a game, where they had to purchase a ticket. Showing up for a free parade that honors veterans, it is all about honoring the veterans. The merest amount of effort is required. People just need to show up as an expression of support for these hometown heroes.

Wisconsin veterans have been deployed since the American Civil War, yet the public’s gratitude is as short as its memory. Just like with faith, when so many members of the local community punish others over what they believe but are too busy to make time to actually attend church themselves, boycotting NFL games is a self-centered temper tantrum that requires no effort.

If the Green Bay Packers were playing in the snow, fans from Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington counties would drive hours to Lambeau Field and stand in the sub-zero temperatures to watch. These same fans have the time to rant endlessly about how NFL players who kneel during the National Anthem are disrespecting American veterans. Yet they fail to actually set an example for showing respect. If the potential of a little rain is enough to deter residents of Southeastern Wisconsin from attending Milwaukee’s Veterans Day Parade, it underlines the fact that these fans only care about veterans when it is convenient at sports events.

Not only does Canada – a foreign country – have to help fund the Veterans Day parade in Milwaukee, because area corporations do not get enough publicity for their appearance of charity, but perhaps Canadian citizens can bus in as well and fill the route with people to cheer for our local veterans.

“Boycott Green Bay Packers’ Titletown District” is a Milwaukee-based Facebook page dedicated to protesting the NFL over what they feel is the disrespect to veterans due to the anthem issue. One post stated:

“Veterans Day is November 11. Hundreds of thousands of patriots, veterans, and family and friends of law enforcement have organized a Veterans Day weekend hard boycott of the NFL. The players have a right to protest, and we have a right to take our time and money elsewhere. To corporations, the bottom line is the bottom line. So let’s hit the NFL sponsors where it counts: in their pocketbooks. Honor our military, many of whom come home with the American flag draped over their coffin. HONOR the best country in the world. This is not about ‘rights’ or ‘race.’ This is about respect!”

That same respect was sadly absent from the Veterans Day Parade on November 4. The boycotting should have provided ample free time away from sports to attend a Saturday event that honors veterans. For all the talk of voting with a wallet, local residents could vote with their donations of support to fund the Veterans Day Parade. Lacking that financial commitment, they could vote with their time by showing up, so the Canadians can stay home. Venting statements of theoretical patriotism online does not supplant a moral laziness to take constructive action.

In combat, veterans often say that all they had was each other. Particularly in Vietnam, it was the man beside you that kept you going. He was who you fought for, not a political ideology. Upon returning to civilian life after the war, that generation of veterans again found themselves depending on each. They struggled to fit in back home, marginalized by communities who celebrated the idea of America while ignoring those who actually sacrificed for the reality of it.

Milwaukee’s Veterans Day Parade is an example of that sad condition, where a public isolated to the horrors of war forget about those who risked and gave everything to protect their freedom.

Editor’s Note: The Milwaukee Independent not only attended the 2017 Veterans Day Parade but walked the length of it with the participating veterans.