WASHINGTON — This Memorial Day weekend, the nation's civilians are reporting record levels of anxiety, fearful that any misstep could ignite a wave of veteran outrage, according to a recent Gallup Poll.
Janice Sutton, 34, has personally experienced this on two occasions. In 2012, she posted “Happy Memorial Day!" on her Facebook wall. Within 24 hours, her status received over 10,000 comments, including several brutally explicit death threats from those who previously offered their lives to defend her right to free speech.
Then last November, Sutton posted “Thankful for all the soldiers who protected my freedom this Veterans Day!” as her status. She again received hundreds of angry comments from strangers berating her use of the word “soldiers,” instead of “servicemembers.”
“It was my fault, really,” says Sutton, who had to move her family to stop receiving hate mail from APO addresses. “I should have been more sensitive to their culture.”
“They're the real heroes, after all.”
Dan Simpson, a representative for Veteran Justice Warriors, says that civilians have nothing to fear this Memorial Day, as long as they don't say or do anything at all.
“Definitely no cookouts,” Simpson says. “Veterans are tougher than your average civilian back on the block. We've been through Hell and back, sometimes multiple times, and have often had to grow up faster than our peers — all without complaint. That's why civilians have such a hard time catering to us. People just aren't ready to accept how tough, mature, and humble we are.”
“We’re the real heroes, after all.”
For civilians, however, the fear is real, and extends beyond the reaches of the internet. Rosemary Parks, 83, reports that her fear of being targeted by veteran groups leads her to take unusual precautions while using public transportation in her hometown of Washington, D.C.
“I always offer my priority seat to any veteran I see on the Metro,” says Parks. “Even though I have trouble getting on and off the train with my walker, I know they're the ones who really deserve that seat.”
Glancing around nervously, she adds, “They're the real heroes, after all.”