Vintage show can often reflect public's perception of veterans

Nov 11 2013 - 6:20pm

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If there's a Heaven, I'll bet it has Netflix.

I'm in love with these video streaming services. For just pennies a day, they give you the power to reconnect with all your favorite TV shows from yesteryear -- "Magnum, P.I.," "The Rockford Files," "Taxi," "The West Wing," "Miami Vice."

And it's amazing the truths you can glean from these older programs. Just the other day, I watched the pilot episode of "Cheers," a sitcom that first aired in 1982 about a Boston bar where everybody knows your name. In the opening scene of season one, a young man, who looks all of about 15 years old, walks into the bar and tries to order a beer from bar owner Sam "Mayday" Malone, played by Ted Danson.

When Sam asks for proof of age, the kid produces a military ID for a 1st Sgt. Walter Keller, born 1944.

"That makes you 38," Sam says. "Must've fought in Vietnam."

"Oh, yeah," comes the confident response.

"What was it like," Sam asks.

"Gross," the kid says with a shudder.

"Yeah, that's what they say," Sam concludes above the studio audience's laughter. "War is ... gross."

Northern Utah just celebrated Veterans Day -- if, I suppose, "celebrated" is the right word here. More like "observed." As in, we saw it coming, we were aware of its arrival, and many of us even went so far as to post heartfelt thanks to members of the military on Facebook and Twitter.

Heck, a few of us even attended Ogden's Veterans Day Parade on Saturday, or one of the smaller tributes on the actual Monday holiday. But beyond that, for most of us, Veterans Day didn't even mean time off work.

I happened to be in attendance at Saturday's Veterans Day Parade in Ogden. In the interest of full disclosure, I sheepishly admit my attendance was predicated on the sole truth that I was working the Saturday shift and was assigned to write the story. Otherwise, had I been off that day, something else would have come up -- yard work, housework, a movie or a football game -- to keep me from the parade.

Of course, in the interest of even fuller disclosure, you should know that I hate parades in general. So you can at least take partial comfort in the fact that, unless I were being paid, I wouldn't have been at an Independence Day parade, or a Pioneer Day parade, or a Christmas parade, either.

However, having attended Saturday's event, I can now declare that a Veterans Day parade is the best kind. Why? Because unlike all the other parades out there, this one isn't about the audience. It's strictly about the participants.

You could argue that other parades honor patriots, or pioneers, or various other worthy groups. But that's not their primary purpose, and it's not the reason most attend them. People usually attend parades to be entertained -- to see dazzling floats, or to hear marching bands, or to collect candy tossed from the entries.

But a Veterans Day parade is different. The folks lining this parade route are there for one reason: to pay tribute to the men and women, and their families, who have served their country at sacrifices ranging from moderately inconvenient to complete and total. And that's what Veterans Day is about.

Oh, and just for the record? Despite what some groups would have us believe, Veterans Day isn't about war -- any more than a Fourth of July parade is about the British.

Meanwhile, back at the bar on "Cheers," Sam rejects the underage boy's bid for alcohol with a simple, "I'm sorry, soldier."

And the boy, not breaking character, retorts: "This is the thanks we get."

Sadly, that is the thanks our veterans get. An "I'm sorry." A "Thank you." The occasional, sparsely attended parade.

But then again, I'll wager that's enough. Because our veterans don't do it for the sympathy, or the thanks, or even the parades. And they're certainly not in it for the war.

Because as any 15-year-old could tell you: War is gross.

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, msaal@standard.net, or follow him on Twitter at @Saalman.

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