Columnist: Ditch Veteran Preference, Military Discounts


When military spouses and others ask for discounts or special treatment at a business, they are not only embarrassing the military community, but they are encouraging a military-civilian divide according to a retired special forces Army officer and small business owner's recent opinion piece on a Washington Post blog. Same thing goes for veteran hiring preference and thanking veterans through commercials, he writes.

"I’m all for easing up on thanking veterans and uniformed personnel ad nauseam, eliminating most veteran hiring preferences, and having military leaders stomp out the attitude that military members veterans are better than others," wrote retired Lt. Col. Dave Duffy on the Washington Post blog Checkpoint.

First let's clear one thing up. I, personally, do not see anything wrong with a service member or military spouse politely inquiring at any given business as to whether or not they offer a military discount. My soldier and I both earn an income and do not hold separate checking accounts -- so when I'm spending money it's at least, in part, his money, too. The difference between him spending it and me spending it is in the person holding the credit card, nothing more.

Offering a military discount, particularly for large retailers like Home Depot, is a business decision. It is probably not out of pity. And since I don't parade around with a hat or any kind of sandwich board that says "I'm more special because I got a military discount today," I'm not sure how this makes me a separate class of citizen.

The problem comes when you take away that little key word up there -- "politely." A discount offered at a business is not an entitlement. So if you are going to ask about it, do so with a smile. And if they decline to give one because they either don't have it or because they only offer it to active duty, smile and say "OK." Easy.

But Duffy disagrees. In his column he argues that when any military affiliated person, and rude spouses in particular, ask about discounts it makes the whole community look bad. And worse, he writes, it creates a separate class of citizens for those who served while taking away the focus from making real progress towards fixing the Veterans Affairs Administration and taking care of wounded warriors.

"At the end of the day, I just regret that military-civilian relations are suffering, in part because of the attitude among some that civilians should have the military on a pedestal," he writes. "Enough is enough."

This Peeps store offers a 10 percent discount to military ID card holders. But is that gesture causing more issues than it is helping? This Peeps store offers a 10 percent discount to military ID card holders. But is that gesture causing more issues than it is helping? (Photo: Flickr user joelogon under Creative Commons license.)

He sees the "overboard" recognition as the direct result of America's failure to properly thank those who came back (and those who didn't) from Vietnam.

"I also believe that society’s overboard efforts to recognize military service are directly related to the lasting guilt over how we treated returning Vietnam veterans," he wrote. "It’s a shameful part of our history to be sure, but the big difference today is that we veterans all volunteered."

And that volunteering? That means we shouldn't get any special treatment that other civilian servants -- police officers, firefighters, doctors, teachers, etc. -- don't experience.

I can see part of his point. Other public servants really should receive thanks as well. And being thanked forever as a separate class of citizens really could hurt service members and their families over time.

The problem is, however, that I don't see the thanks going on for anything even nearing "forever." I see some businesses offering discounts, often as a gimmick to get those paid on the 1st and the 15th in the door. (While I'm sure there are businesses that offer it purely out of thanks they are, in my view, few and far between). I see fewer and fewer commercials using the military angle to play on American's heart strings. Even the Super Bowl this year skipped the traditional military thanks theme.

Is extending what might be construed as "special class" status to the military while the wars are actually ongoing really that hurtful to society long term? I doubt it.

What do you think? Is asking a business whether or not they have a military discount a sign of entitlement? Is the business practice of offering them at all hurting instead of helping? Tell us in the comments.


Photo courtesy of Flickr user joelogon under the Creative Commons license.

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