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laureth's avatar

Why/When did a statement of support become actual support re: the troops?

Asked by laureth (27140points) February 6th, 2010

If someone has a bumper sticker that says, “I support my local Girl Scout Troupe,” one would assume that they assist in some volunteer capacity or at least buy the cookies. If the bumper sticker says, “I support my local police auxiliary,” the assumption is that the bearer has donated time or money. Even ”[Candidate] for President!” on a sticker generally means that the person has plans to vote for that person in the upcoming election. All of these are tangible forms of support that they have given to their cause, and the sticker simply announces to the world that they have done so.

However, in the case of “Support the Troops!”, why is the act of placing that yellow ribbon considered the actual support, as opposed to a statement that the person with that sticker (or lapel pin, etc.) actually supports the troops in some tangible way? Even if we rule out the fact that the message is imperative instead of declarative, it is widely considered true that this act of declaring support is equal to actual support, and there is no need to back it up with action.

In short, I’m curious as to how messages like this, which regularly make the rounds at places like Facebook, actually support the troops:

It’s time to show the world that more of us SUPPORT our Troops than not. If you support our Troops then please post this on your status and leave it there for one hour. And if you don’t stand behind our Troops, then please feel free to STAND IN FRONT OF THEM!!

Do any current troops, or any of the 131,000 homeless vets, feel supported by a Facebook status update or by a yellow ribbon sticker? Would they feel more supported if the status stayed up for more than an hour? And when did the message that you support the troops become the actual support, rather than more concrete forms of support such as victory gardens, rationing, and a top marginal tax rate of 90% as seen in the U.S. during WWII?

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35 Answers

Blackberry's avatar

I don’t know if the people of facebook are doing it, or if it’s the government, but my military benefits are nothing to complain about lol. I never actually thought about that until I read the question, but a lot of soldiers are taken care of. On my deployment, we received care packages from some random group of people that simply felt like doing a good thing (this was 2007 though), I appreciate their hospitality.

I get support in local communities where ever I’m stationed, discounts, free drinks, no entrance fees into clubs etc. So the support is there, but whether it’s from a facebook status message I highly doubt lol.

laureth's avatar

Random care packages, getting in free, etc., are what I see as concrete support, though, which is pretty wonderful. I’m glad you receive such things; they show a sentiment that goes far beyond a simple statement.

borderline_blonde's avatar

I always figured those yellow stickers were just a way of showing off political preference.

What is supportive about the Facebook thing is for the troops to feel some type of moral support at home.

Why people don’t send money, create victory gardens, etc.? There’s a difference between supporting our troops and supporting the war. I don’t think the entire nation is under the same roof on this one.

janbb's avatar

I think the whole gesture goes back to the Vietnam War when many of us who were rabidly against the war were pretty nasty to the soldiers who fought in it as well. Since then we have come to see that it is not the soldiers who are necessarily the problem and to separate the anti-war cause from support of individual GIs and their rights. This of course doesn’t mean that everyone with a yellow ribbon is for soldiers and against the war or vice versa, just that it seems to be an, albeit clumsy, attempt to separate the two issues. Your point is a good one, though; we seem to be a country long on meaningless gestures and short on meaningful action.

laureth's avatar

@janbb – I understand your point about the Vietnam vets. They should not come home to an outcry like that, whether or not we are for the war.

@borderline_blonde – Even if we are not for the war, there are ways to support them if that is our cause.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

maybe some soldiers check their FB status hourly? who knows
I don’t support the wars or the troops that think it’s a good idea – I do support the troops that had to find out the hard way what they got into and couldn’t get out

PandoraBoxx's avatar

It goes back to this song from the early 1970’s with a yellow ribbon meaning we want you to come home.

The song came first, then yellow ribbons became a “welcome back, we’re waiting for you” symbol.

Strauss's avatar

@PandoraBoxx the tradition memorialized by the song goes back at least to WWII, maybe even farther back. I remember my mother mentioning that. My Dad was a veteran of that war, and I think my mom and older siblings (I wasn’t born yet) did have a yellow ribbon.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@laureth you’re right. I’m going to put a yellow ribbon decal on my little red wagon and drag it around the neighborhood on a scrap drive to really support the troops.

(Incidentally, and only because I know how good you usually are with your writing, wouldn’t your local “Girl Scout Troupe” just be a bunch of actors?)

@Blackberry where should I deliver the scrap, once I’ve collected it? Do you want it yourself?

laureth's avatar

@PandoraBoxx – I’m aware of the origin of the yellow ribbon symbol; I guess I was speaking mostly of messages of support (of which that is one, but not the only).

@CyanoticWasp – How do Girl Scouts spell it, “troop?” Oops.

Kraigmo's avatar

I don’t do ribbons of any color or any cause.

And the whole “Support the Troops!” thing came from a collective ego competition in the first Gulf War over who was more patriotic: The Law ‘n Order Conservatives who supported the Troops and the War, or the Peacenik Liberals who supported the Troops but wanted them home. It was so phony on both sides. It almost always is.

Of course the humans serving in the troops should be supported. And of course ribbons and platitudes mean almost nothing.

Americans feel collectively guilty for throwing away the lives of so many Vietnam War vets. That manifests itself into both good things now (real help) and stupid things (ribbons and platitudes).

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I was one for 29 years. I send random care pakages, books , magazines The kind that I know troopers like). I’ve “adopted” my old Engineer Batallion in Afghanistan and send them all kinds of stuff. I also make sure that the wounded at Waler Reed, etc. are not forgotten. The way wounded EMs are treated there is shameful! I contribute to an organization that provides decent housing to families so they can stay near their hospitalized loved ones. I don’t believe in bumper stickers and the only thing I wear in my lapel is the Rainbow Badge.

laureth's avatar

I assume that @CyanoticWasp means scrap metal, like they would collect back in WWII to use for the war effort.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

I used to laugh to myself when I would see my neighbor leave alone in her Cadillac Escalade plastered with “Support the Troops” bumper stickers to make the four block round-trip to her weekly nail appointment. Like many Americans, she is heartily supporting the reason for their deployment, that’s for sure.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@Blackberry & @laureth I’ve got a few people I’d be more than willing to add, too… to the bottom of the pile.

Bluefreedom's avatar

As a current military member, I can’t equate a Facebook message with active support for my brothers and sisters in arms just like I can’t do that with the yellow ribbon stickers on vehicles but those are at least a gesture that someone is thinking about us in some form or another.

What means a lot to me, and I get this quite often when I’m in uniform and away from my base, is that I have civilians all the time thanking me for my service to my country and I’m always grateful and pleased to hear that because I believe it relates that people care about us and support us.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Bluefreedom every time I see this exchange on our trains, I know it makes the soldiers feel good but I wonder if the people saying this are ‘just saying it’ you know without really knowing what’s going on – as in they’ve never listened to the news or read enough to care or to even make a decision…it’s a falsehood on their behalf, they’re not truly appreciating what they should (or shouldn’t) be appreciating (my stance on the military aside) and I find some soldiers plainly reading through their words…because the people say incorrect facts like about what country they’re now fighting in and all that.

Bluefreedom's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir. You make a very interesting and valid point, in my opinion, and I’m sure there are a percentage of individuals out there that do fall into the description that you’ve described above. I, myself, have been one of those military people who doesn’t really stop to analyze just how genuine (or maybe not sometimes) someone’s gratitude or support for us and our service to the country is. I’ve always taken it on faith that everything is heartfelt and sincere but it could give me pause in the future, after reading your comments, on deciding just how authentic some individuals intentions might really be. Do you think it might be better, more or less, to give benefit of the doubt to people or would it be cynical for military people to question someone’s ulterior motives or lack thereof when it comes to their offering support like I described above? Just wondering.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Bluefreedom I think it’s up to you – I believe they deem their feelings genuine (not like this is something they deeply consider, anyway) but it’s almost like something they couldn’t wait to say to appear to others..to show off..it’s always so awkward here because we have so many races and cultures and opinions..and when someones make quite the obvious show of very loud support to a soldier who is just taking a ride (and probably didn’t want to get involved in all this), they’re not doing it for the soldier’s benefit but are lacing their words with anti-immigrant, anti-whatever it is they have a semblance of an opinion on notions…it’s embarrassing…like the men who make a show of giving up a seat for a woman (who doesn’t even want it in the first place) by making a very loud and unnecessary statement that their _ father raised them to be _traditional and all others can bite his ass (charming, I know)...people are such a circus.

Bluefreedom's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir. Once again, good food for thought and an insightful answer on your part. I’m not exactly sure how I’ll feel after each and every time on future offerings of support and gratitude from people but I’m happy I was able to read your comments and be presented with a different aspect of an otherwise altruistic act from many but not all.

galileogirl's avatar

The only possible interpretation is that in time of war s/he wants a negotiated peace that will bring the troops home again, that they will have a living wage, that they will have a pension and the best healthcare if they are harmed and their children will be supported and get a free education if a parent is killed

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Bluefreedom you are a pleasure to interact with. it has been my honor.

laureth's avatar

@galileogirl – Do you mean that that’s the only possible interpretation of an “I support the troops” message? I agree that it is a very powerful way to support the troops, but I also think that sending them things that they need like socks or even silly string are ways to support them. Give them what they need to win the battle, not just go and die.

Bluefreedom's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir. And with you also, my friend. Have an excellent day.

galileogirl's avatar

@laureth I forgot about the importance of silly string, sorry.

laureth's avatar

@galileogirl – I can never tell if you’re being earnest or sarcastic. Well done!

Strauss's avatar

@Bluefreedom At the risk of sounding trite, I want to thank you for your service.

I’m a VietNam vet, and I came home from that war to some extent ashamed of my service. Like many others of that era, vets and not, I equated service to political support of the war. I remember having a conversation with an E-7 who could not understand why I was not proud to wear my uniform in public. Of course, he enlisted in an era shortly after WWII, when the US and our armed forces were usually loved and honored everywhere they went. VietNam changed all that. There we were, young men of draft age. Many of us had enlisted to avoid being drafted. We were just learning the workings of our own society, and then we were uprooted, placed into a totally foreign society, and told to tell the good guys from the bad.

I see a strong parallel between the VietNam mess and our presence in Asia today. Although there is not a draft, the economy makes military service seem like the only option for many young men (and women). And just like 40 years ago (was it really that long ago?) we are sending our youth away from our society to one that’s completely foreign, and asking them to put their lives on the line. But what for?

@Bluefreedom, and to all other service men and women, veterans included, I admire you who put on a uniform in the name of your fellow citizens. I thank you for performing this service. I am proud to have been in the chain of tradition that produces the military professional today.

Bluefreedom's avatar

@Yetanotheruser. It’s not trite and thank you very much for your gratitude. And thank you very much for your service also and in a time that saw, probably, the most contentious and ambiguous war that the United States was ever involved in – Vietnam.

I have the utmost respect for all veterans that had to serve in that conflict and then come home to strained relations and a difficult environment among the public who were so divided on the war in Vietnam and our troops involvement over there.

laureth's avatar

So what I’m getting from this is, all those “I support the troops!” messages basically mean, “We don’t hate you like we did after ‘Nam.” Is that it?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@laureth I don’t think people consider it in such depth

Strauss's avatar

Sure, it’s popular to support the troops. That’s a good thing.

galileogirl's avatar

WE didn’t hate the military during or after Viet Nam. There were a few incidents involving snot-nosed young idiots who thought they knew everyhing about life by virtue of reaching the age of 18-much like some of the puppies on this site. Those few incident were so widely reported they seemed commonplace. Out of the 100’s of thousands of military who came home from the war, including 2 of my brothers, most didn’t want parades and fanfare, theyjust wanted the support of their friends and families and the benefits they earned during their time in purgatory

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@galileogirl unfortunately I heard from too many returning VietNam vets that it became dangerous for them to wear a uniform in the States after returning. They were often physically assaulted, spat upon and cursed. And my understanding (from the relative handful that I’ve heard from directly) was that this was happening from coast to coast. And some of these guys ‘returned’ more than once, as honor guards for KIAs, for example, who were even advised by their superiors to not wear the uniform except for the funeral service itself.

We need to learn to stop revering our stupid politicians (especially whoever “our guy” is, you know “the okay one” whoever that is), and turn them out of office far more often, is the take-home message that I get from all of this.

galileogirl's avatar

Exactly how many is too many? This kind of thing gets inflated over time like all the 40-something “Viet Nam” vets begging. If any of your sources are under 55, they are not Viet Nam era vets. Most of the men in my family served and none of them knew of any cases in real life. We live in the Bay Area which was the center of protesters and there was never a case reported here. If you do the research, you will find it to be an urban legend. The 30 and 40-somethings who claimed it happened to them are disrespecting the real vets and need to be called on it.

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